Warranty claim processing: Your worst nightmare or a dream come true?

1-15 Brandon Kirschner blogNearly every service manager has inherited a warrant claims nightmare at some point in his or her career.

Buried in some dusty file folder in the dark recesses of that lower left desk drawer is the most hideous of all creatures, the Unpaid Warranty Claims folder. The chances are it is one of the very reasons that brought you to this new job. For whatever reason, the last guy, we’ll call him Joe, started just stashing them away to deal with them later. It started off innocently enough; maybe it was a couple of claims that got rejected for some odd reason. He really did mean to go back and straighten them out in a few days, when it slowed down a little. Whatever the reason, it slowly grew into something unimaginable, something so big there was no way Joe thought he could fix it.

Mine went something like this. … I was sitting at my desk one bright and beautiful morning in mid-May. The report in front of me told me that the numbers for the month were way ahead of last year — I’m talking up 50 percent! Out the front window of my office I could see the service advisors doing everything by the book — answering the phone on the first ring, asking all of the right open-ended questions, asking the customer if today or Thursday would be better for an appointment. Out the back window I could see all of the technicians in their bays, heads down and focused on the task before them, the parts-to-service guy was staging the parts for each technician’s next job, as the service porters were lining the bikes up next for service. Just another day in paradise! It was amazing how far things had come in only a few short months.

Just as I leaned back in my rickety hand-me-down office chair the phone rang, the caller ID said “The Boss.” No, not the one at home that was thoughtful enough to leave me a Honey-Do list every time she left me home alone. It was the guy in the big office overlooking the showroom; you know, the one that had one of the sales guys roll that chair you are sitting in down to your office last week after his new ergonomically correct chair came in, but I digress. I picked up the phone with every intention of making sure he knew how fantastic things were looking for the month.

I started to say, “Good morning sir! How ar…” — cut off mid-word a guttural growl came through the phone that made my hair stand up on end, “I need you in my office, RIGHT NOW!” The noise of his phone slamming back into the cradle actually made me wince. I grabbed the closest pen and paper and scurried off. As I timidly knocked on his open office door, he simply pointed at the cold, hard wooden chair across from his desk. Before I could even get into the chair, he told me that the controller had just brought him a report that showed we had 67 unpaid warranty claims totaling umpteen-thousand dollars. He went on to say that this was totally unacceptable; he wanted to know what kind of train wreck I was running back there. You get the idea. His last words sent a shiver down my spine, “You have until 8 a.m. tomorrow morning to have this mess straightened out!”

Needless to say, things pick up at 8 a.m. the next day right where they had left off, me cowering in that cold, hard wooden chair, and him glaring at me with his nostrils flared. That was my introduction to my warranty claims nightmare. It actually took me nearly an entire month to get it all straightened out. Luckily for me, I had already built some strong relationships with the DSMs for my area at the last dealership I worked at, so they were willing to help push some of the old, outdated and improperly filed claims through the system. Now notice I said some, not all, and even then we ended up having to write off far too much money. Some of those claims I was lucky to get the manufacturers to pay for the parts at cost, no markup, no labor, just parts at cost.

I decided then and there, right there in that cold, hard wooden chair, that I never wanted to go through that experience again. I set out to teach myself how to turn this nightmare into something to be proud of. I began by truly studying the Warranty Policies and Procedures Manual for each of the seven different manufacturers we represented. The more I studied, the more I came to understand that with all of the differences, there was only one way to win in this game, one way to beat them all! That’s exactly what we are going to talk about in the upcoming posts, finding a way to win at the warranty game. In the coming months, we will discuss all of the things I tried that didn’t work so well, as well as those things that made all the difference in the world.

So here is my challenge to you, sit down and take an honest assessment of your warranty claims processing. Is it a tremendous burden that makes every day a living hell, or have you tamed the warranty beast? Until next time, ride safe, ride smart, and have fun!

Brandon’s background as a motorcycle technician, automotive technician, service advisor and service department manager has provided him with a unique perspective from inside the fixed operations found in today’s most successful dealerships. Focused on helping dealerships enhance customer service and satisfaction while increasing profitability, Brandon is continuously searching for new and innovative ways to assist dealerships in providing customers with higher levels of service in addition to developing methods of improving departmental profitability through increased productivity, efficiency and cost management.


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    1. Hi Doug, in the coming posts we will be covering in greater detail some of the things I have learned over the years. Most of it the hard way, but learned none the less! I hope that the things I have tried, some worked great, many failed in epic fashion, will help others to see their way clear of trouble with warranty claims! Thanks for contributing to the discussion and I hope to see more discussion on here.

      Anyone have any funny stories to share about warranty claims? I would love to hear them!


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