It’s the job of dealership auto technicians to fix vehicle infotainment systems if they're broken, not explain to baffled buyers how to use them.

Yet, auto technicians and service advisers often get stuck doing just that, according to a survey by Carlisle & Co., a consulting firm that works with automakers.

“Technicians are not paid to explain things like that,” Carlisle partner Harry Hollenberg tells WardsAuto. “They shouldn’t be put in a position of telling people how to sync their Bluetooth. It’s a waste of an expensive employee’s resources.”

Several technicians and service advisers say they reluctantly field such customer queries. Carlisle asked both groups: “What tasks do you spend too much time working on?”

The No.1 answer: “Handling infotainment issues.”

Twenty percent of advisers say that, and more than half of that time consists of explaining how systems work. Technicians say 60% of their time spent with customers on infotainment issues involves giving what essentially are on-the-spot tutorials.

Asked what they don’t spend enough time doing, more than 32% of service advisers respond “Planning for the next customer visit” and 30% say “Following up with customers.”

Carlisle provides a root cause and proposes a solution.

The firm describes a scenario of a customer spending hours in the course of purchasing a vehicle, from the test drive to negotiations to time spent in the finance and insurance office.

“You do all that, and then the salesperson wants to spend 45 more minutes describing how the infotainment system works,” Hollenberg says. “You just want to leave.”

So many car buyers do, or half listen. Later, they realize they don’t know much operationally about the likes of the navigation system, voice recognition and touchscreen menus.  

They could consult the owner’s manual or even watch an instructional YouTube video. Instead, many of them drive back to the dealership for help.

If the person who sold them the car is otherwise engaged, they often end up talking to a mechanic or a service adviser, Hollenberg says. “It’s a common occurrence.”

In lieu of that, Carlisle encourages dealerships emulate Apple stores’ so-called “Genius Bars” by hiring infotainment specialists to field customer questions.

“It could be someone out of high school who is tech-savvy,” Hollenberg says. “It wouldn’t be a high-paying job. Some Lexus dealerships who have tried it tell us it works well.”

Dealers might balk at the cost of creating and filling a new position. But Carlisle lists the payoffs. Those include mechanics utilizing their time better, service advisers focusing more on customer repair issues and customers expressing greater satisfaction.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com