When should phone calls go to front-line service personnel and when should they go to a call center? The best arrangement obviously is going to depend on the setting so let’s consider the case of a car dealer considered in a recent Automotive News article (Call center keeps the service bays packed, Jan 23). The dealership in question has two stores — a Honda dealership and an Acura dealership. The status quo had service calls going directly to the service advisers, i.e., the folks who speak to customers when they drop off their cars or call them with news about what problems were found and how much it would cost to fix it. The proposal would route inbound calls looking to schedule appointments etc to a call center instead of the service advisors.
Now, it seems upfront that there are some real benefits of pulling these calls out of the service department. The call center would keep advisors from having to ditch in person customers to take call. It would also allow for some pooling across the stores. However, these efficiency gains are not what sealed the deal for the dealership. Rather, it was the opportunity to gain better control over scheduling.
“We were able to regain control of scheduling appointments in the service drive, and that’s important because we’re only open a certain amount of hours, so we want to load our shop,” says Proctor, managing partner of Metro Honda and Metro Acura in Montclair, Calif. “The service advisers didn’t see it that way.” …
By creating the call center, Proctor took service scheduling away from service advisers. They are often reluctant to book small jobs, such as oil changes and tire rotations, because they earn smaller commissions on those jobs compared with, say, a three-hour brake repair, he says. …
Proctor’s inspiration for the call center came about 21/2 years ago. He was listening to recordings of randomly selected inbound dealership calls, and one especially disturbed him.
“A customer wanted a warranty-repair appointment, and our associate said no appointments were available for three weeks,” Proctor says.
The customer wanted it done sooner. Proctor listened in shock as the service adviser gave the customer a competitor’s phone number to do the work, he says. ..
Put another way, the call center addressed a principal-agent problem. More specifically, it took away some of the decision rights of the service advisors and consequently reduced their ability to make decisions that adversely affect the utilization of the service bays and hence the profitability of the dealership.
Now one might reasonably ask how the service advisors’ incentives got out of whack. After all, their commission stricture favored big jobs which presumably also were the more profitable ones for the dealership. This ignores, however, a couple of things. First, if the service department is otherwise idle, the dealership should be happy to have any paying customer come in. The service advisors should also prefer making money to being idle but it is likely more salient for the dealership since it has to worry about covering fixed costs and so on.
More importantly, the dealership is working on a different time scale or with a different set of concerns than the service advisors. The dealership has to be in this for the long haul. It has needs to worry about the relationship with the customer, both for service and for their next car purchase. This is probably the overriding factor in deciding to take responsibility for scheduling away from the service advisors.
But has it worked? Turns out, yes. The article says that volumes and revenues are up. Further, the increased volume is benefitting the service advisors. Their compensation package wasn’t changed, but they are working more and earning more money.