For most dealerships, the aim for 100% service absorption is a lofty goal. Achieved, it pays the overhead expenses completely for the month, alleviating pressure on the rest of the departments for profitability. That’s especially important when the sales department isn’t able to hold gross in every deal, like the industry pre-COVID.
While the sales department is more than capable of holding its own at the moment, it’s no reason for the service department to let up. There will likely come a time not too far down the road when sales profitability is a challenge, and that could still be due at times to supply chain issues.
Much of the profitability in the service department hangs on service advisors able to communicate well with the customer, particularly when there’s an issue beyond the original scope of the repair order. Between properly advising on the initial service write-up and selling any services or repairs that come after the fact when a technician advises it’s needed, the ability to guide the conversation and ask for the sale can result in a marked improvement to service profits.
Here are four tips on improving the service close.
Check the history every time
Trust can be lost in a single communication or transaction, and avoiding it is one of the most prevalent reasons for checking the vehicle’s service history on absolutely every RO write-up. Suggesting a maintenance item mistakenly after the customer’s subsequent visit erodes trust since they think you’re only interested in taking their money.
More importantly, though, checking the history allows you to see declined services from previous visits. It provides an opportunity to ask the vehicle owner if you can get it done for them during the current visit. With that trail of breadcrumbs in the ROs, you could build trust as vehicle owners realize you’re actually in the business of taking care of their car. Identified as ‘overdue services/repairs’, it also creates a sense of urgency to address them.
Explain features and benefits
What impact does telling a vehicle owner that they need a wheel alignment, a transmission service, or a new set of brakes have? Very little. There doesn’t seem to be any sense of importance or value when the service advisor just rattles off a list of items the vehicle needs. But when the service advisor takes the time to explain features and benefits, it makes it much harder to say ‘no’.
As an example, if your store suggests annual wheel alignments, an approach you could take would be to say, “It’s been nearly 15,000 miles you’ve driven in the past year, and we all know how harsh our roads are. I suggest a wheel alignment to correct the minor changes to the suspension angles that happen over time and impacts. It helps prevent abnormal tire wear and suspension and steering stress, actually saving you money down the road.”
Sell the dealership
Some customers are focused on time and price primarily, and it can help to redirect some of that into concerns about where it’s best to service their vehicle. By turning the conversation to the dealership’s benefits, you can eliminate an objection to time and price before it happens.
The goal is to make a life-long customer. Mention aspects like professionally-trained technicians who know their vehicles best, a service advisor they can always reach out to and trust, competitively priced services, and factory and parts warranties where applicable.
Guide the decision
Asking closed, yes-or-no questions gives more of an opportunity for the customer to waffle about their decision. However, guiding them to a positive outcome can have excellent results. For example, say something like, “Would you like to go with the semi-metallic brake pads today or the better ceramic brake pads?” Choosing not to proceed requires adding an extra pathway, and it’s harder to do as the purchaser.
If you must offer a yes-no decision, phrase it in a positive way. Say something along the lines of, “Would it be alright if I get the technician started on your brake job? It can be done in around an hour.” Again, it’s easier for a customer to simply agree than object.
These are basic service advisor skills, but all too often it becomes an area where corners are cut due to busyness. Get back to the basics and see the benefits to not just the bottom line, but to customer satisfaction and loyalty as well.
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