I drive a 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport (SUV). I think Hyundai manufactures a reliable vehicle that is an excellent value. I purchased this one from a used car lot when my 2006 Honda Pilot crapped out a couple of years ago. All things considered, the Hyundai has been good to me.
Any self-respecting American consumer knows you don’t go to a dealer to get your car serviced. I’m sure most would agree it is a ripoff of criminal proportions. But, it’s not just the ridiculous prices they charge. In my experience, the attitude at car dealer service centers is atrocious.
Everyone has a story about a negative experience dealing with a car dealer’s service center. For my first few years living in Texas, my car troubles were few and far between. When I had an issue, I took my cars to places other than dealerships, which always seemed to be an overpriced hassle. However, I had urgent car situations during the last several years, first with the Honda and then the Hyundai. I was crunched for time in both cases, and the dealer was the most convenient alternative. Actually, I was too lazy to vet a trustworthy mechanic.
My Honda had a window stuck in the down position, and it was raining. I stopped by the dealer with what I thought was a simple, inexpensive request. I asked the service guy if it would be possible for them to raise the window so it would be stuck in the up position. I figured this would be an easy temporary fix until I could figure out an affordable alternative. When I asked the question, the guy looked at me as if I was a Martian. He responded with a one-word answer — NO! I fought the urge to rev the engine, drop it into drive, flip him the bird and try to burn some rubber on my way out. Instead, I calmly asked what it would cost for them to fix it. He said, begrudgingly, “I’ll have to do an estimate.” As you would expect, they wanted $800 plus! I looked at it and said two words, “Not interested,” and drove off. I ended up looking it up on YouTube. It took me a while, but I fixed the window for the cost of a part – $50.
A similar situation occurred last summer. There was a recall on an engine part in the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, which required service provided by a Hyundai dealer. Coincidently, my air conditioning had stopped working thinking it might just need a freon refill. In the interest of time, I figured why not kill two birds with one stone. Silly, me! When I dropped off the car, I asked them to look at my air conditioning. Later that day, I got a call to inform me it would be $950 to fix it. I said fahgeddaboudit and picked up the car to have someone else look at it. That’s when I decided to visit Coit Auto Center.
I’d been driving by the Coit Auto Center for years, and it always seemed to be busy. For some reason, this place never came up on my radar when I had a car problem. Then, on a whim, I pulled in. Rami (the owner/manager) greeted me with a smile from behind the counter. I explained that my air conditioner wasn’t working. His response was pleasant, short, and sweet. “If you have a few minutes, we’ll look at it right now.” In less than a few minutes, they checked it out. Rami assured me there was nothing structurally wrong with the A/C; it just needed freon. So for $70, they did the freon refill. Fifteen minutes later, I was on my way home, grinning ear-to-ear.
Recently I had another situation with the passenger side seat stuck in the reclined position. So, again, I took it to my new favorite mechanic, and he asked me if I had a few minutes for them to take a look. They quickly diagnosed that it needed a new part and recommended I purchase the part off Amazon and come back because it would be significantly cheaper that way. I mean, who does that these days? In both instances, Rami and his team at Coit Auto Center saved me significant time and money while addressing my minor car issues.
I don’t understand why more service providers don’t take a page out of Rami’s playbook. It seems so simple:
- Consistently optimistic customer-first attitude
- Demonstrate a sense of urgency equal to that of the customer
- Do the little things that truly make a difference
Rami is smooth. He makes it look easier than I’m sure it is. No wonder Coit Auto Center is always busy. It’s not rocket science.