7 Dumb Mistakes People Make When Working With Dealership Service Departments

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If you’re a vehicle owner and you live in North America, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve had at least one bad experience at a car dealership. Car dealers (generally speaking) aren’t too popular because the industry has a long history of poor service. While this has most definitely changed in the last decade (dealerships are better than they’ve ever been), there’s no disputing the fact that dealers aren’t perfect.

If you’re having a problem with your dealership and you’re not sure what you should do, there are TWO posts you should read. The one you’re looking at now, and this post on Dealership Customer Service – Tips for Getting Your Problem Solved.

7 Dumb Mistakes Customers Make When Working With Auto Dealership Service Departments

1. Bragging about how many cars you’ve bought from the dealership. This is akin to saying “I’m more special than anyone else.” While it might be true, the fact is that a) sales and service are different departments, and the person at the service counter (often known as a service adviser) really doesn’t care how many cars you bought and b) every customer has to be treated the same, whether they’ve bought 10 cars, 2 cars, or none.

If you really want to tell someone how important you are because of all those cars you’ve bought, go find the sales person or sales manager that sold you all of your cars from and ask them for help…that will work much better than telling the service advisor that you buy a new Camry every two years for blah blah blah.

2. Telling the service writer that you can “send a lot of business their way” if they do a good job. This one might seem like a good idea, but take a step back: How many times do you think the service adviser has heard this line? How many times do you think it’s actually come true? Don’t waste your breath – save your boasting for your friends at the bar.

3. Claiming to be friends with the owner, some higher up, or Akio Toyoda in order to try and get something “extra.” Saying “I went to the high school with the owner of this dealership” is a waste of breath. A lot of people make these types of claims, and the fact is that sometimes the owner (or other higher up) isn’t all that popular. Claiming you know him or her is like painting a target on your forehead that says “I’m a jerk just like your boss.” Skip it.

4. Yelling and screaming. You’ve got to be a grade-A moron to yell at someone who is trying to fix your car. Not only is it a waste of effort (they’ve been yelled at by bigger and better people than you), but it’s a great way to make sure the problem never gets fixed. Do you really think a technician is going to bust his ass to fix your car when you just called him every name in the book?

Here’s the smart play – go buy a box of donuts or two, bring them into the service drive, and ask for help. The people working at the dealership will be so amazed by your kindness they’ll work overtime to fix your car.

5. Lying about facts that the dealership can easily verify. This happens a LOT – a person will bring their car into a Toyota dealer, claim that they’ve had something on the car looked at 5 or 6 times, and then demand a free repair, a loaner, whatever. NEWS FLASH: Dealers all use the same computer system. If you say “I’ve had the transmission looked at twice in the last two weeks,” the dealership can usually verify that. When the person you’re working with discovers that you’re feeding them BS to try and get what you want, they’re not going to believe anything else you say.

Generally speaking, lying is a poor negotiation strategy.

6. Threatening to go to the media. This NEVER works. NEVER. At a busy dealership, people say that they’re going to call the local news station about 10 times a day. Guess what? 99% of them never do. What’s more, even when people DO call, the local news usually doesn’t care.

7. Threatening to “sue” or pursue “legal action.” This can work, but only if the threat comes from a letter written by an actual attorney and delivered via certified mail.

Here’s the kicker with threatening legal action: You can’t get an attorney to send a letter like this for less than a couple hundred dollars. If the dealership is truly in the wrong, they’ll usually do something to make your problem go away once they have that piece of paper. However, if they know they’re in the right, they’ll have their attorney contact your attorney via certified mail, and then your legal bill will go from $200 to $2,000 in less than a week.

Anyone who’s ever actually tried to file a lawsuit knows that it’s absolutely the last resort…and everyone who’s worked at a dealership for more than 2 weeks recognizes that threats of legal action are completely and totally baseless because most people can’t or won’t spend the money.

Here’s a Cheat Sheet For Dealing With Dealership Service Departments

  1. Don’t lie. Not only have they heard them all, but they can usually figure out when you’re lying to them.
  2. Don’t boast. No one will believe it, and it makes you sound like a moron (cause most of the time, only morons do it).
  3. Don’t make vague threats about media or lawsuits…they hear those all the time.
  4. Be nice. This works amazingly well, mostly because the people that dealerships come into contact with usually aren’t very nice. Be the exception, and you’ll get exceptional treatment.

