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|11th May 2006, 15:35||#1|
Life as a customer care executive at a car dealership
Life as a customer care executive
What is it about this word “CARS” that has fascinated me for most years of my life. Its basic dictionary definition stand as “An automobile”. But then what is it about automobiles that I m so much attracted, surely I like mobiles but I hate autos but then when I combine these two words to make them as one I drool over it, love it, and adore it. And this does not stand only for the car I myself own but for every sensible made automobile on this earth.
I remember when I was around 10 yrs old, my dad had purchased a second hand fiat and it was his first car, we the whole family had gone to Saputara, a city of lakes in our fiat and I was sitting ahead with my dad helping him with the navigation. I used to investigate every nook and corner of the car to find what is what. Even when the bonnet was opened I would be bent to see what goes in or comes out. Infact I had even burnt my finger when I was fumbling with the cigarette lighter as I dint know what it was then.
My love for cars, its mechanisms increased dad by day and it helped me fulfill two of many of my dreams. One that I found my life partner who was in the same field, in fact we met each other when I took my car to the MASS where he was working, then somehow my car had problems every now and then. Now I get to see different cars, learn a lot of practical problems, and also give suggestions some times if needed.
And here is the story of fulfillment of my second dream which I think though was short but gave me utmost satisfaction. I fell in love with the word car again, not only increasing my intensity but also my intriguity.
I started working for my dad after I finished my graduation in 1999. While working for him for some months, it dawned upon me, why not work for some other company and gain some experience of working for somebody else. Automobiles have always fascinated me and when I got an opportunity to work for SSAA as customer care executive, I just jumped at it.
The only irony was that earlier I used to be a SSAA customer and now I would be working for them. But for me money was not a criterion, but gaining experience was. And as a customer I knew quite some people out there.
I joined SSAA in April 2000
My work profile
I was asked to go thru the computer and was made to know that I had to make post service follow up calls. I learned to take the printouts and the no of customers would run into pages. I had to make at least 70 to 80 calls per day and then had to enter the codes according to their responses. Fortunately there used to be no major complaints and the dissatisfied had to be forwarded to my boss, The Customer care manager or CCM as we called him. We had to make calls 4 to 5 days after their cars had been serviced. The dissatisfied calls would be attended by the CCM personally.
Making 70/80 calls per day took its toll on me and before I could collapse under its weight, I was assigned another job and this job went to a colleague of mine.
The next task was an interesting one and I had to interact with the customers in peak hours morning and evening at the time of opening and closing of job cards respectively. Though it was hell of a job to listen to the customer woes, assign them to service advisor, see to it that job cards were made instantly and customers were not made to wait, serve them with tea or coffee and above all keep them cool.
At that time job cards weren’t computerized and they were made manually. Inventories to be taken, and trials to be taken, sometimes I also did that, just to get the hang of the problem along with the service advisor. Best thing about the trials was that we got a chance to go to worli sea face my work profile though included more of paper work. Some times we would have to put extra work of two hours every alternate week.
My interaction with various agencies.
Regional Office of Maruti at Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra, Mumbai
We had to submit monthly reports for our customer complaints, customer feedback good or bad. The reports were in form of graphs, numbers and this had to be done in the first week of every month. You should have looked at the customer care team, stores team, service team, every one was worrying about the deadlines of submitting reports. It was very funny to see somebody scared of being taken to the GM for not submitting reports to RO on time.
But then the interaction with engineers at Maruti was a great learning experience. It was absolute thrill when they went on and on about the new concepts, new cars coming up, competition and other things but nevertheless it was all enlightenment. Above all my knowledge is their giving to a lot of extent.
ISO certifying agency.
During my nine month stint, I was one of the personnel involved deeply in the ISO processes and I introduced the sticker system on the lifts and tool boxes I incorporated the blue and red lines in Sah & Sanghi logo and it was a hit with my GM. I was also responsible for presentation of the records to the auditors and it was scary as one slip and they would round you up until they got to the bottom of the problem. But then that exposure helped me last year to get an ISO certification for my present company.
Audit by a team from Head Office of Maruti in Delhi.
I had to face two audits during my working period, one as described already as in ISO and second was by a set of auditors from Delhi. Again a great learning experience when they shared a lot of information and gave us a view of their experiences all over India’s dealerships of Maruti.
The new cars released before & during my stint.
ALTO, BALENO, BALENO ALTURA, MARUTI 800 MPFI, WAGON R ETC.
Alto sold well right from beginning. It was a good car for upgrading from M800
Baleno could have done well but because of its pricing and looks it lost to other cars in its segment. But it was a well appreciated car by those who owned it.
M800 mpfi - Very well received because its up gradation from carb to MPFI was long overdue.
Wagon R. this car was good but could have done much better but was considered good option to santro.
The major problems various cars and me faced during in my working period.
