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The Service Department – The Often Overlooked Sector of Car Dealerships

It seems to be a habit of mine to overlook Service Departments of the Dealerships that I work for. Sometimes that even includes customers that I have worked at for years. I guess I am just so busy trying to work their lot that I forget that there is work in Service as well. In the last couple days I have been reminded at the possibilities that have probably been passing me by since I started in Interiors years ago.

Both of the jobs I have recently done were cars that mechanics or detailers had already given their best shot but had failed.

The first job was a seat on a 2019 vehicle that had a “ghost” stain remaining on the fabric after it had been cleaned by the detail department and a professional stain removal company. While the seat looked clean it was still clearly evident where the stain was previously. I am sure that both cleanings were attempted with the use of an extractor. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do but the service manager just needed me somehow to make this brand new car customer happy. After a little investigation I found out that the stain was blood and it had been extracted multiple times without reaching 100% success. I told the service manager that the job would probably take a couple days. He had the entire seat removed from the vehicle and was more than happy to let me take it with me. I simply had to take a plastic shroud off from around the seat, unclip the cover from the seat frame, and remove all the hog rings. I then soaked the entire seat cover in Hydrogen Peroxide. I was taught during my interior training years ago that this product would remove blood from fabric and it still works today. I then proceeded to wash the cover several times to remove all the detergent left in the seat by the previous techs attempts to clean it. After using a fan to air dry the seat cover to avoid any heat damage the dryer might do to it, the cover came out fantastic. I simply reinstalled the cover with no evidence of the earlier stain. This was a job that probably took about 1/2 hour of my time. The rest of the “time” spent on the cover was with the washing machine and fan. Very little effort was needed to do what so many others could not complete and what the service manager needed to have done for his customer.

The second job was where plastic panels of a center console and a dash met and formed a seam on a 2019 vehicle. A large irregular gap had somehow formed and was quite evident to the owner who wanted the car she had JUST purchased put back together “correctly”. The mechanic had slightly tightened the gap by drilling new mounting holes for the snap pins that held the panels in place. The tech had reached the limits of what he would normally consider doing to a brand new car. The service manager knew the customer would not accept what had been done so he asked me to take a look at it. I immediately told him that I had no experience dealing with panels that had no obvious damage. He insisted that I do what I could. After a short investigation it was obvious that the panel causing the problem was being held off by a blower motor cover. All the adjustment had been taken out previously by the mechanic. My Dr. Vinyl “outside the box” training allowed me to see a possible solution. However, it was not a comfortable one to perform on a new car. It would require cutting the part of the panel off that was being held back by the blower motor cover. After doing this simple 5 minute “fix” the panel went up into the proper position to close the gap in the seam. The Service Manager was amazed at how it looked and how quickly it had been done when his own certified techs could not accomplish anywhere near the results. I told him the repair would not be fun to hear about. He understood about “plausible deniability” and he quickly replied “I don’t want to know how you fixed it. I just need it to look like the customer wants it to look and that is exactly what you did. Case closed.”

In both cases listed above the price of the repair was never a consideration…only the end results were of importance to the powers that be.

Regardless of the repairs done, results accomplished, or the reactions of the Manager the main lesson to come away with is that the services we provide to the Used Car Manager (i.e. thinking outside the box) can easily be transferred to the needs of the Service Manager. Albeit, on problems totally unrelated to our direct training or on areas we might be unfamiliar with, we can definitely make money with our problem solving minds while working for the Service Department. I remember a quote from an Anthony Hopkins/Alec Baldwin movie about killing a Kodiak Grizzly Bear. I vividly remember Hopkins telling Baldwin “What one man can do, another can do!”

Food for thought: Before, before, before… the next time you are looking for work when inventory is low or times are hard it would definitely pay to let your Service Departments know what you can do for them. If someone as simple minded as me can correct a problem for Service, so can you.

The Wandering Upholsterer