It’s May 2012 and the official start of the family vacation season is upon us. As you begin to roll out your summertime service promotions, be sure to include automatic transmission fluid exchange services as part of your marketing strategy.
As the weather heats up, more transmissions go belly up. Heat trashes automatic transmission fluid, not because of an increase in ambient temperature, but rather it’s due to pulling boat trailers, RVs and utility trailers. Taking the family minivan up Pike’s Peak or through the streets of San Francisco is another good way to heat up the fluid.
Furthermore, 90% of transmission failures occur due to fluid breakdown, according to Lance Wiggins, Technical Director for the Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association (ATRA).
In other words, the beginning of transmission failure is transmission fluid failure. Therefore, the best way to protect your customers’ transmissions is by offering them a transmission fluid exchange service as a part of their regularly scheduled maintenance.
Most transmission failures occur between 73,000 and 100,000 miles. While ATRA says the mileage at which failure occurs is trending upward, it is still a sobering statistic. Since most people are holding on to their vehicles longer than they used to, it’s easy to understand that they may have a transmission issue in the future…unless they change the fluid.
In their 2012 Automotive Aftermarket Status Report, the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association says 3.4 million transmissions were overhauled and another 4.5 million were replaced last year. That’s a total of 7.9 million people that had to shell out several thousand dollars to fix a failed transmission.
I bet they wished their service center had offered them a transmission service, don’t you? Do the math: $200 for a fluid exchange, or $4,200 for a transmission!
My point is simply this: offering transmission services to your customers is the right thing to do. It’s good for the vehicle, it’s good for the vehicle owner, it’s good for the tech, it’s good for the advisor, it’s good for the parts department and it’s good for the shop. Everyone wins!
When selling a transmission fluid exchange, two pieces of data are critical in order to make an informed recommendation to your customers. First, you have to know the current odometer reading. Second, you have to know the vehicle’s history—specifically, the time interval since the last transmission service was performed. If your advisors or techs have the opportunity to show a customer what their fluid looks like, then it becomes a dynamic visual aid that will increase their selling success. Let me be clear: fluid color is not scientific, therefore it is not the basis on which to sell service. Service should be sold based on the mileage and time interval since the last fluid exchange. Period.
Once your advisors have determined that it’s time to do the service, it is in everyone’s best interest to show the customer the difference between their fluid and new fluid. A picture is worth 1,000 words, and comparing their fluid to new fluid is the best way to get the customer to understand the value of the service.
I have written before about the most successful sales process I’ve ever seen: The Educate, Offer and Ask Method.
- Educate the customer:
“Mrs. Jones, you have 62,000 miles on your Tahoe, and our service records indicate you’ve never had the transmission serviced. While doing a multi-point inspection on your SUV, the technician has recommended a transmission fluid exchange.”
- Offer the maintenance solution:
“We offer a transmission service that includes fluid specifically formulated to meet the requirements of your Tahoe. When we perform this service, our technicians clean up the internal components of your transmission, flush out the old contaminated fluid, and refill it with fresh, new, fortified fluid.”
- Ask them to buy:
“If we go ahead and do the service today, while your vehicle is here, then we can save you a trip back… does that sound reasonable?”
Most dealerships are recommending a transmission service every 30,000 miles. The goal is to change the fluid while it is still red, before it gets contaminated and turns reddish brown or black. Transmission fluid is the lifeblood of the transmission. Most vehicle owners expect their transmissions to last as long as their vehicle. That is simply not going to happen if the fluid isn’t changed regularly.
By the way, don’t forget about the benefit this service brings to your customer retention numbers. Your goal is to keep your customers loyal to your dealership and coming in for service until they are ready to buy another vehicle. Fluid maintenance services are a major defection point for customers. The best way to prevent your customers from drifting away to your competitors in the aftermarket is to proactively sell fluid maintenance services. Customer loyalty to your dealership is in direct proportion to your ability to sell fluid maintenance services.