The Satisfaction Survey Is King

Finally, here’s the most important tip we can give: your leverage is your customer satisfaction survey. The Service Advisor’s paycheck comes from two places: 1) How much service they sell and 2) How many people are “completely satisfied.” If they get a lot of good surveys, they usually get a nice bonus.

If you explain that you understand the importance of the survey, and you promise the person you’re talking to that you’ll fill it out “completely satisfied” across the board, your chances of getting what you want are sky high. By telling them you’ll give them a good survey, you’ve done them a favor…and you’ve also implicitly explained you know how to really hurt them if you want to.

The survey is your leverage – use it wisely.

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  1. TXTee says:

    Those were all pretty good points, especially because the consumer tends to always feel “entitled.” However, thanks for admitting that most service departmens are well aware their track record isn’t great. It does take a special service advisor to gain trust/respect and that’s why I stick with only one and will leave the lot if that person is not in although I know they don’t do the physical labor.

  2. Masi says:

    So, with all that being said it falls on being a mature grown adult. That’s what is was saying right, don’t lie, don’t acting like a three year old and throw a temper tantrum, and use you brain and make a educated decision on what dealer to take it to. This says a lot for some who regularly post here. Now I under stand their mind set. This is things that my 11 year old knows not to do, but I know we still have to raise other peoples 40 year old children!

  3. mk says:

    Must be me then pushing 40 and still acting like a child. I admit, most are good points. However, in my experience, I just throw those ‘completely satisfied’ surveys away immediately and do NOT ever fill them out. Reason being, I filled one out a long time ago for a local GM dealer and I worked for a company who works closely for GM and the dealer knew I worked for that close entity of their dealer. Well, I earmarked almost all of the survey ‘completely satisfied’ except the few questions about the vehicles quality which I checked ‘somewhat disatisfied’ since it was true that the part being replaced under warranty should not have failed ever. That little downgrade, not meant at the dealer, but GM, got back to my branch manager and I almost got fired for it and was told to NEVER go back for service from my boss at that dealer. All this for telling the truth. I’ve had a few other instances as worse as this like taking my under warranty chevy lumina in 26 times in 1 year for the same problem at the same dealer and eventually yelling and swearing at the service manager in front of all their customers (dealer is no longer selling new Chevy cars-wonder why?) while working under GM corporate mgmt. B.S. and that is why I cannot stand big corp. GM or for that matter, any company who promotes B.S. surveys like this, including Toyota. This grudge I will hold for life and will never forget. Toyota, GM, and all other car mfgs. need to find a better way to promote bonuses and better pay for their employees instead of the dreaded customer satisfaction survey which is crap because even if I mark the survey ‘satisfied’, to me, what the heck is the difference from ‘satisfied’ vs. ‘completely satisfied’???

  4. Eddy says:

    So your boss MK told you never to go back to that dealership. There’s more to this story then or you need a lot of supervision! Ever been told you whine a lot?

  5. TXTee says:

    Masi – Just because your 11 year old knows not to do something doesn’t mean they won’t try it anyway. No different with an adult.

  6. Masi says:

    TxTee, has a temper tantrum got you any where? There is nothing funnier than pointing out a grown adult to your son having a break down and he laughs at them. He has seen plenty of grown men lose it and how ignorant they look doing it. I truly believe he will not, I think he will tell them how stupid they are with a smile! There is nothing better than telling a guy he’s ignorant with a smile on your face. Usually it confuses them so much a hour later it will hit them. They will be on break and releize that guy called me stupid. That will get them madder than you throwing a temper tantrum.

  7. Mickey says:

    I never seen so many Dr. Phil’s here. I’ll try it also. Jason they are great points. They are exceptions also. Kind of hard not to lose your cool when you are told by these people they can’t fix your truck because they don’t know how, or what’s causing the issue. Or having a factory Rep accuse you 3x, of pulling down a headliner. Those are extremes but do happen. Like MK stated about the surveys I do fill them out to the best honest answer I can go with. These surveys also are used for salesman too. It can cause them to be fired also. Basically like the surveys I was asked by GM Customer Service if I owned another GM vehicle. What does that have to do with my issue? It doesn’t address the issue with the Silverado. That question being asked while you’re trying to seek satifaction does put you on the defensive, and you will act negatively towards who asked it.

