This is the first article in an occasional series revisiting best practices in dealership fixed operations previously reported by Automotive News.
CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. — In 2010, Paul Jensen, the operations director of two Audi dealerships in the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., area, had an inspiration: creating a dedicated telephone hotline for the stores' service customers who needed help coping with roadside emergencies.
Jensen wanted to make sure those customers would get high-level attention at any hour of the day or night, seven days a week. So he resolved that he would staff the hotline himself, to respond to collisions, breakdowns, flat tires, keys locked inside vehicles and other owner problems.
He pitched the idea to the stores' dealer principal, Bruce Qvale. As Jensen remembers it, Qvale gave him the go-ahead but warned: "You're insane — it's not going to last."
It did, though. Nearly a decade later, the Audi dealerships' hotline continues to operate around the clock. And Jensen, 64 and now director of dealership operations for the 14-store Qvale Auto Group, still provides the reassuring voice at the other end during the 50 or so hotline calls he fields each month.
"I am it," Jensen told Fixed Ops Journal. "When the calls come in, I answer them with, 'You've reached the Audi Coral Springs or Audi Fort Lauderdale hotline. How can I help you?' "
Jensen says Qvale's Audi dealership in Lakeland, Fla., has set up its own hotline. He adds that he's unaware of any other dealerships that have adopted the practice, saying: "You need someone willing to answer the phone blindly in the middle of the night. Very few people are willing to do that for a job."