Omni – Maruti had recalled close to 1000 cars from all over India as there was a problem with the fuel pipe which was placed quite close to the silencer which in turn had blown up a omni in Delhi. It was scary and we hurried up with making frantic calls to the customers of those batches of Omins and sorted out the problem.
Zen – though it was a good city car, it had its share of problems like that of ground clearance, low fuel efficiency. Fuel efficiency could be solved by some means but low ground clearance still remains a problem I think.
Esteem – we had this particular lady customer who complained that she had developed acute back pains because of the seat and she had almost had told us that if the seat wasn’t changed immediately she would sue Maruti. For this particular customer we had to take her complaints to RO head and they handled it by replacing the driver’s seat for her.
Other then this I tried to remember but my memories have faded a bit in last six years.
There were then regular problems like Wagon R horns from a certain company were so bad that we had one customers’ cars’ horn replaced for almost 4 times till we offered him a horn from some other company.
Replacement of batteries also was a huge problem but SSAA had atleast four to five spare batteries at any given time.
Subros AC fellow was a huge pain in the A** , he would never accept his ac faults and would try not to get things done in warranty. As our supplier he behaved as if nobody could take any action against him.
Teflon coating was a newly introduced concept and the service advisors tried very hard to sell it becos they got a huge commission on it.
Carbon cleaning or CC as we used to call it was also another profitable option to sell as 10 CC’s per month and earn but each service advisor used to sell atleast 40 to 50 of them per month.
There are many more but then I don’t want to bore you any more.
The common complaints as in regards with brand Maruti
I feel that Maruti having the monopoly for so many years, has taken its customers for granted. It used to happen so that all the dealer workshops are not concerned about the actual problems and the nitty gritties of it as they are solved not with the heart but mechanically. This is because all those who work as service advisors or supervisors or mechanics do not have that desire to look into what goes into make the repaired piece work as a new. They only are interested in making the car run again and not bother to ensure its good long run.
Secondly the parts that they go into it, they say that are Maruti Genuine Parts or MGP as they call but are they sourced from best of the companies. May be some of the parts are as the companies that make them are best in the business as well as give them competitive rates. But not all companies can give the same quality at a price that is guided by Maruti itself because they want to cut costs. Me being on the both the sides of the industry where in my present company we make components for passenger as well as sports cars, I know what actually is a good product where and where can a manufacturer of components can cut costs to increase his profit and give a selling price as wanted by Maruti. So how good is MGP, is the question always asked as I have seen that a spark plug had to be completely replaced as the rubber ring inside had gone bad and you don’t get only ring as replacement. In other instance if you have a problem with strut, the kit that Maruti buys from Gabriel includes the parts that have to be replaced even if there only a small part which has gone bad. The whole strut kit for M800 costs more than the counter part which you get in local market which consists lesser but important parts.
Selling accessories is the major part of earning for any maruti dealer as they get it in bulk and sell it at 100% more then the price they buy at. No wonder they can afford to give accessories as discounts when any person buys a new car. Every dealer workshop has an accessory section, out to lure the customers into buying them. I think that many unsuspecting customers are fooled into buying them from dealers.
Customer service department.
The department where, you work to be best for both the sides, one being the company and other being the customer. This will be a drastic revelation but you have to show to a customer who comes for service or repairs or just to know something that every action of yours is for the well being of the customer. Sometimes if a customer wasn’t very demanding and was polite then we used to go out to the way to do things for him but this does not go for customers who think that demanding work to be done at the speed of light with no problems at all, were the ones who were particularly harassed. Then there were type of customers who thought they knew everything and they were laughed at, sneered at their knowledge but all this happened behind their back and in front of the customer we had to be all goody goody and sweet, treat them like gods and serve them well. CS was one department where every customer was sent to at least once in his visit so that we could make him fill the feedback forms, give suggestions and complaints too. All these things might have changed over the years but the departments at every dealer remains the same and works in the same way.
My suggestions to all those visiting the dealer workshops.
Do not talk a lot and let the service advisor do the talking while on trials or making the job card. Let him decide what is wrong with the car first and then tell him what you think.
Do not give in completely to what the service advisor say about the car. Ask him questions pertaining to the problem and watch his body language, if you notice him fumbling then he surely is just trying to make a mountain of mole hill.
Don’t ever buy accessories from dealers, how much ever you like them. You can always get them outside somewhere.
Keep a track of the vehicle by calling them. Don’t expect them to follow up as they just do it because they are supposed to not because they want to.
Always stand with them while they are taking inventories as they might fill in wrong information and you might just end up losing something.
Always check the car before handing over the gate pass to the security. Complaints given later on will not be entertained at all.
When they make follow up calls give them proper details of the problems if they remain unsolved even after repairs or services. Maruti makes the post service follow ups very religiously. Always give them your cell no or the no that they can contact you on directly, on the job card as the same no will be used for post service follow up calls.
