Opinion: Learn and Earn from Your Service Comebacks

A picture of magazine columnist Valerie Ziebron

When you don’t get what you want, you get a lesson.

Most dealership failures have a silver lining: an opportunity for you to learn and improve business practices.

When a customer must return their RV to the shop to fix a problem that was not resolved initially, chances are good the reason is not unique to that one customer visit. The quicker your dealership can identify, share and fix issues that caused the repair to not be completed properly the first time, the better for your customers, your team and your bottom line.

Identify where the problem stemmed from. Notice I said “where,” not “who.” When you detect the root causes for service failures, avoid the temptation to point fingers and assign blame.

Someone might say, “Joe was the tech and the RV is back in for the same complaint, so the comeback must be his fault.” Not so fast…

Maybe the work order was missing information, or perhaps the customer withheld important information.

Another person might say, “Then the problem is the service advisor’s or the customer’s fault!” Maybe they are at fault, or maybe not, but pinning blame rarely improves teamwork or gets results. Finding where the service experience went wrong and what you need to adjust to avoid future similar situations is much more productive.

Is your shop experiencing issues with any of the common culprits that create comebacks? For instance:

  • Insufficient communication at write-up
  • Incorrect information on the work order
  • Work order dispatched to nonqualified tech
  • Part failure or correct parts unavailable
  • Failure to properly duplicate or diagnose the issue
  • No quality control of the unit or the ticket
  • Special tools or diagnostics unavailable or not working properly
  • Or something else entirely

Comebacks can creep in from unlikely places beyond my above list, so reviewing each rework visit and identifying what happened and why is important.

Changes in seasons, staffing and countless other things can make finding the rework’s cause a moving target. Because determining the cause is so difficult, you must rely on facts, not gut feelings.

Identify which team members were involved with the write-up, dispatch, diagnosis, parts procurement, repair and quality control. Then determine where the service went wrong. If your service team members can put their heads together to agree on how the problem could have been prevented, the issue will be much less likely to recur moving forward. To prevent recurrences, you must bring the cause to their attention.

Share with the team what has been creating comebacks and why the problem is hurting customer satisfaction and shop efficiency. If team members are unaware of issues causing the comebacks, they cannot fix them.

Are you surveying your service customers? Most important, are you sharing that survey information constructively with the people who can use it to improve the customers’ experience?

Often in service, bad habits are formed and enforced because no one paid attention to how the mistakes impacted the results. Why change if everything seems okay? After a while, people will say, “This is how we have always done it.”

If your team acts defensive when they receive negative feedback, you might need to change how you share the info or who is sharing it.

One dealership found that putting their service advisors in charge of reviewing and sharing service feedback with the team was more effective. The dealer said managers used to share the results, but advisors knew the backstories of what led to the end results. The dealer said the staff took more ownership of results when feedback was delivered by an advisor. The staff did not want situations to require management intervention.

The more we share tangible results on shop numbers and customer feedback with the team in an empowering way, rather than an accusatory way, the better they will receive and act upon that information.

Fix the process. The big question is what the team can do to prevent comebacks in the future. No one is better suited to answer that question and to make adjustments stick than the people who do the actual everyday work.

Service and parts workers can repair much more than RVs. They can improve and fix processes if they see the need to change and are given the opportunity to adjust procedures.

The more the frontline service and parts workers are involved in creating needed adjustments, the more ownership they will take, and the easier changes will be.

Time for a reality check. Many dealerships avoid looking too closely at comebacks beyond repairing them one at a time. Avoiding the issue is costing you customer loyalty and shop profitability.

When we lose an RV sale, most good dealerships and sales pros want to discover why. Did someone beat us on the price? Did we not have what customers were looking for? Finding the answers to such questions is important, but unlike service, sales did not lose their inventory. Every time an RV has to return for something the customer perceived as an improper repair, we are losing shop hours and resources forever.

Remember, every complaint is a gift we should receive with gratitude. Truly, every comeback is an opportunity to satisfy the customer and strengthen our ability to do the same for many others.

When the customer says, “You guys did not fix my RV right,” what we really could hear is, “Hey, I know how you could make more money and raise your customer’s loyalty.”

The more we value and use that feedback, the better for everyone. Problems become opportunities depending on how you handle them.

Valerie Ziebron is a leading industry expert and top-rated speaker. She has delivered thousands of presentations for dealers and their OEM partners to help dealerships “flip the switch” from reactive to proactive business practices. She started VRZ Consulting in 1989 and has worked with hundreds of clients, big and small, to increase customer loyalty and profitability along with job enjoyment.

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