Did you know that regular service customers are 86% more likely to purchase their next vehicle from their servicing dealer and that a 5% increase in service retention yields a 25% increase in operating profit? That’s right; retail business is some of the most controllable business that repair shops have! So why do we seem to never have enough of it?
Some reasons, such as competing recall work and general business cycles certainly do complicate matters, and while not a walk in the park they are controllable…with a plan. Yes, you heard that right, with proper planning you need never run out of work on slow days and you get a bonus when times are good.
Every day enormous amounts of business are left on the table because no one asks for it. But asking is only half the job…knowing when to ask is the other. In any transaction there are points where customers are more likely to consider your recommendations. Unfortunately the “ask” often happens, if it happens at all, just when chance for closing it is at its poorest.
Vegas card counters know that they increase their chances of winning by placing their bets when the cards are statistically in their favor. The same strategy can be applied to the average service visit. So assuming that you run an ethical shop and have the technicians to do the work, when are the best times to place your bets?
Relationships begin when customers call for an appointment. Assuming that your service advisors or Business Development Center preform the basics of a hearty greeting, accurate repair descriptions and arrival control, a well-placed recommendation can yield pleasant results.
If the appointment is for an oil change or some other basic service, you can be sure that keeping their vehicle properly maintained is near the top of their mind. Suggesting relevant additional needed services based on time, mileage or gaps in their service history can prompt customers to add to their shopping list.
In all cases recap their requests and end the conversation with “is there anything else we can take care of for you while your vehicle is here?” Phrases like this encourage clients to think beyond their immediate needs, and as their memories are jogged, produce additional repair opportunities.
Even if they decline your recommendations, or say they don’t need anything else, you have introduced an idea that frequently leads to customers to proactively add items to their “to do” list when they arrive.
The Write Up
What happens when customers arrive has a huge impact on how well the shop performs. The good news is that there are several points in the write up where well-placed suggestions can lead to unplanned sales. Sadly, too many advisors wrongly assume that it is their job is to process their customers as quickly as possible and leave finding additional work to the “technical expert.” Technicians are great at finding broken stuff, but they are less good at finding services that customers have missed or are currently due for.
Assuming that basic Service Advisor 101 skills are practiced in your shop, leveraging key transaction points con boost your repair order yield.
Vehicle Walk-Around Inspections have been around for years and while they are most effective when employed in a service tunnel and with customer participation, they are effective sales tools in any shop setting. They have the advantage of finding repair needs and pre-existing damages that are visible to the customer. When presented with the evidence, it becomes difficult to refuse your recommendations.
However the real payoff comes when advisors excuse themselves to conduct their walk-arounds. This shift in momentum forces customers to slow down and relax, improving their receptiveness to your sales presentation.
Multipoint Report Card Inspections, when they are used, are great sales builders. They work even better when customers know that they will be receiving one. In fact “springing” repair needs on unsuspecting customers actually reduces the odds of making a successful sale. When confronted with making a decision on short notice, for which they are unprepared, the default response often is “not at this time.” Presenting a blank Report Card during the write up visually informs them that someone will be inspecting their vehicle. The red, yellow, green “stoplight” format is immediately recognizable and improves the likelihood that they will be less surprised and more receptive when sales opportunities are proposed.
Report Cards become even more effective if, as part of the presentation, the customer is requested to “authorize” the inspection by their signature. If they weren’t paying attention before, they for sure will now and the advisor has the opportunity to again explain how the “no charge” inspection may save them from the headache of a preventable break down.
Also, don’t neglect customers who request only non-maintenance diagnosis, repair, recall or warranty work. Walk-around inspections and multipoint presentations will produce results.
Maintenance customers arrive presold on the idea of maintaining their vehicle. This is the perfect time to recommend other relevant time and mileage services that are current or overdue. Customers generally understand that their long-term interests are served by keeping ahead of problems and frequently agree to add-ons that make sense. Sadly this opportunity is squandered by poorly prepared advisors who have not reviewed the vehicle service history, are not aware of available sales tools such as specials, rebates, deferred interest, product warranties, etc. or simply skip this step altogether.
Similarly, asking if previously declined services have been taken care of can pay dividends.
Even if vehicles are dropped off overnight or arrived on a hook opportunity still abounds. Customers appreciate a quick call confirming that you have their vehicle and to clarify their repair request(s). This is the perfect time to capture extra sales by including the results of your walk-around; maintenance needs analysis and a verbal report card introduction.
However there are times when the maintenance discussion is best delayed to later in the repair transaction.
For those times when it is inconvenient or impossible to discuss additional needed maintenance during the write up you can make a recovery when presenting technician’s findings.
Technician credibility is a powerful closing tool and can be leveraged to capture additional sales when relevant services are added to the estimate. Even in those instances where technicians are addressing “canned” retail, recall or warranty repairs, positioning relevant maintenance needs as tech recommendations can yield results.
Not all sales attempts succeed, but at least the seed has been planted.
The Vehicle Redelivery
The final vehicle delivery is a great place to build rapport and generate extra business. Assuming that your advisors cover the basics and review the repairs, report card and CSI survey, there are a few more transaction points that can be leveraged to your financial benefit.
There are many reasons why customers don’t buy, but not every decline is an absolute rejection. Since we don’t really know why your recommendations were not accepted, including those declined services in the repair order review affords you one last attempt for a “soft sell.” Remind them of the available discounts, rebates and other benefits that they are sacrificing.
While the discussion might not produce immediate results, it is not uncommon for customers to reconsider and schedule their declined services for a later date. So plant those seeds, you never know when they will take root.
Finally, maintenance customers react well to advance knowledge of their future needs, so take the time to review with them and schedule their next appointment. Similarly, special ordered part installations can be scheduled to improve the odds that customers will complete the sale.
In the final analysis, the best closing tool is treating customers as you would treat your mother (assuming that you like your mother). Once that hurdle is cleared, including psychology in your business plan can have a significant impact on traffic, sales and retention.
Author: Rob Kealey
Rob Kealey is a 35-year Fixed Operations veteran and founder of Sigma Marketing. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org.