Should all service advisors know how to speak to a woman? Absolutely! Do they? No. Female consumers are not asking for 'special' treatment. Instead we want to be treated fairly, listened to, and communicated with as if we are the ones with the brains and not our fathers or husbands. Far too often women are treated, in the automotive industry, as the secondary decision maker. *sidenote* I just got off of the phone with one of our male clients who was calling to say that he had to first check with his wife to see what could be budgeted into their finances. Notice: husband had to check with the wife. Why? It is quite simple. Women are the key decision makers in purchases these days. We are the force to be reckoned with!
Allow me to give you, ladies, some tips on successful communication with your service advisor. The next time you need maintenance or repairs done on your vehicle, I encourage you to think about the following suggestions:
PRIOR TO YOUR APPOINTMENT
• Take a moment to check your Owner's Manual for upcoming maintenance that may be needed based on mileage and/or time. Share this with the service advisor when you make your appointment. It would be more convenient, most likely, for you to have this work done while you have it in the shop for something else than having to schedule two different appointments. You know, killing two birds with one stone.
• Pay attention to what is happening with your vehicle. If there is an odd noise be prepared to share specific information with the service advisor such as, how often the noise is present, is it only in the morning, is it only when you are shifting into third gear, is it only after the car is hot (been operating for a while as opposed to having been sitting). The more information you can offer the better; this will help the technician 'duplicate your concern.' Anything that you can tell the service advisor to help the technician duplicate your concern is incredibly important. Has there been a prior history of this concern? Don't forget to explain the atmosphere of the vehicle, for example if the car is parked in the hot garage all day, or in the sun all day, or if this car has not been used very much and has been parked for a long time.
• It is not to your benefit to share a 'friend's diagnosis' of the vehicle with the service advisor. If, on the other hand, the vehicle has been to another shop their findings could be beneficial. It is good for a shop to have a copy of the prior shop's repair order so that your current shop can see what has been done. At any rate, simply stick to the facts and specific details of what is happening with your vehicle.
• Taking notes in a journal regarding your concern is often helpful as well. Make notice of how often the concern occurs, when it occurs, and the conditions surrounding the concern (only when car is cold, only after being parked for two hours, etc). Having written down your concerns will alleviate anything being forgotten when you are at the shop speaking to the service advisor.
DURING THE APPOINTMENT
• Do not be afraid to mention that you must approve all work before it is done. This should be normal protocol in a shop; unfortunately it is not in some. Don't find yourself surprised upon pickup - be proactive and ask the service advisor to call you with his/her findings.
• Ask for a diagnosis and estimate in writing before any work is performed. If you have been working with a shop for a long time and your trust in them has been built, then a verbal diagnosis and estimate may be satisfactory for you.
Do not allow yourself to feel intimidated for any reason. A reputable shop would welcome your questions and concerns. With the proper explanation, a diagnosis should make sense...
• And if it doesn't then please ask questions. It is completely appropriate and acceptable for you to ask to see the old parts, as well. If that is your request, be sure to make it up front - often old parts are placed in the trash or sent off for recycling immediately.
• Many shops will complete a courtesy inspection of your vehicle. The purpose of this is not to sell you extra work that day but instead to alert you to any concerns you may not be aware of. This procedure should instill further confidence in you while driving your vehicle if your shop is checking your vehicle for you. A good shop will also prioritize the findings for you so that you can plan accordingly and budget as needed for future visits to the repair shop.
AFTER PICKING UP
• Use your senses to make sure that your reasons for bringing in the vehicle were addressed. If you were hearing noises, feeling a vibration, smelling an odd smell, etc., then make sure that you're not experiencing those any longer. (Note* A reputable shop will clean the area around the oil leak but often after an oil leak has been repaired you may still smell burning oil. The smell should dissipate after a few days.* )
• Read over your repair order! Please! Check it for accuracy, explanation, and for completeness according to what work you authorized the shop to do.
• Contact the shop if you have any questions or concerns. If you were happy with their service, tell a friend!
When women approach any issues well informed and carrying the tools needed to handle a situation she is more confident and able to take and remain in control. You do not need to know how to change the vacuum hoses in your vehicle; simply telling your service advisor that when you turn the key to turn the vehicle off - it will not turn off is enough. Self diagnosing your vehicle is not what is important. What is important? The facts that you have regarding what is happening with your vehicle is most important. Women like to ask questions. Feel free - as a consumer it is your right!
Use the advice above to ensure that your next automotive repair visit is not logged under the "did I get taken advantage of?" file. Take control of your car care with confidence, assurance, and satisfaction.
Kim Walker, Owner & Marketing Director of Peak Automotive can be reached at 919-363-7077 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org . Visit Peak Automotive at www.peakautomotive.com. Peak Automotive is known as "The Most Female Friendly Shop in the Triangle" and was chosen by Motor Age Magazine as one of the Top Ten Shops in America.