Dealerships are getting 13% of the annual customer-pay service pie. Of the $232 billion spent by consumers on vehicle maintenance and repair, only $30 billion went to dealerships. I’ve been tracking this statistic for over 25 years and the dealerships’ share of the pie continues to fall, although it has leveled off and has been steady at 13% for several years.
To put this into perspective, dealerships sell 100% of the new cars and do 100% of the warranty. Yet when customers have to decide where to spend their hard earned money, 87% of them choose to go someplace else!
So are customers defecting to aftermarket shops? Of course the answer is a resounding “yes!” The real question is why.
When compared to the aftermarket, your facility is nicer, your bathrooms are cleaner, your Wi-Fi is faster, your coffee is stronger, your customer-lounge magazines are newer, and your flat screen TVs have higher resolution. Yet 87% of vehicle owners spend their money with the service aftermarket.
“The service sales process: Ask, Seek, Knock. It is a passionate, persistent, intentional, progressive ACTION!”
In addition to all of that, most of you have spent millions to renovate, upgrade, or (in some cases) totally rebuild your facility. Your prices are competitive, your lighting is “environmentally friendly,” your charitable giving benefits the local community, your facility is ADA compliant for those with disabilities, your computers are state-of-the-art, your people are friendly with fresh breath and white teeth, and your dealer is a respected leader in town—yet, 87% of the service business is going to the competition.
The answer is found in the JD Power 2015 US Customer Service Index (CSI) Study. This is a very comprehensive and wide-ranging report on the attitudes and experiences of dealership customers. It is an eye-opening, microscopic look at the automotive industry. One question surveyed customers about their first five years of ownership by asking, “Did the service advisor recommend additional work?” A whopping 73% of premium vehicle owners (high-end imports, etc.) and 71% of non-premium vehicle owners said “No!”
Does that blow you away? Seven out of ten customers were never asked to have additional service work done over a five year span. Unbelievable! They were never asked to have their tires rotated, cabin air filters replaced, brake fluid exchanged, wheels aligned, or injectors cleaned… in five years of service visits to the dealership! So their wipers lasted five years, their air filter stayed clean five years, and the back of their throttle is still shiny as new after five years. Absurd!
So, why are service customers defecting to the aftermarket? Because dealerships aren’t asking for the business!
Dealerships are losing a major source of revenue and chasing vehicle owners into the waiting arms of the competition, simply because the service advisors are not asking. Do you suppose this is happening at your dealership?
To solve this problem, there is a proven formula that has withstood the test of time. Chances are that you’ve heard these words before: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Powerful words of truth that form the foundation for any successful sales organization. (Your service department is first and foremost a sales organization.) Let’s take a minute and look at the dictionary definition of these words:
- Ask (äsk) v. to inquire of, request
- Receive (ri sev) v. to have something given
- Seek (sek) v. to go in search of
- Find (find) v. to obtain by effort
- Knock (nok) v. desiring admittance, attention
- Open (o’pen) v. to make accessible, available
Notice how the pattern is progressive from simply requesting, to putting in a little more effort, to a strong desire to make it happen. Never pushy, never overbearing, never aggressive…rather an earnest desire to search for opportunities and capitalize on those opportunities when they arise.
It is not outrageous on your part to require this kind of sales passion out of your advisors, your service sales team. They can do it. The process of asking, seeking, and knocking will compliment a variety of personality types. Oh sure, it may nudge some people out of their comfort zones a little bit—but when they start seeing results, they’ll thank you for gently pushing them.
These powerful words were originally written in Greek. In context, they literally mean keep on asking (making petition), keep on seeking (coveting earnestly), and keep on knocking (striving after). In other words, keep it up! The passion to ask for additional service work –to sell technician- recommended maintenance—must be part of the service advisor’s DNA. It cannot be an optional afterthought on their job description; rather, it must be the centerpiece—a condition of employment.
I want to challenge you to make copies of this article and hand it out to your advisors at your next service sales meeting. Teach them this simple sales process and role-play some different scenarios on how to use this technique on the service drive and over the phone when selling service.
Wake up call: If you’re in a management position, it begins with you. If your advisors don’t have a passion to sell, look in the mirror first. You hired them, you trained them; it’s your job to hold them accountable. It has been said, “What you be, they are becoming.”
Ask, seek, knock: It is a passionate, persistent, intentional, progressive ACTION! Happy sales to you!
Author: Charlie Polston
Charlie Polston is an Automotive Customer Retention and Profitability Consultant with BG Products, Inc. Charlie has been with BG’s Fixed Operations Division for over 34 years. He has trained over 5,000 dealers, managers, and technicians – and has been a frequent workshop leader at NADA’s annual convention.