— his 35 years in fixed ops, Bob Cawley has heard his share of advice. He has been told about new gadgets, the latest and greatest processes and bold "out-of-the-box thinking."
To it all, Cawley says, "Phooey."
"I've come up with a new saying for 2021: It's time to get back in the box," he says.
Cawley, corporate fixed ops director at Horne Auto Group in the Phoenix area, closed out the first installment of the 2021 Fixed Ops Journal Forum. He says service departments need to reestablish a relationship with their customers.
"I still believe that people that own automobiles need to have someone that they can trust to help them care for and protect their automobile," he says.
"I really do feel like a lot more effort needs to be made to bring back some good old-fashioned customer service."
Cawley says consistent training for service advisers is a "focused effort" at Horne. That training emphasizes walkaround inspections with the customer while shooting the breeze about the weather, sports or other topics.
"I want some humanity to happen where people touch people because everybody thinks we're in the car business. We're in the people business," he says.
Cawley is a big believer in every service adviser taking a couple minutes with each customer to set their next appointment six months out. By his math, if service advisers did this consistently with, for example, each of 12 daily customers and only half eventually kept the dates, in two years or so advisers would have an automatic dozen appointments every day.
"And everyone that comes in is coming to see you," he says. "Everyone that comes in to see you likes you. They plan to be with you.
"And when you present things to them that they need to have done to their vehicle, they are more receptive because you're the guy."
While Cawley admits to being a bit old-fashioned, he says technology can be useful in the service lane. It just can't be expected to take the place of customer service.
"People still own the cars, and people need to be taken care of," he says. "And if we can find the way to do that, and we can blend technology and personal attitude and care, then we're way ahead of the game."