3 Essentials for Service Department Retail Process Success

Service Department

A top rated, highly profitable Service Department lives and dies according to how well their Retail Service Processes function. Unfortunately, great intentions, however well thought out, transferred onto a document and called a Service Process do not automatically create great results.

As important as the great intent that created, developed and documented the procedure is, execution, refinement and unyielding sustainment is where solid results come from. We all know that sticking to the process time and time again is what gleans maintainable outcomes. In working with Service Department personnel to create and refine retail service processes I have realized there are a few critical ingredients that will make or break your efforts.

Here are the three indispensable stages vital for retail process achievement.

Element number 1 – Timing

Yes, the overall time it takes to perform the tasks within a process is very, very important. We want to get people in and out in a timely manner, right? Well, sort of… yes, It is very important what the total time in and out is so we can get folks back to their lives and deliver on our promises. But even more significant is timing of certain elements within the process. The key is to set the right expectation and keep people “in the mood” along the way. So good timing of certain functions is absolutely vital.  Let me give a few examples where timing makes a world of difference.

First is setting a superb first impression. Whether it be on the phone or in person when a customer arrives, we can’t make people wait and assume to still make a great first impression. At this point in the cycle, it does not take much time or effort but is does take good timing. Never make a customer wait to greet them in person with at least an acknowledgement that “someone will be right with them.” And of course, give a sincere smile.

Likewise, on the phone, strive to maintain the three-ring rule. Answer all incoming calls within three rings and again, smile. Customers can sense your mood even on the phone. As an aside, if you cannot consistently accomplish phone and in person greetings without making customers wait, consider adding phone staff, greeters or even additional service advisors so the right greeting timing can take place.

Second is timing of inspection and delivering the inspection results. This is really a no brainer but I see people leaving their brains at home every day! I often witness Advisors presenting the results of the Multipoint inspection AFTER the entire service is complete and the customer is ready to leave. Tisk, tisk, tisk, (headshake, finger wag and frown).

This is a fatal error to your wallet and customer retention because often times you’re really just giving the customer a shopping list they can take somewhere else… at this point they are ready to go! On cars with a known outcome (just there for maintenance) make sure your techs are doing the inspection FIRST. Have the Advisors relay the results, good bad or indifferent, with 15 to 20 minutes after write up. This allows you to reset the clock and show a sense of urgency to your customer, which goes a long way. For cars in your repair shop for a concern, the proper timing is getting the inspection back WITH the repair diagnosis so you only have to make one call to the customer to inform them about ALL of their needs.

The last illustration of timing I want to talk about in your retail service processes is making customer STATUS calls. This is where you can shine or fall flat on your face. When a customer leaves their vehicle at your store and they have to call to check on their status, you have failed! Here again, timing and expectation are EVERYTHING! Always set up a proactive status call time when YOU will call the customer.

It’s somewhat psychological, but you are definitely on the offensive rather than running defense at this point and ANY news you have to deliver is going to be MUCH better received than if they had to call you to get the information. Also, if they have to call you who knows if you will be ready to tall turkey at that point or not. In the Service Department timing is a large part of success.

Element number 2 – Quality

Let’s face it, in ANY consumer retail environment these days customers are simply dying for good quality care. Service Departments are no different and to give quality care to your clientele you have to imbed in your processes and INSIST on quality from your team. If you don’t, you will be plagued with unhappy customers and ultimately unhappy employees incapable of satisfying your customers. Here are a couple of areas where quality cannot be by-passed without severe consequences.

Customer relationships. This can be learned BUT it is almost something instinctive and intuitive that you must hire people with the ability to make quality customer relationships with your customers. Automotive maintenance and repair are NOT just transactional business occurrences.

Done right, Advisors, managers and techs must make genuine lasting relationships with customers that instill a level of trust in your customers. Find common ground with your customers and let conversations take you past the issue of the day and beyond the scope of the reason why they are there. In short, make friends with your customers!

Excellent Advising of ALL needs on every visit. What I am really talking about here is presenting valid needs to every customer every time they come in a prioritized manner regardless of what your history of acceptance or gut says they will agree to take. It doesn’t matter what they will accept or refuse, your job is to present a prioritized estimate of their legitimate needs each and every time they visit. That’s called ADVISING my friend and it’s really just sharing information and shutting up long enough to listen for their response.

Element number 3 – Consistency

There isn’t a lot of verbiage in describing this essential element. Plainly put you can’t shortcut success. Consistency is something that you must accomplish one job at a time. Consistency of timing and consistency of quality. Don’t let those one-off exceptions become the rule. Do your processes every time without fail and you will see results skyrocket!

In closing these suggestions are not earth shattering or take a Ph.D. to understand but are critical for success at any level! Stick with these three essentials and see your retail process take you to the next level and beyond.

Good luck and good selling!