Make it happen where it counts
I’ve been taking a hiatus from parts lately and doing a lot of service lane work, both for manufacturers and dealer clients. Now that business has come back somewhat, everyone seems to have gotten religion again (as if it wasn’t necessary during the recession.) I find it interesting that during that period of time little attention was paid to the one profit center that produces a steady revenue flow, if you do it correctly.
Doing it correctly…
I don’t claim to be the expert on the service lane process, but over the last 45 years I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly and I sure do recognize the need to improve when I see it. Here are some of the most blatant issues that I’ve encountered recently, in no particular order.
1. There needs to be a customer centric environment. I don’t mean that you should be giving the house away, but you do need to be responsive to the needs of your customers. This all begins with management since a service operation takes its direction from its leaders, and by this I mean the dealer executive. Chasing the factory CSI number without regard for the processes that drive it makes no sense, and yet I see management stressing the number without dealing with the issues that create it. Something as simple as how customers are greeted when they come into the store goes a long way toward creating the desired response, and yet I constantly see advisors sitting behind their terminals until a customer finally walks in and goes up to them. Get them off their butts and out into the drive where they belong.
2. Listening skills – It’s almost a lost art. Some consultants teach word tracks to the point where I see advisors launching into their spiel before customers can even introduce themselves. They are there for a reason; find out what it is before getting into your own business.
3. Personal relationships have become almost non-existent in our processing world. People like to do business with people they like. Our service sales staff should be working toward developing a comfort zone where their customers are relaxed and willing to do business, not on their guard expecting to be pressured into something they have no intention of doing. This is not the deli at the supermarket where you take a number to be serviced.
4. Do business at the vehicle, not at the computer. Going back to number one too many advisors try to do everything from their workstation. Just like at the doctor’s office, the vehicle is the patient. Doesn’t the doctor examine the ill person before making a diagnosis? How would you feel if your doctor just sat down and made a SWAG diagnosis without examining you? Pretty uncomfortable I’ll bet. Do the walkaround with the customer present so they see what you see, it pays dividends. By the way keep the drive clear so there’s always room to work with the customer under cover (if you have a covered drive.)
5. Let’s talk about walkarounds. First of all I prefer to call them vehicle inspections since that’s what owners understand. The advisor who won’t do them should be a former one. This is where the customer and the advisor should begin bonding. This is where the advisor gets an understanding of the customer based on the condition of their vehicle. Is it well taken care of or is it just an appliance? Obviously the sales approach will differ based on this knowledge, but if you don’t go to the vehicle how will you know
6. Present a manufacturer based service maintenance menu. Nowadays most vehicles are coming in for service, not just repairs. Are you going to sell them an oil change and tire rotation loss leader? Or are you going to recommend the proper mileage based service with all associated inspections and adjustments? Most customers are not knowledgeable about the service requirements of their vehicle and expect you to advise them accordingly. While you’re at it also present them with a “next service due” menu when they finish this visit. An educated customer will come back on time and be ready to do what is necessary making the sales job a lot easier in the drive.
7. Do an active delivery by the advisor, not a cashier delivery. Carrying over from #6 the relationship that has hopefully been established between the advisor and the customer gets reinforced right here. Many dealers have gone to advisor cashiering to enforce this and it may be the right solution for you as well. Don’t let your cashier be the last person your customers see before they leave.
These are just the basics of a successful service drive. Every store is laid out differently, and facilities present their own unique challenges, but if you work at providing a customer centric environment you will reap the benefits and rewards of loyal repeat owners.