Failing to remember to bring leftovers for lunch, I ventured out in search of my favorite food — fried chicken. I have two very popular and nationally known fast food restaurants I frequent to fill my craving. Recently, the experiences I had at each restaurant were vastly different. Such a night and day difference in fact, that it led me to ponder upon why that was the case.

My first visit was to — let’s call it Chicken House 1. Chicken House 1 typically has excellent food (ok, maybe not healthy food, but really tasty food). As I enter their parking lot, I immediately notice there are a good number of cars in the drive-thru line already ahead of me– probably 5 or so. I debated on leaving and going to some other restaurant but decided against it as I was already there and was close to the office. Big mistake! Immediately after filing into the drive-thru line, several other cars pull in behind me. I am now completely stuck in line and can’t back out of my error. We sat, and sat, and sat for at least 20 minutes, with no progress in sight.

Finally, after what seemed like the entirety of my lunch hour, the 5 or so cars in front of me were able to place their orders and go about their day. Upon reaching the speaker to place my order I am greeted by a very harsh and raspy sound of “Yes, what ‘ya want?” REALLY? After the long wait and now, very thin patience, I am greeted with “what ‘ya want?” Already at my boiling point, I was less than pleasant and placed my order in the same tone of voice that was given to me — a move that didn’t go over too well with Chicken House 1’s “star employee” apparently. The less than cordial employee mustered some expletive language under her breath and shouted “Pull Ahead” through the speaker. In dramatic fashion, I graced their drive-thru pavement with some fresh rubber shreds from the tires of my car. The exchange at the pick-up window included language not suitable for this article.   I grabbed my food from this “pleasant” young lady and went about my business only to discover the food being cold, greasy, and overly disgusting. The afternoon turned into a long foodless one, as my fried chicken from Chicken House 1 went directly into the trashcan.

Wounded by my experience at Chicken House 1, the next day I opted for a little home cooking and brought my own lunch. My food was great, I didn’t have to leave the office, and most importantly I wasn’t on the receiving end of an unpleasant Chicken House 1 employee.

By midweek — I ventured out once again for a fried chicken fix; this time Chicken House 2 was the target. Chicken House 2 is a bit further from the office, but the extra mileage was worth it to avoid another unpleasant encounter. As I near Chicken House 2’s entrance, my defenses immediately went up when I saw their parking lot and drive-thru — the place was absolutely packed, and the drive-thru line wrapped around the building almost twice. There were easily 15 to 20 cars in line ahead of me. I tried to prepare myself for this to be an incredibly long wait and horrible experience, plus I’d already driven out of my way to get there and certainly didn’t have time to go elsewhere. I pulled in, filed into the two-rows-deep drive-thru line, and hoped for the best.

To my delight, the cars in front of me were moving at a steady pace. Within only six to eight minutes of wait time, I was getting very close to my turn to order. I was even more astonished to be greeted at my car by a very polite young man who proceeded to take my food order. He greeted me in a professional manner, listened closely to my order, and accepted my payment on a mobile tablet while standing outside of my car’s window. The line of cars continued to move swiftly, and my food order was prepared and waiting for me as I reached the pick-up window. And, the young lady thanked me for the business as she handed me my order. Can you believe that? I was actually thanked for choosing Chicken House 2 to my spend money, rather one of the other two hundred restaurants in town. Not only was their customer service exceptional, but the food was also excellent.

In the automotive industry, we crave for higher RO counts and dream of packed service drives. Some dealerships are fortunate enough to have that volume already; it requires a consistent and intelligent effort to retain customers. My Chicken House experiences hit home the drastic difference in both customer service and quality from two different companies that specialize and feature the same product. More often than not, when volume increases, or we get very busy or rushed, sadly, the quality of customer service declines. Restaurant employees and Service Advisors alike fall victim to this. When the service lane has cars lined up deep into the parking lot, Advisors often go into crisis mode and scamper to get the customers and vehicles checked in as quickly as possible. There is absolutely nothing wrong with trying to assist customers quickly. However, it becomes an issue if customer service is compromised.

Take Chicken House 1 into consideration. If you’ll recall, there were only about five cars in line ahead of me, and the customer service was horrendous — it was an extremely negative experience. The quality of their product was also subpar, and that’s putting in kindly. Conversely, Chicken House 2 had three to four times the volume, yet the customer service was outstanding, and the quality of their product was equally impressive. One would think, based on past experiences, quality suffers as a business’ volume increases. We have grown to expect this before it ever happens. If poor service is expected and occurs, it is likely that we, as customers, will defect and not give our money to that company. On the other hand, when poor service is expected, but instead outstanding service is received, we are impressed and left with an exceptional experience.

The U.S. has thousands of dealerships with service departments; and, even more aftermarket and independent service providers are available to give consumers alternatives. What can you do to separate yourself from the competition and help them choose your dealership as their repair service provider? It is not an overly difficult task to achieve. In fact, the foundation of such is quite easy — be fast, friendly, flexible, and fun. Always be prompt, cordial, professional, respectful, and thankful. Keep in mind your customers didn’t have to choose to spend their money at your business, but they did!

And fry the best chicken you can!

Destin Deal
SERVICE1ONE Performance Manager