When customer satisfaction is the aim, it doesn’t help if an automaker’s call-center staffer says one thing and a district field representative says another.
Yet that was happening from time to time regarding the authorization of gratis goodwill repair work done at Toyota and Lexus dealerships.
“The call center and field reps often were at odds,” recalls John Lang, Toyota North America’s national warranty manager. “The field rep would say, ‘We can’t do this.’ The call center would tell the vehicle owner, ‘Let’s see what we can do.’”
A new automated system now is in place to promote peace, harmony and better communications.
“A big issue was the sharing of information,” Lang says. “Before, reps didn’t have the same amount of information as call centers,” including customers’ purchase histories showing how many Toyota or Lexus models they have owned.
A long history of brand loyalty can determine how generous an automaker is in benevolently picking up the tab for repair work.
“We looked at the old process, and concluded it didn’t work so well,” Lang says at a Warranty Management Conference in Dearborn, MI, where he presents a case study on working with dealers and the service network to make warranty a key to customer satisfaction.
Like so much in the digital age, the centerpiece of the new repair authorization system is an app.
The app screens are divided into repair information, potential costs, vehicle details, photos and repair-authorization history. Toyota’s district service and parts representatives can swipe through the information to help them determine whether to authorize a goodwill claim at a dealership.
The company reps have the final say. The app allows them to accept a claim, deny it, return it or click to talk to the dealership service manager. Any claim over $10,000 gets manually reviewed.
An example of goodwill work is if a vehicle’s window up-down switch went on the blink a month out of warranty, Lang says.
A repair job like that typically costs a few hundred dollars, and Toyota empowers dealers to do such service work in that situation of up to $1,000 without seeking automaker approval.
Still, under the old system some dealers unnecessarily sought approval for minor claims, Lang says. “They either forgot they could self-authorize under $1,000 or there was an urban myth that you had to forward all claims to get (reimbursed). Service departments were concerned about getting paid.”
The new process clarifies that point.
On the other extreme, Toyota is on the lookout for “problem-children dealers” who submit excessive claims that look as if they are reconditioning vehicles and trying to get the automaker to fund that.
“Any dealer with a suspicious-looking goodwill claim goes to the top of a list,” Lang says. “With this app, I don’t know how you wouldn’t know who your problem children are.”
The new system better connects call centers and district representatives. “We’re not having those arguments anymore,” Lang says.
Call centers tend to handle more complicated claims. If a call center gets contacted first, it creates an online claim which district representatives can access.
In what seems inevitable when implementing a digital initiative, there were bugs with this one. “I won’t lie to you, we had technical issues in the launch,” Lang says.
But today, all seems in working order. “Dealers say they like it; it’s easier on them in the long run. It reduces delays in approval. And field reps report it saves them about four hours a week.”