If you consider the lifetime value of having long-term, loyal customers – thousands and thousands of dollars in revenue for your shop – you can appreciate just how important it is to create a great customer experience to keep people coming back. The customer experience begins and ends with your service advisor. Here are eight things you can do to be one of the best.
1. Know your customers’ buying habits. You should always request your first-time customers’ service records, and should ask them verbally about their service histories as well. This information can be extremely helpful during any sales process, especially when it comes to selling maintenance. Great doctors are always interested in a patient’s medical history, just as great service advisors are always interested in a customer’s service history. This information not only indicates which maintenance services are due, but will give you valuable insights into buying habits as well.
2. Have the right resources available. Seeing is believing, so whenever possible, show your customers what is going on with their cars. At Elite, we are big supporters of complete vehicle inspections, proper documentation, and visually showing your customers what was discovered. Since third-party documentation is viewed as a credible source, show your customers their owner’s manuals and service records, in addition to other documents on industry recommendations, maintenance schedules, and repair order costs. Also show them failed components and fluid samples.
3. Emphasize the benefits. You’ll need to know the key benefits of every service you offer by heart. You’ll need to know, in very specific terms that your customers will understand, why it is important for them to authorize the maintenance services that you recommend. You’ll need to make sure they know it can maximize their fuel economies, protect the value of their vehicles, protect their warranties, help them avoid unexpected and costly repairs, and provide them with peace of mind in knowing that they’ll have good, safe transportation. Not only should you know these benefits by heart, you should also write down the benefits of each of your most popular maintenance services, and then review the list of benefits before each and every customer meeting. When it comes to vehicle maintenance, the overwhelming majority of shop owners and advisors focus on the parts and labor, and unfortunately, that’s a mistake. What is more important to your customers is the benefits they’ll receive, not the parts and labor that go into the job. The benefits will motivate them to want to take care of their cars.
4. Be prepared to cost-justify. When it comes to selling maintenance, one of the single greatest mistakes that shop owners and service advisors make is being unprepared to explain the costs of the services. You’ll need to be able to quickly explain to your customers, in clear financial terms, why the service is an important investment for their vehicles. Here’s an example: If the average customer is going to invest $600 in maintenance over the course of a year, then break that number down into a daily amount. This way, when you are recommending your services, you can remind your customers that although they may feel that $600 is a lot of money, they will be able to benefit from the service for a long time. By following your maintenance schedule over the course of a year, your customers’ investment will end up being just $1.65 a day ($600/365). In essence, for less than a couple of dollars a day, your customers will protect their warranties and protect the value of their vehicles, squeezing every mile out of every gallon of gasoline, reducing the risk of costly breakdowns, and having the peace of mind that they will have safe, dependable transportation. If you are not prepared to explain the costs of the investment, then you can rest assured that the only number your customers will hear will be the price of the service. This will not only lead to lost sales; if your customers don’t experience a breakdown within the next few months (that is attributed to the declined service recommendation), then they’ll look at the service you offered as nothing more than an attempt at an unwarranted upsell. At this point, you’ve not only lost the sale, but you’ve lost your credibility as well.
5. Express the necessity of the service. Instead of asking your customers whether or not they would like you to perform the recommended maintenance services, express the necessity of doing so: “All that I’ll need is your go-ahead, and we’ll get started on it right away.” When it comes to proper maintenance of their vehicles, consumers need to understand that when a reputable shop makes recommendations, there is no logical reason to decline the services that were recommended.
6. Focus on the positive. When you call your customers, make sure you begin your presentation by telling them you have some really great news. This will not only set the tone for your presentation and put your customers at ease, but it will send a strong message that as a professional, you stand behind the service you are about to recommend and that it is truly a great value.
7. Schedule the next appointment. There is no better time to schedule the next appointment than at the time of car delivery. Your customers are standing in front of you, they feel comfortable with you, and it’s easy for them to commit to taking care of their vehicle. If your customers leave without making an appointment, then they’re going to be fair game for all of your competitors. In addition, taking good care of your customers’ vehicles is a process, not an event, so it stands to reason that you’ll need to see them again to perform the services that will be due at that time, to complete a periodic safety inspection, etc.
8. Never put money ahead of people. Here’s one of the best kept secrets to not only selling maintenance, but to building a great business. Customers are intuitive, and they can quickly tell if a service advisor is interested in their credit card or their well-being. If you sell from your heart, and if you never put money ahead of people, it will show through every single time. Not only will this help you increase your sales, it will help you generate lifelong customers at the same time.
Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite Worldwide Inc. (www.EliteWorldwideStore.com), an ethics-based company that helps both struggling and successful shop owners take their businesses to new levels through one-on-one coaching from the industry’s top experts. Elite also offers shop owners sales, marketing, and management seminars, along with service advisor training. You can contact Bob firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (800) 204-3548.
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