Monthly Archives: April 2011

DealerPro NADA 2011 Team

Front Row L-R Bill Horgan, Jenn Elsken, Don Reed
Back Row L-R Dave Peacock, Wayne Bronson,
Leonard Buchholz, Ken Barnes


5 Rules of Service Customer Engagement

We started the New Year with the fewest number of new car dealers in decades. I believe the number is somewhere north of 18,000. This of course means there are now fewer dealers to provide warranty services as well as maintenance and mechanical repair services for customers. The question is will dealers aggressively go after customers or simply stand by waiting for them to show up? The latter option will most definitely provide the aftermarket competition with a significant pay raise. What is your marketing plan?

It’s not good enough to just say, “Get more customers in the door.” The basic principle for you to consider is what are you going to do with the customers when they do come in the door? The answer lies within the rules of engagement. These are basic rules that have been around for a very long time, yet some of them are either not being followed properly or not being used at all.

With that being said, what are the rules, and more importantly, why are they not being followed?

Rule #1: Offer an appointment to 100 percent of the incoming service calls. This certainly sounds simple enough, right? Why wouldn’t you want to offer an appointment to every customer? Research shows that service advisors do not offer an appointment to 57 percent of their customers who are calling about a service concern or need. So, you initiate a marketing plan, the plan works well and the phones start ringing. Your service advisors answer the calls and six out of 10 callers are not given the opportunity to say “yes” to an appointment! Why?

The answer is your advisors have not been properly trained on how to sell appointments. This is why you should phone shop every advisor or start listening to recordings of incoming calls. The best solution is to take the incoming calls away from the service advisors and hire an appointment coordinator (with no bad habits) to take all incoming service calls.

Rule #2: Conduct a vehicle walk-around with the customer. This process is well received by the vast majority of your customers, yet far too many service advisors wait for the customer to come to them for the write-up. Why? Again, they probably have not been properly trained or, forgive me for being blunt, they are lazy!

Your service advisors must go to the vehicle with the customer, walk around the vehicle looking for obvious signs of needed maintenance, note any damages found and make service recommendations to the customer (wiper blades, light bulbs, alignments, tires, etc). It’s also called selling. Your service advisors need to get the mileage reading anyway, so why not get the customer involved? Many service advisors consider themselves to be clerks versus salespeople. If you would like to know whether you have clerks or salespeople, just ask your advisors, or of course, you could track their performance every day.

Rule #3: Present a maintenance menu at the time of write-up. Nothing new here! Gosh, I even had menus to present back in the ‘70s when I was a service advisor. If you present menus in finance to increase your gross per retail unit, then why would you not present menus in your service department to increase your sales per repair order (RO)? Your F&I customers are not aware of all the products and services you may offer, so you present them with a menu.

The same holds true for your service customers, since most of them have no clue whatsoever about preventative maintenance requirements and/or recommendations. Clerks do not like presenting menus since it seems like they are trying to sell something, which of course clerks do not do. Professionally trained service advisors (salespeople) know that it is in the best interests of the customers to ensure their vehicles are properly maintained. In doing so, these salespeople will increase your hours per RO by about 0.3 hours.

Rule #4: Complete a vehicle health check (VHC) with every RO. Most dealers complete an inspection of some kind on every used vehicle before it’s retailed. Why? My belief is that they want to make sure the vehicle is safe and reliable for their customers. They also would like to maximize their gross per retailed unit, and they value their reputation in the community. When the inspection is completed, the used car manager usually has the final say on what repairs will be made and approves the final cost.

Sound familiar? If so, then I’m sure you will agree that it’s equally important for dealers to establish this rule for all of their service customers. After all, isn’t it important to ensure the customers are driving safe and reliable vehicles? Wouldn’t every dealer like to maximize their gross per RO and have a reputation in their community for providing excellent service? The process is the same for the service customer as it is for the used car manager. Inspect the vehicle, advise the customer on what’s needed and present an estimate to the customer. Then, let the customer have the final say on what repairs or services need to be completed and approve the final cost.

Sounds like a simple plan to me. So, why do so many dealers fail to complete a VHC for their customers at no charge? Answer: the technicians do not want to perform the VHC because the service clerks won’t sell (don’t know how or don’t want to) the recommended repairs or services. Properly present the results of the VHC to every customer, and watch your sales increase by another 0.7 hours per RO.

Rule #5: Conduct an active delivery of the vehicle back to the customer. “Mr. Customer, you’re all set. The cashier has your keys and your final bill. Have a nice day.” Have you ever heard that in your store? Is it the cashier’s responsibility to explain the work that was completed and what the final costs are? I hope you said “No.” Another way of explaining active delivery is valet service. Always bring the vehicle to the customer and never send the customer out the door to search for their vehicle.

The service advisor should review the three Cs on the RO (condition, cause and correction) with the customer, explain the costs and set their next appointment. If you are interested in saving some money, you might even consider eliminating the cashier’s position and let the advisor perform that function too during the active delivery. Rule #5 will definitely have a positive effect on your CSI and owner retention

It is vitally important that every employee in your dealership understand what a “rule” is. Here is’s definition of rule: “A principle or regulation governing conduct, action, procedure, arrangement, etc.” Now that I have identified the five rules of engagement for your service team and customers, don’t you think it’s about time you held everyone accountable for following the rules?
Don Reed, CEO of DealerPro Training Solutions
Email Don. or call 888-553-0100.

Disgruntled Service Personnel Need A Take

Ever find yourself with “disgruntled” Service Personnel and wondered “How did it get this bad?” You know people are getting “fed up” when you have top personnel (like a Superstar Service Advisor) give notice from seemingly out of nowhere or Customer complaints suddenly increase overnight or accidents start happening.

These are all signs that something is amiss.

You need to have a “Take.”

Take a Moment and begin by opening the door of two-way communications immediately. Many times we get caught up in the day-to-day of running the shop and forget that we (humans) thrive on being Listened to. Taking a Moment to Listen to Personnel and ask what is on their mind is often all that is needed to get things back on track.

In fact, when you Take that Moment, don’t forget to throw in a “Thank You” as well. Your staff might be overdue for one.

Take a Stand for what you know is Right for your Personnel and your Dealership. If you need to change a policy, get something fixed or get the Owner involved, then do it!

 Taking a Stand means that you decide what Action Steps are needed (after getting appropriate input) and not swaying from your position. 

Take a Direction and then Broadcast it to everyone in your shop. I once read somewhere (in the USMC I think) that it is better to get everyone moving in one direction even if that is the wrong direction than to have everyone standing around wondering what was going to happen next.

At least if your Personnel are actively going in one direction, you can make an adjustment. If they are just “waiting for something to happen” then all of the monsters and alligators in the swamp get to them and kill any forward momentum and feed their heads full of crap, if you get my meaning.

Take all of the Blame for everything that is going wrong. It’s yours anyways, might as well own up to it.

If your Service Advisors are not producing, your fault. If the Customers are not coming in, your fault. If the Profit Margins are out of line, your fault.

Which means, if you are taking all of the Blame, you had better make sure you are putting forth maximum effort to get it turned around and going in the Direction you want it to. Then, when you Take the Blame, you know that you did everything you were supposed to do.

Lastly, Take None of the Credit. If you are doing your job, then that means everyone else is doing theirs. You can bask in the glory of knowing that you got them going in the right direction, but pulling the oar has always been theirs. Tell them how well they pulled, Thank them for pulling and remind them they have more to pull and you will be right there with them.

Have a Take.

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