Every customer who pulls into your service department deserves to know the overall condition of their vehicle, each time he or she visits. As a matter of safety, a check of the vehicle’s critical operating systems can give a customer some piece of mind and ability to plan for future needs.
During each visit, the service department should perform a courtesy vehicle check-up and deliver each customer a report card. From the results of that check-up, and accounting for the customer’s history and driving habits, you should develop a prioritized presentation that addresses the principal concern; any other safety or performance issues that should be addressed right now; and what maintenance is due, past due and coming up.
How this information and available options are communicated to the customer is critical to his or her understanding the importance and urgency of your recommendations. Armed with this information, the customer can approve the work according to his or her needs, wants and budget.
Do This Inspection Immediately
A service advisor is much more effective in communicating with customers who WANT to listen. If you are bringing to their attention additional, legitimate services needed as they already have been kept waiting too long or can see their vehicle in the ready lane, then that information most likely will fall on deaf ears.
Regardless of the nature of the visit, make sure your techs are performing the courtesy inspection FIRST, within the first 10 to 20 minutes. Now, If a customer needs a repair fixed immediately, then wait until that main concern has been diagnosed and then provide everything at once – both an explanation of the repair and a summary of the check-up.
However, if the customer is in for a maintenance visit, then discuss the findings of the inspection immediately and regardless of what he or she decides, leave a copy of the inspection to review and ponder (or to call the spouse for permission). Reset the customer’s expectation of how much longer the total work will take, based on the decision about which work to complete now or postpone.
To be effective, this approach must be employed with unwavering consistently, and the inspection done with the utmost professional quality. And, you must have prepared the customer by letting him or her know that the inspection check-up was going to be performed in the beginning. This reduces the chances of customers’ indifference once your advisor brings up needs about which they weren’t thinking or didn’t realize were an issue.
Order Of The Presentation
The first element of your presentation must cover the principal concern with this vehicle. No one wants to hear ANYTHING about additional needs before the reason for bringing the vehicle in to begin with is discussed. At the same time, you should address any work needed to make the repair complete and enhance the quality of the customer’s experience.
For example: Say the car has a fluid leak that turns out to come from a faulty transmission tail shaft seal. If the transmission also happens to need to be serviced, include that recommendation in a cohesive summary: “To address the reason you brought the car, we need to replace the tail shaft seal and also service your transmission, which is past due”. Note: Do not yet break down parts and labor, and do not give the estimated price for these repairs. I’ll explain why not shortly.
Next, review those items on the vehicle that the inspection found are in good condition and not needing attention, as your advisor assesses its general condition. The point is to give your customer context as to the value of your recommendations for keeping his or her vehicle in good shape. You are also providing reassurance that the work is a good investment.
Then, inform your customer about anything needing attention right now and that will affect their safety or the vehicle’s performance, and about any work that is overdue. For example, the front brake pads are worn to 2mm, and the brake fluid has deteriorated and hasn’t been serviced for more than 24,000 miles. Presenting these two conditions together will make more sense, as they are interrelated. Once more, do not give the price of these items just yet.
Finally, you should present preventative maintenance, upcoming services and wear items at half-life (i.e., in the “yellow”). A lot of customers will consider having this work performed now out of convenience. If they don’t, you will at least have planted the mental seed for subsequent work. For example: “The tires are at 5 mm, which is not below the 4 mm mark where we would say to replace them now, but it’s close.” In this case, you should offer to replace the tires now, to give an alignment, and to nitrogen and road hazard services if your store offers them).
Offer Pricing Options
Here is why you should not discuss pricing until you reach the END of your presentation. It is much easier to subtract, if needed. If you reveal the price for the first category of work, then chances are your customer may not even hear the rest of your recommendations – and certainly not the sense of urgency you are trying to communicate.
If your customer does not approve paying for the entire batch of work discussed in your presentation, then offer an option by moving up your list to the next subtotal, as I’ve shown on the sample worksheet accompanying this article.
Taking all of this into account, here is how a concise presentation might sound:
“We diagnosed the reason that your transmission is leaking, and it turns out the tail shaft seal is faulty and we need to replace it and service the transmission. That will take care of your main concern.”
“As we discussed this morning, my tech Jason also did the inspection, and in general your car is in good shape. There were a couple of items that need to be taken care of now. Your coolant service is past due by around 26,000 miles, and your front brakes are down to 2 mm. We’ll service the coolant system and for your brakes, we will resurface the rotors, replace the brake linings and replace the fluid with fresh fluid.”
“Finally, your tires are reading 5 mm, which is in the ‘yellow.’ But, we have some tremendous deals on tires, so I figured replacing your tires and an alignment. The grand total to get everything done today is $1665.89.”
At this point be silent and let the customer respond. Remember to offer any special financing deals you may have. If the grand total is declined, immediately offer a prioritized alternative (moving up your presentation to the next level), give the new total and let the customer respond again. Personalize the Plan B with an approach like this:
“Okay, if it was my car and I couldn’t do all of the work today, I would postpone the tires and alignment and do the rest. That total is $979.80. Is that the way you would like to proceed?”
By offering a prioritized presentation using the steps I’ve outlined, you are likely to sell more complete work estimates. And, you are giving your customer relevant information in a way that it can be easily digested.