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Saturday, May 26, 2007

IRA Toyota - Milford; Great Service

I wanted to get our 1997 Toyota Camry serviced. We had just obtained from within the family for Allison. The odometer has just turned 150,000 miles but the car is in great condition and had been running well. We had an added incentive to get it serviced as the "Check engine" light popped on. I googled for Toyota dealers and found IRA had just opened a location in Milford. I followed the link to find their web site to see what they had for service hours, etc.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a "Service wizard" available. You create an account, specify the standard details about the car (make, model, year, mileage). If you add the VIN, they will be able to provide and maintain additional details.

The slickest part of the wizard was the capability to pick a service and schedule a date. Depending upon what service you picked, the calendar changed. This wasn't any old calendar. This was dynamic. Clearly, they had predefined the capability of handling some number of services per day. It was likely also interactive depending upon what was already scheduled for that day. This all makes wonderful sense but I had not seen this before.

I went ahead and scheduled the service for Monday AM planning to drop the car off Sunday night. Saturday, we received an email reminding us of the service scheduled for the car. Sunday, Allison and I drive over to their location, pull into the lot following the "Service" sign and find lanes specially marked for night drop off. There were already some cars in the lanes so we found a spot. The box on the wall had a pen and several forms. We filled out one and put the keys in the envelop through the clearly marked "key drop" slot. This group has figured out service and seems to have thought of everything. The drive home continued the conversation on how well they have planned for service; web site wizard, email reminders, lanes for drop off, etc. Well done!

Monday morning, I walk down to the train station. The weather is good. The mile walk is easy. Just as I am arriving in Boston about 7:30 AM, I noticed I had missed a call on my cell phone. Yes, IRA Service was already calling. The car had been scheduled for a 7:00 appointment. They had already diagnosed the "Check engine" code and reviewed the cost for parts, labor, etc to fix it. It would take more than one day as they needed to order the parts but they also offered a free loaner. I authorized the service and let Allison know. We elected not to take the loaner at this time as our schedules could accommodate missing a car. [Now that the girls are home from college, we have four workers and four cars.]

Tuesday morning, another call from IRA. The parts ordered did arrive but there was a problem with one of them. Apparently one of the boxes had already been opened and the part inside was not what it claimed to be on the outside. It would be another day to get the part. This time we elected to obtain the free loaner. I took an early train to meet Allison and drive to IRA. We were very quickly and professionally greeted and delivered the keys to a brand new 2007 Camry (only 20 miles on it) to take as the loaner. Allison was excited. I was pleased with the ease of the whole transaction driving away in less than 20 minutes. I don't think obtaining a rental when I have traveled was as easy.

Wednesday afternoon, another phone call. The part did arrive but they wouldn't be able to finish before the day ended.

Thursday afternoon, another call. They "check engine" code has cleared but the transmission is skipping 2nd gear. They wanted to keep the car to continue to work that item. Allison had been scheduled to go camping with some friends this weekend and had stuff in the trunk for the trip. She went over and moved the camping stuff from one car to the other. The mechanics teased her. If they had known what food stuff (packaged snacks, trail mix, etc.) had been left in the car, they might have sampled it. Allison was impressed with the garage. She was surprised to see how clean it was.

Friday morning, another call. This one to say the car was ready. There was an additional labor charge due to the work cleaning the transmission valve but it wasn't much more than originally estimated. Not sure what train I would catch to be able to get to swap cars (yes, I was driving the new loaner today; Allison had my car to head to the camping trip), I paid by credit card over the phone and just needed to get there to hand in the keys on the loaner.

The Friday afternoon transaction went easily and quickly. As I drove home, I was considering all that happened this week. The service has been great. From the web site wizard, the email reminder, the phone call half hour after the scheduled appointment, the estimate and status calls. The time delays were dealt with professionally. All for a vehicle not purchased at this dealer. I do have another Toyota and I know where I will take it for warranty service.

This was a good experience!

Have you had service with IRA at one of their other locations? How is it? I am curious.

Updated: They really do service properly, there was an email survey this evening following up on the service this week. Simple only a few questions, mostly yes/no but all importantly, a box for comments, and a check box to request a contact by the service manager.

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