We are a time-hungry society. We need and demand more – period. As consumers, we are no different than our customers. We demand convenience in what we do, as well. We have developed a dependence on it everywhere we turn.
It never ceases to amaze me how the employees of many of your dealerships hold the customer in contempt because they are in a hurry, but are the first to complain if they don’t get their way in a retail setting. What are we not getting? I believe it’s very simple — we have double standards.
There is how we think the customer should behave and, how the customer actually does behave. Who gives a flip how we think the customer should behave? They demand we perform in accordance to their wants, or they leave. It’s that simple.
As consumers, we all set a level of expectation of how long something should take. In some cases, our expectation is manipulated to believe it should be for a given time. Oil changes are a great example. The quick oil change industry has done a grand job in selling a perception of convenience. Words such as: express, quick, 10 minutes, laser, jiffy, and EZ have been used in the names of these businesses to sell a perception to the consumer. Obviously, it’s to say, “We are quick.”
Over time, convenience will change. What was once convenient is no longer compared with the new product. A great example is the cell phone. Remember your first cell phone? The first one I remember seeing was hard-wired in the car. The next generation was the bag phone. That was more convenient than the first. Then we had the brick phones and then this innovative thing called the flip phone. They just keep getting smaller and smaller. Now look at how convenient it is to carry one. Why? Because we, the consumers, demanded it.
Now, let’s apply this to your parts and service department. As a group, we are perceived to begin-convenient to the consumer. We can improve our perceived value with just a few little things.
Customer promise times
Every customer you serve will ask your advisors three questions at time of write-up. One of which is, “When will my car be done?” It is not an option for the advisors to answer this question, it’s a requirement.
If the advisor does not establish an expectation, the customer will develop what they think is a reasonable time based on their emotions and what little knowledge they may have on the needed repairs. The expectation is set in their minds unless we provide a time, or at the very least an agreed to time, for an update. Your entire service and parts operation should be structured to focus on giving the customer a time for an update or completion of repairs – period. Use yourself as the motivation. Let me take your car for two days and give you evasive answers when you ask me when your car will be done. Let’s see how you like it. Chances are, you will not return.
Massive amounts of money have been spent to teach the service advisors how to sell. For the most part, I believe, we have been successful in running our customers off. It’s not what the customer wants. The repair completed in a convenient amount of time is their most important desire. Couple together evasive answers with pressure to buy, and you have customer defection.
Keeping the customer updated
Your advisors can supply accurate promise times maybe 80% of the time. The other 20% is simply providing accurate up-dates. Keeping the customer “in the loop” is important to long-term retention. Your customers, I believe, are somewhat forgiving, if they know the repair process is involved and complicated. The advisors must set an expectation for the customer and manage it aggressively.
The customer wants to be written up at their car, or at the least, have time at the car where they can say, (pointing to a component) “That’s what’s making the noise, that thing right there.”
In some stores you don’t have a write-up lane and the advisors work behind a desk. I ask advisors why they do this and almost 100% reply, “Because that’s where I’m most comfortable, I can sell better there.”They need to get out from behind the desk and walk to the car. Having the porter check the car in doesn’t count. Don’t you think the customer may buy more business if they are comfortable in the setting?
This is a game changer. The most significant advantage to your dealership is not the added service and parts sales. (It’s nice, don’t get me wrong.) It’s the additional traffic pulling on your lot. Changing your brand from traditional dealership service to a new “convenient-focused, while you wait” type of service operation will drive new and old customers in. After all, we are in the car selling business first and foremost and fixed operations are a support function of the sales departments. Having your customers consider you first for their maintenance and repair needs is the ultimate goal from a retailing perspective. Drive the habit in their minds you are the solution to their automotive needs.
Options for a quick service or an express lane type operation in your dealership vary from stand-alone facilities, integrated stand alone, to fully integrated. Having an identity that sells convenience is a driver of your success in this arena. Development of a convenient brand can be your game changer.
Convenience is the number one purchase intent behind the need for repair or maintenance. Hitting singles every time we are given the opportunity is important in maintaining or growing our business. Rejuvenating the focus of your staff on selling convenience can be your game changer.