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Service Departments: Lifetime Alignments

Welcome everybody to Service Drive Revolution, I’m Chris Collins and we have Christian Lafferty with us. Today we have a guest and we are going to talk about marking retention and lifetime alignments for life.

Then we’re going to talk about stress in the workplace, mental illness, and how that conversation gets very intimate and emotional, however this is relevant to our time right now because everybody seems to always be on the edge. 

Our esteemed guest for today is Jaimie Morris, she’s really smart and she has a lot to say about the Automotive Industry.  Jamie is what we call a social media influencer, she posts a lot of cool stuff that spark conversations and ideas and she’s genuinely curious about our industry.  Jaimie Morris is a Customer Service Experience Manager at a Scooby-Doo dealership in Massachusetts.  

Jaimie Morris has a couple of interesting posts that I want to talk about. Let’s start with the first one, the way people approach and see things. Jaimie put up a question and said

“Doing some research on creative ideas today and I stumbled across Firestone who offers lifetime alignments. I called them incognito to see what it’s all about and apparently you pay $179 for the first alignment and for as long as you own the vehicle, you get alignments for free. If a dealership does this and internalizes in lifetime alignment, let’s say once a year, paying the Technicians their time at their rate, do you see this as a customer retention tool and selling opportunity or just a waste?”

I wanted to know what her feedback looked like when she made this post, which I will then give my opinion after I hear what Jaimie has to say.  Jaimie tells us, 

“If you read through the comments, it was a very wide range. There were a lot of people telling me it’s a great idea and there were people that were just flat out telling me that it will never work. I had one comment from a BDC person who actually said you don’t really need it as long as you can offer a great experience that customers will come back to. They told me that I don’t need retention tools and so there’s just a lot of different ways to look at it which I guess is why I post the way that I do.

It’s just to show there’s just a broad range of answers that you really just have to make it work for your specific dealership. I think that everybody kind of has a different flow and it’s really to get to know what makes your customers tick and what makes your department successful.”

In response to Jaimie, I told her that we do have to have some sort of marketing to get people in so they can experience great customer service. Just having great customer service in and of itself doesn’t give you the opportunity without the customers. There has to be something that brings them in and it always surprises me how thin sided people are in their comments when they are not looking at the whole picture. 

You can’t use the wrench where you need the screwdriver. Learn more HERE.

I highly admire Jaimie for the way she approaches this situation, however, I just wish that the conversations were deeper and more insightful than judgemental.

Jaimie opens up about her altercations with the social media world and told us, 

“That’s social media though, it’s the platform of keyboard warriors, so I take it with a grain of salt, I genuinely like starting conversations to get people thinking, and maybe somebody who’s just like me, who just genuinely wants to know is thinking the same thing, but doesn’t necessarily ask. I just like to throw it out there and then just kind of see what happens and so far I’ve had great engagement.”  

When we read Jaimie’s post, this related to Patricia here in the office who saw this because she loves Firestone. It is the craziest thing ever! Also, guess who bought that lifetime alignment? Patricia did! Patricia doesn’t go to the dealership at all, she goes to Firestone for everything and hasn’t been back to the dealership since she bought her vehicle. 

The interesting part is that Jaimie posed the question about how dealerships lose 80% of their customers to independent dealerships and nobody wants to understand what the independents are doing. 

More free content like our Lifetime Alignment talk about retaining customers and building trust.

Having said this, I wanted to know why Patricia loves Firestone lifetime alignments? 

Patricia excitedly told us about her experience with Firestone and said, 

“Something in my past brought me to understand that a lifetime alignment is like the most important thing for me because I drive two hours a day. Maybe not that many miles, however, I’m on the road all the time. For me, my car being in alignment, for some reason, just equals gold. When I took my car to Firestone the very first time to get a nail out of the tire. This guy told me that they do alignments for $99 or lifetime alignments for $179. And I was like, “Lifetime?!” Well, I’m definitely going to need an alignment at least one more time and I’m religious about getting it done, so it felt like it was an amazing deal!  

Why the heck not it’s right down the street. Andrew Firestone is on my phone and he even knows my husband’s name. The lifetime alignment got me and I don’t understand why every dealership isn’t doing that. If I would have gotten my car at the Hyundai dealership and they said we have lifetime alignment and it’s only $179. I would have driven 20 miles to drop off my car in Huntington beach. 

