Don’t skip this in your Service Drive
By John Fairchild
When a customer enters the Service Drive, do you smile? Do you make eye contact? Do you say hello? Do you introduce yourself? Are you connecting with your customers? These are, of course, the expected reactions Service Advisors should make when customers enter the lane, actions alone, however, will not endear you to your customers.
Relating with customers takes a committed effort to get acquainted with them – every single one of them. While a simple smile and nod of the head works for some people, most consumers in this day and age want to feel you appreciate their interest in your store and their business, as well.
Building Customer Relationships and Retention
The following are some guidelines to think through when building your customer relationship and retention skills. If you skip connecting with your customers, you’re better off doing something else for a living!
1. Focus on customer experience in your Service Drive as strongly as you focus on your sales efforts. You can’t make a sale OR provide the best CSI until you effectively connect with your customer and provide a favorable experience.
If you have been in the Service business I know you’ve had or heard the following sentiment: Customers, in the best cases, at the very least inconvenienced to be at your dealership to begin with. Whether it be for a repair or even just an oil change, your customers would prefer NOT to be at your Dealership for service.
A customer’s experience, excellent or poor, is something people tell the story of again and again. Will people speak positively or negatively about their experience at your Dealership? Most of the time a person’s experience will be dictated by the expectations you set and your ability to follow through and deliver. Here are a couple of pointers.
- First impressions cannot be done over, make sure you impress your customer. Greet promptly, be upbeat and overtly attentive.
- Under promise and keep people in the loop. Ensure you’ve established the best contact method and time when YOU will contact THEM.
- For waiters, check on them often in the waiting area, and express your sense of urgency. Don’t let waiters get “overdone” by leaving them sitting there too long.
- Ensure you establish a ready-time for waiting customers and express it by telling them a clock time and getting their assumptive approval. “That job should take about an hour and a half so we are looking around 12:45, OK?”. By establishing the time on the clock you will cut down on the customer’s anxiety while waiting.
In this example, If you just say “about an hour and a half” the customer may lose track of time and is more likely to think they have been waiting a lot longer.
- Regarding time and money, make sure you are a little bit early and a little bit less than you originally quoted. What a nice surprise to be LESS than they expected and EARLIER! Pad your estimates at least 5 to 10% and over estimate on time by 25% of the job.
- Stay on top of status updates. No matter what the status is, make sure to keep waiters updated frequently and to re-contact drop-offs BEFORE they call YOU. The goal is NO INCOMING CALLS for status.
Look for Opportunities
2. Opportunities for CUSTOMER growth in retail sales and improves CSI comes from CUSTOMERS – not the SERVICES you sell. In other words, if they don’t come back, they can’t buy more services! Here are some simple steps to make sure customers are coming back
- Don’t leave it to chance they will return! Set the next service appointment with a statement NOT a question; “Sir, I set your next service appointment REMINDER for April 18th at 4:05. If for some reason you need to change that please call me (or our BDC) and we will reschedule you, OK?” Follow up and reschedule no shows.
- Let your customer know YOU want to be their ONLY Service Advisor. “Ma’m please make sure to see me anytime you need help on any of the cars your family owns, I really want to help you maintain your vehicles properly.”
- Give your card to every customer and invite them to contact you anytime they need help.
Pay Attention to Customers
3. It’s imperative to HEAR your customers, not just TALK to them! Make friends! You can tell them about specials, recalls, and upcoming service needs BUT ALSO listen to what it is they have going on want and need. It’s not phony or superficial to show empathy if you genuinely care.
4. Personalize your customer service whenever possible. GET TO KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER. Introduce yourself, smile, make small talk. Refer to customers by name, bring up past conversations, talk about their kids. Each customer is distinctive, so be unique and authentic in your conversations. Connecting on an individual level with customers pays dividends in spades!
5. Reply to customer questions ASAP! Not all customers will show up in person. Many will send you an email, leave posts on your or the dealership’s social media channels and believe it or not, as well as actually call you. Be sure to react quickly to their queries. With as much competition in the market place and the pervasive culture of instant gratification, if you snooze, you may well lose! Most people are so busy if you don’t act, you will be left behind.
Each customer and every Service Lane is unique, so consider this when planning your approach to every situation. Remember… customers return to Dealerships because they want to, not because they have to. It’s likely, as a Service Advisor, your treatment and consideration of the Customer that will make the situation better or worse. Yes, connecting is a required skill set to succeed as a Service Advisor. Remember, in a world with lots of options, make sure YOU are first on their list.