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Convert Alignment Opportunities by Showing, Not Telling

Treat alignment situations as an opportunity to explain, and your customers will often convince themselves.

Kaleb Silver is the director of product management, systems technology Hunter Engineering Co.

How to Let Alignment Work Sell Itself

For many customers, wheel alignment falls on the “can wait” list. Although it’s something that should be done, they know — unlike, say, faulty brakes — they’re not usually placing themselves or their vehicle in danger if it’s not done today.

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Nonetheless, the challenge for the service advisor is convincing customers that “today” is better than “some other time.” Because once wheels are out of alignment, the meter is running on excess tire wear, needless fuel consumption and eventually, compromised safety.

The good news is that transparent communication, backed with easily digestible data, greatly increases your chances of meeting that challenge.

Why alignment? Alignment work isn’t just good for your customers; it’s good for your dealership, too. Between 40% and 50% of today’s vehicles are out of OEM alignment specifications. So up to half the vehicles you’re inspecting — you are inspecting every vehicle, right? — have a pre-existing, high-margin need you can fix. The more inspections, the more opportunities, the more alignments, the more profit.

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The first step. Hopefully, your dealership is equipped with an autonomous inspection system. When customers exit their vehicle, they should be greeted with easily comprehensible results on a large video monitor.

The reason? Because viewing the results before speaking with an
advisor changes the dynamic from a sales situation into a consultation situation. Without any instruction, customers can consider for themselves whether their vehicle needs work or doesn’t. 

Sell transparency. Either result is a good one, because both are an opportunity to build a relationship on transparency, communication and trust. If the results show a lot of green, cheerfully congratulate your customer and tell them they’re good to go! If red, explain the degree of present and future tread wear, and allow them to come to the conclusion they’re already prepared for.

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Because savings. Why alignment? Because it saves money.

Far more money is spent on tires than any other automotive service. Misaligned wheels cause premature and sometimes excessive wearing of the tires. The longer misalignment goes untreated, the sooner your customer will be buying their next set.

Misalignment also wastes fuel. Tires are designed to have their complete surface meet the road. When this “contact patch” doesn’t make full contact, what’s known as rolling resistance is the result. This resistance needlessly burns fuel.

Customers may not care much about the finer points of toe and camber, but they care quite a bit about saving money. Identify small problems before they become big, expensive problems.

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Because safety. Obviously, the more worn tires become, the less safe they become. Braking distance, as well as traction, will be affected. But there’s an important safety concern much less obvious. ADAS is calibrated from wheel alignment. If the wheels aren’t going entirely straight, then neither is the ADAS.

This is deceptively critical. A “little off” in ADAS terms can mean way, way off. Think of the radar and cameras like a flashlight beam. A half-degree deviation near the bulb becomes a huge deviation as the cone of light expands, causing the system to see things that aren’t there or miss things that are.

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Because convenience. Once you’ve demonstrated the need for alignment, stress convenience. The vehicle is here. It needs work. It’s not terribly expensive and it can be done today. Shall we stop the meter from running?

Objections. Advisors will commonly hear:

My car drives fine. Why do I need an alignment?

Misaligned wheels don’t always telegraph themselves by a crooked steering wheel or “darty” handling. Treads can wear out without unusual sound or feeling, just as people can have an illness without ever feeling ill. Finding hidden misalignment is exactly what inspection is for.

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But I just had an alignment a few months ago!

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take a lot to knock wheels back out of alignment. Any number of things can do the job, such as potholes, curbs, changes in ride height or worn or damaged suspension.

I just bought new tires. I can’t spend any more money on tires.

Actually, it’s precisely because you bought new tires that you should get an alignment. Tires are expensive and need to be protected. Not spending a little money now means spending a lot more money later.

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Given valid information, people will usually arrive at the correct conclusions. If you treat alignment situations not as an opportunity to sell but as one to explain, your customers will often convince themselves. 

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