Why would I not want to go to Huntington beach to get my car fixed, have lunch, hang out, pick my car back up, and go home. 

What I thought was really great about Jamie’s post is the comments all hate Firestone. When dealerships say that they don’t do lifetime alignments like Firestone, to me it’s like, you’re totally missing the point. I’m the customer and I’m telling you how much money they’ve made off of me. I don’t understand why people want to say crap about it. I’ve had a great experience with Firestone and I will continue to go to Firestone. I totally trust them. Dealership had the opportunity to have saved me and kept me as a lifetime customer because I would probably continue to buy Hyundai’s, but I’m not going to go back to that Hyundai even to get my next car. I don’t care about that Hyundai dealership that anyway, they had lost a lifetime customer, no lifetime alignment, no lifetime promise.” 

I appreciated Patricia for coming in and talking about her experiences with Firestone and I brought this conversation over to Jaimie next and I asked her what she thought about Patricia’s story..

Jaimie tells me that Patricia is absolutely right. She noted that a lot of times when she’s contemplating a decision or something that she thinks she should pitch to the Service Manager or to the General Manager, she thinks about herself as a customer and what she kind of looks for. She told us a story about how she’s terrible about going to the same place more than once, if she gets a haircut, she said that she’ll probably get it cut at 10 different places just because of the last minute deal or she’s looking for something to just grab her attention and bring her in. Let’s analyze if Jaime believes lifetime alignments are worth it. 

She goes into detail about how a dealership can increase customer retention and told us, 

“If you can just grab that person and make sure that they’re coming back, a person that would usually jump around that, this has so much value in it because otherwise they just might come in for that one oil change and then never come back again because they’re just going to go somewhere else at the last minute. However, if they have their free lifetime alignments, maybe they’ll come in and get their oil change done at the same time and you make a point to go back to that one.” 

This brings me to my next point that I want to talk about because it is very relevant to Jaimie’s response. I have clients on the dealership side that do lifetime alignments and are very successful with it. They do charge more than $179, they’re charging like $249 and I will tell you that they sell a ton of them. Most of the time I think they’re doing two, it’s not seven, it’s not five, the average is two. There’s just as many people that do it once and forget they have the lifetime, which is a failure in communication. But it is very successful and we have a couple of Service Managers where that’s like their go-to and they’re selling hundreds of them a month. It is a very effective approach when you’re trying to boost profits and gain that customer retention. 

Furthermore, Jaimie expresses her concerns in response to this issue and said, 

“That’s a very important missing part because I think a lot of people believe that they just know how to interact with customers because of previous experience. However, this is not the case because you really just have to put yourself in the mind of the customer and think of what they would want. I believe that if you’ve already spent money somewhere and you know that you’re going to be getting something for free, why wouldn’t you go back? You already paid for it.”  

I have a different approach to the way I look at things in the sense of trying to figure out what the results are? What is the outcome of what we’re doing? Our mindset, our systems, and our execution of the systems that allow us to better understand the business at stake.  

Lifetime alignments is just one way of retaining your customers, however, OnDemand courses will help you navigate your way around the dealership.

Moving forward to Jaimie’s next post about mental health, she said,

“I had a casual conversation at work about managing stress in the Automotive Industry. My manager and I are constantly angry and expressing our hatred for the industry, drinking and are battling with the health of their relationships outside of work. As a hardworking younger person, I’m trying to make my way in a highly competitive mentally and emotionally demanding career. I will always take time for myself wherever I can and I will always encourage others to put in 40 or 50 hours, but do something for yourself too. I’d love to meet more mental health conscious employers out there who recognize the difference between hours worked and productivity.”

She updated us and told us that she honestly feels exactly the same. She sees this as a badge of honor in our industry, to say, “I worked 70 hours” is something that people kind of applaud and she believes that it’s obviously good to be hardworking and you definitely want to put in your time and you use your time wisely.  

Do you think lifetime alignments are worth it? 

However, Jaimie would rather give somebody a pat on the back for going to their kid’s hockey game than working straight through it. Jaimie verbalizes that there definitely needs to be more of a balance when it comes to time, your work life, your home life, and the automotive industry because for most part of what she’s seen are Service Managers that are just burnt out. 

