It starts with the service drive. When a customer arrives at your service drive, they immediately begin to assess who you are and what level of service you deliver. Nothing escapes their eyes; cleanliness, organization, wait time, efficiency, friendliness, willingness, knowledge, helpfulness and product displays - just to name a few. In those areas, among others most Dealerships and after-market service departments in general are equal. At a new car dealership you do have the one trump card; factory backing and factory trained Service Advisors, Managers, Shop Foremen and Parts personnel. You have factory parts, factory bulletins, factory updates and factory tools and support. But these are all intangibles in the eyes of the customer. We can talk about them, but how can the customers really be sure there is any difference? After all, when they last went to an after-market place of business, they requested a service, the service was performed, their vehicle returned, and the concerns were answered. The very same thing happens when they come to your dealerships service department.So what can you do to show a customer that there is a difference and that you really are better than the competition? Answer: By taking your time with the customer and walking around their vehicle. It is the easiest way to prove you are different and that your factory quality does exist and is superior. When you are telling the customer you are the best, you have to do something that they can see and experience early in the initial greet for your claims to appear believable. The walk-around is the perfect technique.Think about it, the customer arrives and your staff is up out of their chairs to meet the customer at their vehicle. They introduce themselves and get the customer’s name. Your Service Advisor discusses the customer’s needs and follows the customer’s answers with very detailed diagnostic questions, maybe even using a factory diagnostic worksheet to aid in the process. After gathering the customer's detailed information, they then reassure the customer that they are in the right place and that your factory trained technicians are up to the task and use only factory engineered guaranteed parts. They inform the customer that they need to get a VIN number and the mileage from the vehicle and while doing so they are going to walk around the vehicle and perform a quick visual inspection to insure that the tires, belts, hoses, fluids, windshield wipers, lights etc. are in good working order for the customers safety and general vehicle reliability. This is all done quickly but efficiently while the customer looks on. This, compared to the last service establishment they visited where they were greeted by a seated Service Advisor behind a desk that simply typed up the customer’s request, printed the repair order, had the customer sign it and were then told that someone would call them shortly with an update. The difference is night and day and it rarely takes any more time to walk around a customer’s vehicle when writing them up, if executed properly.I cannot imagine in this day and age anybody not being sold on the idea and concept of walking around every customer’s vehicle at the initial write-up with the customer in tow. If the above argument isn’t enough to convince you, then this partial list of benefits should.
You do not paint vehicles that you did not damage. By examining the vehicle with the customer at your side, any damage that is discovered can be pointed out and discussed with the customer so that everyone is aware of the vehicles condition prior to it going into the shop. If you have a body shop you can even sell repair jobs for them.
You sell yourself. With the high quality of most vehicles today, most of them do not break down or need repairs for the first 36 thousand miles or so. Since the average service department recommends services every 3,000 miles and the average customer places 12,000 miles a year on their vehicle, this means that they will visit your dealership 4 times a year. At that rate, you will have worked with the customer at least ten times over 30 months not asking for anything more than the recommended maintenance. So, when they do reach a point that they need to spend extra money for repairs and additional services, they will buy from you when you ask simply because you have proven to them over nearly a three year period that you have their best interest at heart and truly only recommend items they really need.
You train your customer. By performing walk-rounds on every vehicle from the first visit forward, you train them to pay attention to their vehicles and be concerned with its up-keep. You also train them on what to look at and watch for. They become an active enthusiastic partner in keeping their vehicle maintained.
You establish a reference point. When a customer experiences a walk-around the first time at the first needed service, you give them a reference point. They see the vehicle and its engine compartment clean, neat and sparkling. As they continue to come back for future services, they see the vehicles deterioration. This prompts them to point things out, ask questions and add lines to the repair order themselves.
You take integrity out of the question. If you have not walked around a customer’s vehicle at the initial write-up and inspected it in their presence, you are making the selling process infinitely harder. Think about it, if you call a customer and ask them for permission to do a coolant flush and you did not look at the coolant when they dropped off their car, even your best customers will question the need for the service. “There have been no drops on the driveway, no steam emitting from the engine compartment, no funny smells. No flashing lights on the dashboard, lack of performance, ride or comfort. Do I really need this flush or are you just trying to flush my wallet?” But when you inspect items like the coolant reservoir in front of the customer and they physically see dirty coolant, it is no longer a question of whether they need it or not, it is only a question of if you are a skilled enough salesperson to make the sale on the spot.
You sell more product. As stated above, by inspecting the vehicle at the initial write-up in the customer’s presence, they see the condition of their vehicle and some of its obvious needs at the same time as you so that you can openly discuss it. This is basic selling fundamentals. You can’t sell it if you do not point it out, you can’t sell it if you do not professionally present it and you can’t sell it if don’t ask them to buy it. By walking around the vehicle and inspecting it you get that opportunity and more people willingly give their approval if they see for themselves what the vehicle needs and have the solution professionally presented.
You save the customer’s time and insure that they get the services they need while their vehicle is in your shop. By discussing at the initial write-up and what the customer needs, you eliminate the need for numerous telephone calls throughout the day. How many times have your Service Advisors missed sales because they could not reach a customer during the day or reached them too late to get the work done that day resulting in a lost opportunity?
Your Technicians are more productive. When your technicians receive a repair order that already has up-sells on it, it allows them to be more efficient because they do not have to wait for approvals and move the vehicle in and out of the shop multiple times. They are also able to deliver the vehicle back to the customer quicker, creating a shorter wait time for the customer.
You simply prove to your customer that you truly care and are different.
You are not the “run of the mill” service department. You are the best!Walking around your customers’ vehicles is a business decision. It is a decision that is made by those who want to separate themselves from the pack and prove to all that they are the leaders in their field. They want to ensure growth and increased market share. They want to be proactive in the market place and stand out.Five years ago, performing walk-arounds was seen as nothing more than a good idea that might work. Today with gross profit, customer retention, customer satisfaction and simple survival being harder and harder to accomplish and maintain, walk-arounds are not only a good idea anymore – They are necessary!
About the author: Jeff Cowan, in his 29th year of training, is recognized as the creator of the modern-day, walk-around and selling processes for service departments. You can see him on a weekly broadcast of CBT News and read many of his published articles on various automotive publications. Currently partnered with NADA, EasyCare, NCM, Marellen, and other vendors and manufacturers, Jeff is the nation’s authority when it comes to training service advisors and service support staff. Visit his website at AutomotiveServiceTraining.com get info on On-Site Training, Public and Private Workshops, NEW DVD Training Program, Webinars, and a FREE trial of Virtual Training! For more great tips and advice, follow Jeff on Twitter at@JCowansProTalk. He’s also on Facebook, and Google+. You can also watch Jeff Cowan’s videos on YouTube!