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A 3-minute video kept me from going ballistic over a $3,000 repair

by | Jun 27, 2023

If you’ve read my stuff before, you know I have a checkered history of repairing my own vehicles. It’s the inevitable outcome of going out of my way to deliberately (read: dimwittedly) buy a series of notoriously crappy cars and trucks that nonetheless looked very cool when they weren’t broken down in my parents’ driveway. Considering that, you shouldn’t be surprised that now later in life I’ve gravitated toward newer cars backed by a dealer warranty.

Don’t judge. Clint Eastwood said it best: A man’s got to know his limitations.

Which also explains why when I took my daughter car shopping, she came home with a 2019 certified preowned Ford Escape SE. I’ve had great experiences with Ford CPO vehicles, which carry warranty benefits very similar to their new car warranties. Smart decision, because during a routine oil change 8,000 miles later, the dealership service advisor informed her that her little SUV needed $3,000 worth of repairs. Front and rear axles, tie rods, boots and more.

Cynic that I can be, now I’m thinking, “Sure, the dealer gets paid by Ford and me for repairs that probably aren’t necessary.”

Warrantied or not, my initial reaction was, well … ticked off, frankly. Initially at my daughter, who I immediately assumed was at fault. (Hey, I’ve seen what my kids can do to cars, sue me.) Her retort, dripping with sarcasm and accompanied by the weaponized eyeroll mastered by daughters everywhere was, “Yeah, Dad, I’m SOOOO sorry. In between working full time and taking care of a baby, I’ve been going off-roading.”

Okay, so not her fault.

It took me a hot minute to realize that no single FoMoCo engineer could possibly be responsible for all the stuff that had (to my thinking, anyway) prematurely failed on the zillionth Escape that had rolled off the assembly line four years ago.

Nothing to be gained by directing my ire at the Big Blue Oval.

My last stop was the Ford dealer who’d claimed the repairs were necessary, noting that a deductible payment totaling several hundred dollars would be due and applied toward their cost of the repairs, per the terms of the CPO warranty. Cynic that I can be, now I’m thinking, “Sure, the dealer gets paid by Ford and me for repairs that probably aren’t necessary.”

Imagine how pleasantly surprised I was to receive this video via text message from that dealer, proving me 100% wrong.

The broken Escape did in fact need everything they had spec’d. And because the accompanying narrative of the tech was so professionally and methodically presented, I didn’t detect a trace of manipulation. I authorized the work on my daughter’s car, apologized to the dealership service manager for what he may have perceived to be my previously … uh … terse demeanor, and I’m happy to report that the repairs were performed well and the car was ready for pickup on time as promised.

Which got me to thinking … why isn’t every independent shop doing this? It seems like such a simple and incredibly effective value-added service to customers, and not all that different than the process that usually happens when a plumber, electrician, or an HVAC technician comes to your house to diagnose a problem and quote you a price for correcting that problem. A simple 3-minute video shot with a cell phone that follows a prescribed pre-service script and texted directly to the customer takes that process to a more professional level. How?

1

It professionalizes the pre-service communication between shop and customer by standardizing the way that interaction happens, which builds customer confidence without requiring the tech to learn how to become a motivational speaker.

2

It doesn’t merely tell an anxious customer what needs to be done but rather shows them the part(s) that need(s) repair. At a more advanced level—say, for repairs of complex electronic systems—a distinct script could conceivably show the symptoms of the system failure, perhaps even how the relevant diag codes were generated.

3

It provides an almost irrefutable, permanent record of what the vehicle components looked like, including relevant measurements of tire tread, brake wear, and more. Video is far more effective and has greater impact than a telephone conversation or a written checklist, and thus more likely to win more business.

4

Implemented and managed properly, it’s an inexpensive, low-maintenance addition that could yield outsized gains. Get started with one or a handful of inexpensive smartphones with decent video capability and service plan(s), lock down the extraneous features on the phones to prevent unauthorized usage, create some basic scripts, and shoot some sample videos for your techs to emulate. Let ‘em rehearse a few times and you’re good to go. Oh, and I suggest you randomly monitor sent videos to ensure they’re up to the standards you’ve set.

There are a lot of things that independent shops do better than dealerships, including successfully creating and preserving long-term customer relationships. Using video to build on that unique quality seems like a no-brainer. If you’re doing this already, good on you. If not, it sure seems like a small investment with a big potential upside, and a way to compete with your local dealers on a level playing field.

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