It wasn’t too long ago that a mandatory part of the delivery process included the salesperson walking the customer into service, introducing them to a service advisor and helping to begin that relationship between the customer and the service department. Even now it’s a critical question on many manufacturer CSI sales surveys.
But I find that these days many salespeople take it as an afterthought and, if they do it, it is only because it’s on a checklist that the survey dictates. The art – and benefit – of a proper introduction seems to have been lost to many dealerships and salespeople. And let’s face it, salespeople may feel that they receive little benefit from this process as they do not receive any compensation from service business. However, it is increasingly important to dealerships and something that should be consistently executed.
Auto manufacturers are building cars that need less time in between service. As a result, service departments have less opportunity to build relationships, establish rapport and begin to build the trust needed to retain that customer for repair service and in particular, maintenance. Many manufacturers introduced some limited free basic maintenance into their new car services. This actually gives the dealership a little more time to gain the customer’s confidence — but the clock is ticking.
“Here’s our service department,” just isn’t enough to impress a customer with the value of servicing their vehicle at your dealership. The salesperson has likely spent hours, or even days, developing rapport with this customer, yet the delivery process is rushed through in an effort to shorten the time — and it is not always the salesperson’s fault. Sometimes the customer has been at the dealership so long that they are very anxious to just get the keys and drive off. So the salesperson expedites the process in an attempt to ensure a happy customer.
Stop. Doing. That.
The reason that these textbook processes have endured and that manufacturers insist on the service department introduction is simple: it works. This simple introduction sets a certain introductory comfort level with the customer. And, if a specific service advisor is assigned, this gives the customer a familiar face and name to turn to for any problems, questions or for service appointment scheduling. Without this connection and rapport, there is no more reason for the customer to choose your dealership than there is for them to take their vehicle to the most convenient independent service chain for routine maintenance, tires, etc. And we all know how competitive it is out there……
I therefore suggest that you counsel and train your sales staff in the importance of a full service introduction step in the delivery process. Service is too lucrative and provides too much income to treat is as an afterthought.
As part of the delivery process, an advisor should be assigned, the first service appointment set and the service advisor should check the customer’s vehicle for any open recalls that may need to be addressed. In addition, the service advisor assigned should follow up a few days to a week after the purchase and ask if the vehicle is OK, if they are experiencing any issues and remind the customer that a service appointment has been set, or reschedule as needed.
Just as in sales, building relationships in service should be high on your priority list. But this issue is not just a problem with the salespeople. Service advisors get busy, too. It’s certainly possible for a salesperson to bring a customer back to meet an advisor only to find the advisor completely overwhelmed handling other customers.
The salesperson ends up standing there as the customer is totally ignored and the advisor fails to take the time to begin that relationship building process because they are so focused on the 100 other things they have going on and don’t really understand the value of this process.
Make sales to service introductions mandatory and hold salespeople and service advisors accountable – not just through CSI results – but through actual practice. As a result, you should see more customers choosing your dealership for their vehicle maintenance needs and most importantly, retaining them as a customer in Sales as well as Service.
Author: Tom Cannata
Tom Cannata is the Vice President of OEM & National Accounts for Confident Financial Solutions, the nation’s largest provider of auto repair financing. Tom Cannata brings to CFS more than 30 years of sales and leadership experience in the automotive industry.