Service Manager Chris Elleman focuses on customer service to keep CSI scores high at Fenton Nissan of Legends.The Hunter Engineering Quick Check allows targets to be hung and alignment to be accurately assessed while the service writer is still writing up the R.O. for the customer.The customer lounge features multiple outlets and a 15-foot window into the service area.Fenton Nissan of Legends is the second store in the country to be built with the NREDI 2.0 design, which features a comfortable, open floor plan and digital technology sales-aids.

CSI drives Fenton Nissan of Legends

Quick, accurate service keeps scores high at Fenton Nissan of Legends, second in U.S. with NREDI 2.0 design

Kansas City, Kan. — Today’s consumer is evermore time-conscious and harder to please. With high customer service index (CSI) performance tied to car allocations and bonuses paid to the dealership by the manufacturer, dealerships are using technology to improve efficiency and provide a smooth, worry-free experience.

“CSI is a challenge. You’ve got to be on your game,” said Chris Elleman, service manager of Fenton Nissan of Legends, one of a half-dozen or so new-car dealerships to spring up since last summer in the 60-acre Legends Auto Plaza, just east of the Kansas Speedway and Legends Outlets shopping mall, in western Kansas City, Kan.

Asian manufacturers are even more stringent than domestics, Elleman said, because they require CSI surveys be sent not only for warranty work, but for any service or repair work done. And for Nissan, that’s on any vehicle seven years old or newer. 

“Somebody who came into a dealership and dropped two grand on a repair – and may not be so happy about it – they’re going to get a survey,” he said. “Their expectations are high, so you have to meet them or exceed them. You’ve got to keep them informed, you have to make sure their car’s clean, make sure the estimate’s correct. You have to be on-point all the time.”

Elleman said customer service is his specialty, and he understands the viewpoint customers and their investment, as he’s bought four new Maximas in the past four years himself.

“Cars aren’t cheap,” he said. “Whatever anybody bought, whether it’s an Armada or a Versa, to them, that’s a bunch of money.”

Fenton Nissan of Legends, which opened Dec. 8., is one of three Kansas City-area Fenton Nissan locations, and it replaced the former Blue Springs, Mo., Nissan store. It was the second in the country to be built with the Nissan Retail Environmental Design Initiative (NREDI) 2.0 design, which rolled out last fall. The 2.0 stores feature open floor plans, multiple interactive digital screens, and “digital wheel stands,” essentially tablet PCs on stands at each new car in the showroom, that allow customers to visualize and configure a new car’s color and other options.

The customer lounge is comfortable, with work stations, multiple phone-charging points and AC outlets, and a 15-foot-wide window to the service area.

Another technically enhanced feature Elleman is considering adding is digital multi-point inspections using tablet PCs, which create efficiencies for inspections and writing repair orders with the customer at the car, with the ability to present a menu of services to the customer, who is more likely to buy them when presented in that manner.

The service area features the latest in equipment from Myers Bros. of Kansas City, Inc., with the Hunter Engineering Quick Check alignment checker being the first piece of equipment any incoming vehicle sees in the shop. Although Elleman was already aware of the benefits of checking alignments and selling them, he said he wasn’t sold on the benefits of the added piece of equipment until he saw it in action.

Because the alignment heads hang on the tires and the car is rolled eight or 10 inches by the technician on the floor instead of on a four-post lift, results can be given to the service writer within minutes, while the repair order is still being written. The Quick Check’s measurements are “on the money,” Elleman said, with the only caveat being to roll the vehicle with the tire and not by pushing the body, which can affect the rear toe and camber settings as the body squats.

Elleman figures his closing ratio on alignments suggested is 70 percent, aided by the Hunter color printout, which shows incorrect angles in red and correct angles in green. Once the alignment is sold, the vehicle then moves to the four-post alignment lift, where the Hunter HawkEye Elite alignment machine and a big screen are used for actual adjustments.  

With today’s stiff, low-profile tires, such as found on Elleman’s Maxima, “the slightest little bit of nibble in that car will drive you insane,” he said, which is where the Hunter GSP 9700 Road Force balancer – with the HammerHead top-dead-center laser indicator for wheel weights – can help identify a tire with a high spot, or excessive road force.

“It’s one of my other favorite tools,” he said. “It will make the car drive right.”

Each bay features a Rotary two-post lift, with 10,000-pound asymmetric (SPOA10) models in every bay but one, designated for trucks with a 15,000-pound model. Shure workbenches on wheels mean they can be easily moved to clean behind, Elleman said, and to also aid cleanliness in the bright, LED-lit shop, he specified that two sinks be placed in the shop area, which keeps the break room restroom sink clean.

That sharp, super-glossy floor finish comes at a cost, Elleman discovered: after installing a new rear camera in an Altima, the technician had difficulty calibrating the camera, which uses predictive course lines on the display to help guide the driver into a parking spot. The camera was confused by too much glare, so the shop’s makeshift solution was to use Pigmat, as used for oil spills, for a glare-free surface.

With his new dealership still growing its clientele, Elleman said he’s been given a liberal marketing budget, which he’s centering on online, email, and direct-mail pieces with loss-leader offers prominently displayed.

“Mine is a cheap oil change and a cheap tire rotation, because we want to get the cars off the ground to get a look at them. My key areas are suspension, brakes, and steering, because that’s stuff that typically doesn’t get checked at a fast-lube. They typically don’t pick them up and check ball joints, tie rod ends, and things like that, and of course, fast lubes don’t check alignments.” 

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.

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