When It Comes To Service: You Get What You Pay For…

Lakeland Automall
1430 W Memorial Blvd
Lakeland, FL
(863) 577-5030

We always send surveys to our customers to see how they feel about their experience at Lakeland Automall. This is a process that we do for all of our sales departments (Ford, Hyundai and Used) and for our parts and service departments. Online questionnaires are emailed within 24 hours in hopes that our customers will give us feedback about how they were greeted, what service was performed, how the facility looked, how the service reps met their needs and how the service was completed. This is similar to how we follow-up with all sales. Sometimes we even offer an ‘on-the-spot’ survey when service or sales are completed so we can get instant feedback.

For service, we recently decided to go a step further. We thought we’d check out our competition and request the same service from different places, offering the same information and getting service price quotes to find the best deal. Of course, we wanted to be fair and impartial so we asked the same question to each of the companies that provided the same service. So what did we find out? What did we ask? It seemed simple to start with something every car owner would eventually need… tires.

First we picked a size that was common, but not always in stock (205 / 60-R16). We matched the tire to a vehicle that may have caused some confusion if ordered incorrectly (2009 Mazda 6 iSport). So in the beginning we thought this was going to be a straight forward question and answer, but it really wasn’t.

We figured we would start with a Mazda dealer since it seemed obvious. The first call to the dealership went to a reception desk and then to the service department to schedule an appointment or to talk to a service representative. We chose the service rep option and got sent to voicemail. We left a message stating what car, tire size and requested a call back with a price quote. A week later we never heard from the dealer. The same day we decided to call some of the big brand tire shops to see what they had to offer. Tire Kingdom (some name brand tires), Tires Plus (no name brand tires), Pep Boys (some brand name tires); all were very helpful in pricing a tire size and price. Each priced the tire individually and then for a complete set with mount, balance, stems, old tire removal fee, and some with a limited warranty. Priced varied with a difference between $50 and $200. We then asked if the technicians were certified or experienced in tire installation. The answers were varied – yes, I think so, they know what they’re doing…. What?

Not to let things go unanswered, we decided to go to the super discount stores of Sam’s Club and Walmart. Both had very competitive prices and offered an extended warranty – but the tires were not in stock and had to be special ordered. The best price was almost unbeatable! Then we looked at the service department and the staff. Were the technicians certified or experienced with tire installation? You might be able to guess the answer. The Walmart manager did mention that the tire specialists were shown how to properly install tires and it was not difficult – his longest tire tech had been with him for over 7 months.

Here’s the catch. We only offered the tire size when asking about the tire price. Not one of the tire companies asked what make and model of car the tires were for; this was part of the problem that we found out later.

So we called Lakeland Automall service department just to test our own and get a price. The phone was answered quickly and we were able to speak to a person. We said we were looking for tires and the size. We were offered two options that seemed higher than most of what we had been quoted. Then the tech on the phone asked what make and model of car they were going to be installed on? What? Nobody had asked that… why? When we told the service tech the make and model, he asked if he could get our phone number and get back to us with the best price… of course! Several minutes later we got a call back form the service tech….

“Did you know your particular model vehicle requires a special “H” type tire?” …uh… kind of… “We’ve been able to find the right tire for your car and we can have them in stock tomorrow if that would be okay?” ….what? “Our service manager was able to find two different tires – one at $—- price and another at $—- price with a special mail-in rebate from the manufacturer which would reduce your cost.” He added, “All of our technicians are certified master technicians through Ford and Hyundai and we offer extended warranties on every installation with 24 hour emergency road-side assistance. Plus we have a written price match guarantee. We’ll meet any written quote with the same price, same model.”

Now we were confused. Did we get the wrong quote from the other tire dealerships? They didn’t offer all of the other information right up front. So we called back to some of the tire discount stores to check on the “H” difference. Interestingly enough, the prices went up and some said they couldn’t even get the tire.

So after a long post and explanation, do you really get what you pay for? Are all service centers the same? Does having a master certified technician install your tires or parts matter? Are you willing to pay more to get better service and a better product with a guarantee? It’s really all up to the consumer. Some would say no, the cheapest price is the only price and that is all that matters. What about the written price match guarantee? Does it make it better? Does it make the service any different? All questions only the person bringing in their vehicle can answer. We know what we would do…