  8. Masi says:

    Case in point! I would rather have a mechanic stand up and say “I don’t know how to do this job to fix this vehicle” or do you want him to just wing it. Apparently for Mickey it doesn’t matter but they better do it, right! Hints the INFAMOUS headliner! A little common sense goes along ways. If a doctor said hey I don’t know to do a heart transplant would you let him? Or let’s take it further because someone is gonna say well he’s a mechanic and he should know how. If you didn’t know there are different skill levels and even if he was up there with GOD him self and said I really don’t feel comfortable doing it because I haven’t before I would respect that instead of the guy keeping his mouth shut trying to figure it out just to have to do it a second time!

  9. mk says:

    I may whine a lot Eddy, but I do not need more supervision. More like very little supervision. I get too much supervision at work now from people who do not even know how to do my job. The point of a supervisor is if you have questions on your job, you can go to him/her and ask for the proper way of doing things instead of them getting paid twice as much as me for doing nothing and not solving or helping with my question.
    Eddy, if you had any clue on the kiss ass relationship between the dealers and the company I worked for, it would make you puke. It was about as bad as asking the dealer rep to come in and bend down so the branch manager and other higher ups could kiss their butt – no kidding on this!!! I even heard rumors and wouldn’t be surprised that our last mgr. slept her way to the top and was whorring around with dealership personnel and our company higher ups in Detroit, it was that bad. No wonder she got divorced from her husband. She was a bitch!

  10. TXTee says:

    I see some people are really ignorant no matter how you try to convey messages in the appropriate English language. That’s probably more frustrating than dealing with incompetent people at the dealership. So, if the dealership has mechanics that are not competent in repairing vehicles, why are they in business and who is supposed to be more knowledgeable than SOMEONE on their staff? Masi, you totally miss the point of what’s being said trying to interject your great parenting skills.

  11. TXTee says:

    To the point of the article – these are just tips to think about when going in for service. No one said anything about temper tantrums. Take the advice for what it is. Since there are so many smart a$$es that seem not to need it, then why comment?

  12. Anonymous says:

    Temper tantrum equals number 4. Yelling and screaming. If no one needs it then why is it posted?

  13. danny says:

    i dont think any of these apply when you’re dealing with small town dealerships where everybody knows everybody. whenever we had issues, GM came and picked it up and devivered it when it was fixed. now with dealerships fizzing away, our issues have changed. GM can’t fix the problem and Toyota cant communicate what was done to my truck. both leave you frustrated and ticked off. either way, its a decent list but it does not apply across the board.
    one thing you should add to this list is, don’t ever wear a business suit when you take your vehicle in for repairs at an unfamiliar shop or dealership. they tend to think you know nothing about automotive repairs and start blowing smoke up your posterior.

  14. Mickey says:

    Massi when you have a factory rep come down and try to fix your truck and he can’t do it when does your trigger go off? To jerry rig wires outside the wiring harness to try and by pass the computer to make it work isn’t my type mechanics there guy. Maybe you accept that kind of shoddy work but I’m not going to accept that whether Ford states it’s okay or not. What happenns when you try to sell it and someone looks under the hood and see the wires that stick out and ask? You ignore them? Heard of disclosure? Even though it had a sticker stating Ford authorize it you think this wouldn’t hurt the resale? You may accept that kind of work but I don’t. The techs have factory assistance guy who they contact when they can’t fix the problem. The truck being the 3rd Ford I own having many issues like the rest of the Fords I owned. Patience ran out. As for the headliner I went to 3 dealerships to have it fixed. Coggin (where all the trouble was) Crest (who is out of business now) and Ron Anderson Chevrolet. How much do you go with this there guy till you get fed up? When you pay $36,000 for a truck you expect to have no issues and have no issues. Being the fact I went through General Motors school in 1976 and worked for a Chevy dealer in 76-77 and where at? You guess it the trim dept which replaces headliners and windshields carpet etc. I knew from the begining the headliner was a defect. As far as a little common sense goes a long way you need to know more of what happen before you comment. I think my patience was more than enough for both issue’s. The F-150 18x for that computer was more than enough times to fix it. The Chevy 11x. More than enough patience. Apparently Massi you haven’t had a serious issue with anything you had.

  15. Masi says:

    My apologies Mickey, I thought I was speaking to someone intelligent! So you continued to buy Fords after you had problems with the first, that says it all! Your GM trained in trim, then you complaining about a headliner? Fix it. How do you think wire issues are corrected? They can splice in wires and cap them. But you wanted them to run a complete wire. You would have even more issues with other things! You must think if everything looks ok it must be ok!

