Twenty years ago, I was doing some consulting work for a Chrysler dealership in the Midwest. Day one was simply an on-the-drive observation day, I stood near the advisors to simply watch and listen.
Mid-morning, a vehicle approached the service drive with the “donut” spare tire on the front driver’s side. The advisor waved the customer off and said “the Goodyear store is two miles west of here, you need to see them!” He didn’t greet the customer, inquire about the primary item or conduct a walk-around… he assumed he knew why they were there and chased them away.
Although this advisor was obviously a moron, back in those days it was customary to send customers to the local tire store whenever they had tire issues.
But that was then, this is now. Today, you know better. Today, dealerships understand the value of selling tires. Today, you’d never send your precious customers into the waiting arms of your competitors… right?
Not so fast, says Jack Lupo, co-founder of Dealer Service Academy (www.dealerserviceacademy.com). “The number one defection point…the main reason customers leave the dealership…is tires,” according to Lupo. And he ought to know, because Lupo has spent his entire automotive career inside dealerships. He teaches advisors to always carry a tread depth gauge and use it on every car, every time.
Lupo continues, “If a vehicle needs tires, then let the customer know about it and offer to install them while the car is at the dealership…right now.”
Let’s fast forward from 20 years ago to February 2012: I took my Chevrolet Suburban to the dealership for an oil change and tire rotation. I was there for about three and a half hours, because I had other business at the dealership. When I was ready to leave, I walked straight to the advisor, who promptly pointed me to the cashier.
The cashier was very friendly and executed her duties in a professional and expedient manner. She stapled my paperwork together, gave me the keys, and thanked me for my business. As I walked to the door, the advisor gave me that “thanks-for-coming-in-see-ya-later” wave.
As I got into my vehicle, I was looking through the paperwork and noticed the vehicle inspection form. The technician had meticulously completed the document and had made a note on what he termed “urgent needs.” Item number one was a transmission leak and item two showed my tire tread depth down to 1/16 remaining (I am embarrassed to tell you this story, because I profess to be a preventive maintenance expert, and yet I let my own vehicle’s tires get in this kind of shape).
Anyway, I had another appointment 50 miles away so I had to get on down the road. This all happened on a Friday morning, and the remainder of my day was already full. The weatherman said we were due for ice and snow on Monday, so on Saturday morning I went to a tire store about two miles from my house. I left there with a $1,200 set of Michelin’s finest all-weather tires…complete with nitrogen and an alignment.
By the way, the transmission leak was an $800 fix that included seven labor hours and a $20 O-ring-type seal. (I had this done about a month later by another Chevrolet dealership because, with 81,000 miles, my Suburban was still under warranty.)
Let me quickly recap the obvious:
- The original dealership lost $2,000 revenue because they didn’t ask for the business.
- They caused me a huge inconvenience and compromised my safety in the process.
- The technician did his job. He thoroughly inspected my vehicle and carefully noted the needs on the inspection form…
- But, the advisor did nothing, even though he had two opportunities before I left the dealership. (Hey, no wonder so many techs refuse to do multipoint inspections!)
- They inadvertently chased me into the waiting arms of two of their competitors, where, by the way, I was very pleased with their work and will go back.
Let me get personal for a minute and ask you candidly, has my story (which is absolutely true) ever been repeated at your dealership?
Unfortunately, this is a tragic (and often repeated) story of customer attrition that could have been so easily avoided.
Here are some thoughts on how you can generate additional revenue and increase customer retention by selling tires:
- Have your advisors do a walk-around on every vehicle with the customer present. Require them to check tread depth on every tire as they go around the vehicle. (If this is not a hill you are willing to die on with your advisors, then require your techs to do it.)
- Report the tread depth to the customer and, if new tires are needed, then ask them to buy tires from you while their vehicle is in the shop. This can be done in person or over the phone.
- Display tires on your service drive and use some type of point-of-sale display or advertising banner. (Warning: these items will not sell tires for you. Many shops have beautiful tire displays, but they don’t sell many tires. The only way to sell tires is to ask the customer to buy!)
- Conduct a service sales meeting with your techs, advisors and parts personnel to stress the importance of tire sales. Most importantly, teach them how to close the sale.
Everyone wins when you offer tires to those that need them. It’s good for the customer and it’s good for the dealership. Happy sales to you!