Jaimie mentions that, 

“The Automotive Industry is missing out on some really great knowledgeable people to other industries that are working 40 hour work weeks or four day work weeks. They can take those same skills and move it over because, you know, you could work at a dealership and you know, do your 50 hours or 60 hours, or you could go into construction or something like that, where you could use those same skills, but don’t have to work as many hours. It’s just really unfortunate that it’s kind of gone that way.

I’m just always hoping to spark that conversation and maybe I can catch the eye of a Service Manager. Maybe I can have a Service Manager take a look at their own team and do a little reading on who they have and just see how everybody’s feeling. If somebody requests time off, maybe instead of just jumping to X, Y, Z, start thinking about that person and think of what that would actually mean for them.”  

Having said all of this, Jaimie really made me reflect on my upbringing of when I started working in a car dealership as a Porter.

I’m a natural leader, I showed up on time, and I worked hard. I got promoted and I started to hear what the Service Advisors were making. I’m almost 50 and back when I was 17 at the time when you hear that somebody is making $65,000 a year, that was like the equivalent of making $150,000 now. 

I would trade any amount of work, any amount of stress and all the things that I was trying to do and what’s in front of me for the opportunity to make the amount of money I desire. The car business allowed me to make as much money as I earned and all of a sudden at 22/23, I’m making $120,000. Additionally, I made $122,000 my last year as a Service Advisor. 

Coming in on Sunday and write the night drops and I would get there before everybody else. Furthermore,I would stay back everyday later than everybody else. For me, I traded off how I felt before I had income, to now that I can afford rent and not worry about bills.  I was making more than lawyers, right out of law school that had all this debt. I started to see it a different way because I have a career opportunity here where I can earn as much as I want. 

Pay in the Automotive Industry is based on your performance more than it is an exchange of time for money. I couldn’t believe that the better I treated my customers, the more I sold and the more problems I solved. Thus the more I could make.

I wanted to make it clear to Jaimie that most of the people, General Managers or Service Managers, that she’s going to be interacting with came up like how I did. These Service Managers look at the lack of work ethic and they mention the mental side or the emotional side as a weakness more than anything else. I think it’s a fascinating conversation, I’m not at all trying to push my point of view onto Jaimie. However, I’m only trying to give her my context in reflecting that I think I am the way I am because of the great opportunity the Automotive Industry gave me. Lifetime alignments is just one of the ways you can build this trust and rapport with the customers. 

Jaimie made it known that we’re also people and that we’re in the ‘people industry’, as much as we’re in the car industry. She tells us that we have to learn to also be in the people industry and that we have to treat people like people and not just numbers. 

Should you giveaway Lifetime Alignments? 

Christian joins the conversation and enlightens us by saying, 

“I think that there’s a place for it, I think there’s a place for general managers and owners to support the mental health of their teams and they’re going to have to kind of suck it up themselves and figure out how to incorporate that into the dealership world. But I will tell you that I’m having more conversations with dealer principals and general managers about the mental health of their employees and they’re getting way more concerned about making sure that they’ve got time off and that their stress levels are low. I do think that we’re slowly making this shift. However, Jamie, we’re not all the way there yet, but I do agree with you that I think there’s a place for us to take our foot off the pedal in terms of the amount of hours that we work.”

The Automotive Industry is changing every single day as new employees and people enter the workforce, there will always be this constant learning curve for Managers and Employees.  Jaimie Morris really opened our eyes to the new generation of individuals coming into this realm of work and how we as an Industry boost productivity by noticing the mental health of our workers.  

This book will help you understand customer retention like implementing lifetime alignments.

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For special deals on our books and training, head over to HERE and I’ll see you next time on Service Drive Revolution!


Related Blogs/Podcasts: 

5 Unexpected Ways to Boost ROI in the Service Department

Is It Okay To Steal From Customers?

Service Managers’ Biggest Mistakes

How to Use Tire Season to Steal Market Share


Welcome everybody to Service Drive Revolution, I’m CHRIS COLLINS and we have Christian Lafferty with us. Today we have a guest and we are going to talk about marking retention and alignments for life. Then we’re going to talk about stress in the workplace, mental illness, and how that conversation gets very intimate and emotional, however this is relevant to our time right now because everybody seems to always be on the edge. 

For special deals on our books and training, head over to HERE and I’ll see you next time on Service Drive Revolution!

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