LOS ANGELES – Frank Ferrara’s car needed an oil change, so he went to a local Hyundai dealership, thinking it wouldn’t take long.

It did though, taking longer, anyway, than had he gone to an express-service operation where customers can get an oil change in minutes without even getting out of their vehicles.

After spending two hours in the dealership, Ferrara was an unsatisfied customer. But he was more than that. At the time, ironically, he was executive vice president-customer satisfaction for Hyundai Motor America.

And dealership personnel knew who he was from the start. His wasn’t an undercover mystery-shopping mission, and he didn’t mention his position with the company. But someone at the dealership figured out he was a company big shot.

So he got the royal treatment. People chatted him up. As he waited in the customer lounge, a manager stopped by to visit. They were all very kind. Still, the job took longer than he expected.

“I thought, ‘If it takes that long for someone like me holding an executive position in the company, how long does it take for regular customers?’”

He’s an advocate of dealerships retaining service business by doing the simpler jobs faster. No one expects a 20-minute transmission repair or engine overhaul, but they do expect a degree of speed for light-maintenance  jobssuch as an oil change, especially if the Jiffy Lube down the street is doing it pronto.

Slow service for simple service work is one of the things that can drive people away from a dealership and to a non-dealership express service operation, Ferrara says at the 2017 Automotive Customer Experience Summit here.

“If dealers value customers, they must figure out how to help them” he says, adding that one way to do that is through better staffing or different staffing.

He once worked for an automaker that had dealerships with express operations. But they didn’t seem particularly speedy.

“It took over an hour for an oil change,” Ferrara says. “The problem sometimes with dealership express service is that the B team often is assigned to it, including junior trainee service advisers.”

sfinlay@wardsauto.com