Accident departments are the most profit making departments and so they are the most loved by the company too. When ever they say leave the car with us for cashless facility, please read the fine print too. They may end up asking for the difference amount during the delivery of the car which might not be suggested to you while taking the car for repairs. Also ensure that they have communicated to you what different charges other then the depreciation in form of salvage or claim charge or other charges, would be cut from the final amount which you would receive from the insurance company.
I think that these suggestions would help you deal with the dealers in a proper way.
My overall experience.
It was the best experience for 9 months that I worked there, from April 1st 2000 to 16th December 2000 to be precise. There were many positives as well as many negatives but I learned a lot from it and I became whole lot of confident, had new attitude towards life, people, made me more diplomatic, shrewd, and installed a lot of humility just because I had interacted with these kind of people in form of my colleagues, my bosses, and above all the customers with whom I interacted personally, over the phone or through their complaints. But over all it was a good experience I got in this life and it was good because I was near my beloved all the time. Cars obviously.
Time to sign out. Hope you enjoyed my experience.
P.S thanks to rudra sir for all the inspiration to start this thread.
mods , such a big post and i have used only one smiley.
|11th May 2006, 16:21||#2|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Apr 2005
Thanked: 77 Times
hey manaa very nice & detailed article.
Enjoyed it very much.
Also thank you for your tips in dealing with workshops
|11th May 2006, 16:29||#3|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Oct 2004
Thanked: 29 Times
Pretty informative. Thanks for the inside knowledge of the working of dealerships. Also thanks for the tips.
|11th May 2006, 16:37||#5|
Join Date: Feb 2005
Thanked: 10 Times
Great post Manaa. Tell me something, is it true that the service centres regularly remove perfectly good parts from cars and replace them with spurious parts, just so they can fix them in other cars and charge for it? Is there any way to prevent this?
|11th May 2006, 16:48||#6|
Join Date: Feb 2006
Very good writeup. Thanks for the tips about things to avoid at the dealers , that's very informative. At least came to know that I lost some hard earned cash buying accessories from dealers.
|11th May 2006, 16:51||#7|
thks a lot adya, drifter, deepakhon and boom shiva for taking out time to read such a big article.
boom. it does happen in service centres where the ppl are corrupt right from top to bottom. where accident cars work is done in the night to meet the delivery schedules. then there is nobody to supervise what they do.
but if the dealers have honest people working for them, it woudnt happen as much.
|11th May 2006, 17:15||#8|
Join Date: Oct 2005
Thanked: 1,655 Times
Hmmm... boy! I really read the whole thing without blinking once. Nice write up Manaa. It almost read like an autobiography. Very informative indeed.
|11th May 2006, 18:10||#9|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Feb 2004
Thanked: 374 Times
Nice work here - good post and yeah like drifter even I wasnt aware about the history of the most active female member here. Good that you shared these experiences of yours with us - specially the dealing with dealers stuff.
Last edited by normally_crazy : 11th May 2006 at 18:12.
|11th May 2006, 18:27||#10|
Join Date: Feb 2004
Thanked: 62,918 Times
Awesome writeup, Manaa. And I always used to wonder about the high activity of this woman in an automotive community. Your background answers that question. Some of the points you have noted out are an eye-opener to me. Interesting insight into the Indian auto scene.
Sure sure!! We all need our excuses, dont we?
Thanks again for sharing this with us
|11th May 2006, 18:44||#11|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Mar 2005
Thanked: 1,210 Times
Thanks for the wonderful insight into both into the back office and the background of the only consistent lady member in the forum.
Very well written and informative. Nice work!
|11th May 2006, 19:09||#12|
nc - i agree with you atleast for rubber , be it OEM or after market, mumbai suppliers are the best.
as far as the bargaining these manufacturers do to bring their purchase price is like we are selling them piece of s*** but then this is what they want.
GTO - i m glad that you liked my write up. and as far as excuses are concerned, have done many mad things then. but love makes you do things one cannot imagine to do without that feeling.
steer - i feel subros is just in business becoz of many unethical things they do. after all in India only these kind of ppl survive. got me?
i have written this article becoz SSAA gave me a lot as i have mentioned and things which i cannot forget so easily.
|11th May 2006, 19:38||#13|
Join Date: Jan 2005
Thanked: 11,039 Times
Great writeup Manaa! I never really understood your facination with cars until now. Some really good info on what happens behind the scene at service centers. I think this thread should be moved to some auto section, not sure why this is here.
EDIT: OK, moved it to the right section.
Last edited by Samurai : 11th May 2006 at 19:40.
|11th May 2006, 23:18||#15|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Mumbai, India
Thanked: 132 Times
Great write up Manaa. You had told me abit about your previous work but this detailed piece was a treat to read. Hats off the the most active female member on our forum
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