How do they really make money? Confessions of a service manager

What do they really make the most money from? Do they upsell unnecessary stuff? And why do they charge for that screenwash? Wonder no more...


Part four: the customers

Q: what were your customers like?

A: I used to have a 70/25/5 rule:

70% of people were lovely.

25% of people were screamers but can be turned around by dealing with them reasonably, being honest and working out what they want. I don't mind these - hopefully my personal values of honesty and being straight helped.

5% were completely unreasonable who you will never, ever please, or get to be reasonable. Some you tolerate, some are just so unreasonable and aggressive you have to tell them their business isn't welcome anymore.

Q: How many times a week does someone come in with the most ridiculous problem, for example "there's a rattle when doing 37.8mph and I want a courtesy car until it's resolved or I'm rejecting this seven-year-old, 100,000-mile car"?

A: Quite often. I would flip it around, and get the customer to demo the fault to you. You'll be amazed how this turns a row into someone as quiet as a mouse when it dawns on them you actually need to experience the fault in order to fix it…

SA: I remember someone once bought a used Renault Clio 182 from us. A week later he came back complaining that when he went over 100mph there was annoying wind noise from around the front area and he wanted it fixed.

He became enraged when we said we couldn't diagnose it as it would mean us breaking the law to do so. He said that "the car is designed for that speed, it shouldn't make the noise", "we have a duty to repair it" etc.

In the end he was told to leave and to never return.


Q: Any other stories?

SA: A young lady complained her 2 month old VW Polo had a very faint jingly noise from the dash. Her father had contacted the UK head office before visiting us and came in a heavy handed fashion.

We took the car for a quick drive with her to listen to this noise. After a mile we stopped, got out and went under the driver’s seat and pulled out one of those chocolate foil wrapped rabbits with a bell on its neck. Problem solved – and no apology, of course.

On another occasion, a couple wanted to reject their new VW Touran as the dual zone climate wasn't ‘dual zone enough’. She has her's at 26deg as she's a cold person, he has his a 18deg because he's always warm but there wasn't a significant difference in temperature from her side of the car to his...

Having explained it was all the same airspace and that there wasn't an invisible barrier up the centre of the car I gave up and left it to the sales guys. No end of training equips you to deal with people like that.

Q: Did you find until you have worked in aftersales that you really don't understand just how badly people have treated their cars? We had a couple of MOTs this week where we have to put between 1-3 litres of oil in cars prior to testing them

A: Oh yes! You won't believe the neglect people dish out to cars! I almost wanted to open the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Cars...

Q: Why do they always unplug the dashcam when the car is in the dealership?

A: We had nothing to hide but at the same time we really don't want you having two hours of HD footage of industrial language and the owner of the car trying to sue us because he deems our tech's test driving unsuitable.

That doesn't mean the techs take customer's cars out for joy rides - far from it - but some customers can get very emotional about seemingly inconsequential things. For example, to get a car to do a forced regeneration of the diesel particulate filter needs some pretty high revs; most customers would have kittens seeing their car do this, but as long as it's warm and the fluid levels good there's no problem at all with it.

Want more confessions? Here's what happened when we asked a car salesman to spill the beans.

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