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Make sure lease customers are comfortable at inspection time

Especially as the number of lease returns climbs, leasing companies should ensure that third-party inspection companies represent them, the dealership and the brand and put customers at ease.

Most, if not all, leasing companies lean on third parties for their vehicle inspection process at lease end.

The inspection could still take place at the dealership, but lenders no longer rely on dealership personnel to inspect the vehicle. Inspections often take place at the customer's home or place of employment. Especially in those settings, leasing companies should have appropriate service level agreements in place and should let customers know what to expect ahead of time, said Jim Houston, senior director of automotive finance for J.D. Power.

Service level agreements typically verify that the inspector is licensed and insured, has no criminal record and represents not only the dealership but the brand and the lender, Houston said. Most agreements also instruct inspectors to outline their expected hours and contact customers within a certain time frame to schedule the inspection.

Because of the influx of lease returns, Houston said, "if you don't have a service level agreement in place now, you should be thinking about having one by then so that your customers aren't disrupted because of the sheer volume of cars coming back."

Meeting customer expectations is an integral part of customer satisfaction. Requesting that inspection companies send customers information about their representative before his or her visit could pay off for lenders. Customers want information upfront and ahead of time. When a customer orders an Uber or Lyft ride, for example, the companies immediately provide the driver's location, name, photo and the vehicle model and license plate number.

Opening your door to a someone you don't recognize can be unsettling. If inspection companies sent an Uber- or Lyft-like description ahead of time, customers may feel more prepared and at ease.

You can reach Hannah Lutz at hlutz@crain.com

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