    I have had issues with vehicles but I think I learn from my experience and venture to anther brand. I don’t continue to buy the same brand and complain about it. I bet you speed and complain about getting tickets, don’t you think you would slow down!

  16. mk says:

    Masi, chill on the ripping of fellow tundra owners. Try to keep it more mellow. I try to not go off on fellow owners unless they bite first. Just because you haven’t had a horrible experience with GM, Ford, Toyota, etc., doesn’t mean you won’t someday. Back to the topic, most points, in general, are good ideas to follow, but not everyone has the patience of a saint and when push comes to shove, I’ll shove back the hardest when I spend 30K on a vehicle no matter what brand if it is not the way, after several attempts at repair, it is suppose to be like the other exact same vehicles sitting on the dealers’ lots.

  17. Jason says:

    Lots of comments here, and I think most people are in agreement – being civil and nice goes a long ways. Oddly enough, some of the comments here don’t take that advice to heart. LOL.

    mk – I think your story illustrates the power of the survey. To be clear, if it’s not “completely satisfied” across the board, it hurts the dealer. You’re better off throwing them away than answering anything less than perfect. As dumb as it sounds, dealers are absolutely judged on a consumer’s perceptions of an individual’s feelings about quality. I made that same mistake once working for a dealership, and I personally argued with our Ford service rep about the ridiculousness of this practice. They don’t have a good answer, but they really don’t need one…they make the rules, that’s how it works.

  18. mk says:

    Jason, I agree 110% to throw the surveys away if not marking ‘completely satisfied’ on all questions. That is just it, the rules are the mfgs. and if you don’t like marking the survey truthfully like I did about the poor quality part that broke lets say time and time again, then throw the stupid survey away since it only gets you into more trouble with the dealer and will end up biting you in the butt next time you need something fixed under warranty. I commented about the vehicle’s poor quality and THAT should not go against the dealer in any shape or form since the dealer only fixes the part, not making it.

  19. Masi says:

    “The survey is your leverage – use it wisely.” So you don’t have any leverage. MK I just call them as I see them. If a headliner is a Horrible Experience, than life must be ROUGH! Especially if he knew it due to his schooling as he said ” I knew from the beginning the headliner was a defect”. Then why buy it! I seem MK the new generations! Next time maybe you should use your schooling to identify the issues just maybe purchase anther vehicle. After you have issues with a vehicle from a brand you may wanna look at anther brand unless you like drama, if you do like drama don’t whine if you buy anther brand that has issues. You asked for it!

  20. Mickey says:

    Masi since you’re the bright one you might want to fill us low life’s in on the secret on the headliner? Okay since you have no idea maybe you should think before you write. You call them like you see them. Apparently you dropped your glasses. My 98 Silverado had plastic molding that covered and helped hold up the headliner. My 06 had none. Now since you love to throw $36,000 out of the window feel free to throw money to the poor people. The 06 headliners were cut short so guess what bright one? That’s why it’s called a defect. Why buy it? I didn’t see it till I owned it for 2 weeks. Let me give you an example on why I had 3 Fords there Masi. You state I asked for it. With that general statement then everyone with issues no matter what they got or what their problems are they asked for it?????? Dang it Masi you just made evryone dumber by writing that statement. I tried to be loyal to a domestic but you ridicule me for that on my Fords and Chevy’s. You put down Tundra owners here. Now why are you here? Are you an owner of a Fiat truck?

  21. nate says:

    So a GM school trained professional bought a truck with a defect he knew about then complained about it. Good thing you own a toyota, they don’t have any issues. Lmao

  22. Mickey says:

    First off get the story straight. That’s typical of you Nate speak before reading the whole story. You just like others comment on the Ford’s and Chevy’s I own and ridicule them when you are trying at the same time defending the Big 3. That right there kills anything you have to say worthwhile. I tried to be like you guys that defend them but I saw the light and moved on to a better way so now you want to ridicule I own a Toyota. I wish you and others would make up your mind what side of the road you’re on. No wonder why there is so many accidents in this country. You’re going to tell us Nate you forsee all issues with your Dodge/Fiat? You don’t want me to list all the recalls and TSB’s your truck has out? Why is your manufacturer has been bailed out twice? Also why is it they are the only one that is down in sales now?

  23. nate says:

    If its that bad why feed fuel to the fire and reply? That’s the part I don’t understand. List the tsb and recalls on a them if that makes you feel better. Happy Easter

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