Keep Your Promises on the Service Drive – or Face the Consequences

By Ted Ings, Executive Director

A customer hands you the keys to their car expecting a brake job by EOD.

Although you have good intentions, time slips away and suddenly – it’s closing time and their vehicle remains untouched. Naturally, the customer is furious; they need their car to be safe for their family road trip tomorrow.

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Does this scenario sound all too familiar? If so, you may need to reflect on one of the golden rules: ‘a promise is a promise’.

Why keeping your word is critical

It’s common for customers to make requests to which service advisors simply reply: “Sure!” We do it without thinking, and then the day suddenly turns hectic and the time just seems to slip away. But as far as the customer is concerned, there’s no excuse for not keeping your promise.

Failure of the service department to keep commitments is one of the primary factors that lower CSI scores. These are a few of the most common problems that arise when you disregard an obligation:

Reduced trust: If customers can’t count on you to keep an appointment, what can they trust you with? Certainly not their car or their hard-earned money.


Negative feedback: A low CSI score is just one of the ways customers display their dissatisfaction. When you break a promise, you prompt them to leave negative feedback online. Also, they won’t recommend your services to friends and family.

Less repeat business: If you break a promise to a customer, chances are, they won’t be back. They’ll go find a repair facility they can count on.

How to make sure promises are upheld

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to ensure promises are kept. Here are ten tips to help you stay on track:

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1. Have a process that encourages you to monitor vehicle status

It’s easy to whip up an RO, then forget about it until the customer returns. That’s why it’s important to have a process in place that reminds you to check on an order throughout the day.

2. List customer contact information separate from the RO or dispatch log

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Having the correct contact information on hand will remind you to call the customer with updates.

3. Use a time management system that ensures you will make phone calls on time

During a hectic day, it’s easy to lose track of time. A good time management system will prompt you to contact the customer before it’s too late.

4. Contact customers immediately when the status of their vehicle has changed

Even the most conscientious service departments occasionally hit a roadblock that pushes a job back. When it happens to you, get on the phone and tell the customer immediately.

5. Make sure information is accurate

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Incorrect information – whether it be contact details or the customer request – can lead to all types of problems. Make sure you enter everything properly when creating an RO.

6. Offer status updates via text to every customer

Providing status updates keeps customers in the loop, while also reminding you to check on their vehicle.

7. Answer the phone before the third ring

Often, customers will call to check the status of their car. Promptly answering the phone will address their inquiry, while also keeping you abreast of the job status.

8. Check that parts are in stock

Not having everything needed for a repair can quickly put a kink in the workflow. That’s why you need to check necessary parts and supplies are available before committing to a job.

9. Don’t take in more than you can handle

Some repair facilities push advisors to always say yes to more work. Obviously, this a terrible idea. Only take in what you can handle; it’s OK to tell a customer you have to schedule them for another day.

10. Reduce wait time

Customers who come in for a quick service (e.g., an oil change) expect a speedy turn around time. Make sure techs jump on waiters to get them in and out as soon as possible.

Take the first step

Review your current CSI scores and spend a day observing your service department. Determine where the processes and systems you’re using need to be improved, then implement the new methods one item at a time.


In today’s competitive environment, you can’t afford to lose the customers you have because you don’t honor commitments. Check yourself and make the necessary changes – or pay the price in lost revenue.