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Dealer Service

Let’s Put the ‘Service’ Back in Service Department

When a customer drives into the service lane, which of the following thoughts pop into your head: “How can I help this person?” or “How can I upsell this person?” If it’s the latter, it’s time to go back to the basics.

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What is a service advisor’s real job? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of service means “the occupation or function of serving.” Therefore, a service advisor’s job is to serve the customer and advise them on how to maintain the second biggest investment in their life.

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Unfortunately, because their pay plans are tied to maximizing dollars per RO, many service advisors are focused more on selling than on serving. In my opinion, this is what causes many customers to distrust dealerships and hurts the bottom line.

I know that you have to sell in order to get paid. But the point I want to make is that if you take great care of customers and earn their trust, the end result will be that you will sell more and make more money.

Years ago, when I was a service advisor, there was an attorney who would drop off his vehicle at our shop and tell me to “do whatever needs to be done.” I had his credit card on file. He trusted me, and I never betrayed that trust. I never sold him something he didn’t need and, as a result, he was a loyal customer who brought his vehicle into our shop for all his maintenance and repair work.

When a customer drives into the service lane, which of the following thoughts pop into your head: “How can I help this person?” or “How can I upsell this person?” If it’s the latter, it’s time to go back to the basics.

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Greet the Customer

First and foremost, get your butt out of the chair and greet every customer as they arrive in the service lane. Meeting the customer at the vehicle makes it easy for the mandatory walk around to happen. Never make a customer or caller wait while you’re talking to another employee unless you’re discussing something that’s specific to that customer.

Because you’re in the service business, it’s your job to set a positive tone for the customer, even if you’re feeling cranky or stressed.

Start an electronic MPI and note all imperfections on the vehicle. Lift the hood, check fluids and inspect the belts and battery terminals. Make sure you have a tire gauge and check the tread depth on every tire.

Confirm why the customer is there (it should be written on the RO). Verify and update their contact information, including name, address, phone and email. Review all charges and estimates. Give the customer a pickup time and make sure that the customer’s expectation for the repair is aligned with your own.

Estimate Everything

A common mistake I see service advisors make is that they don’t write down every recommendation on the estimate. If you notice worn tires or a cracked belt, note these items on the estimate, even if the customer declines them.

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This is important because every declined service is future revenue just sitting out there.

The key to collecting that revenue is to electronically tie every estimate to the vehicle. If you can do this, your DMS will automatically alert you until the estimate is either sold or deleted.

I’m a big fan of using service pricing guides (SPGs) for all repair estimates. Quoted prices should be consistent no matter who is quoting them. Also make sure your estimates are professional and can be emailed or texted to the customer.

Vehicle Pickup

When the vehicle is finished and ready for the customer, call them to review all charges. They should be aware of what the bill is before they arrive. When the customer arrives, walk them to the cashier window, then walk them back to their vehicle.

Thank the customer for being part of your dealership’s family. Tell them that a survey will be emailed to them, ask them to fill it out, and suggest calling the service manager if for some reason they aren’t entirely satisfied.

Follow Up

Follow up on all declined services. Run reports from your DMS. If you have a BDC, give them the reports so they can call and remind the customer. In addition to phone calls, send text messages and emails. Send them a coupon for the service if you have to. It’s better to get discounted business than zero business.

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Finally, take pride in your work. You weren’t born a service advisor. You chose to be one, so own that choice. Embrace your job and your career. Learn as much as you can about vehicle maintenance and repairs, and become an expert for your customers. Treat your customers how you would want to be treated.

There are customers out there who just want to drive their cars and not worry about the maintenance. If you can become the person they trust to maintain their second biggest investment, they will become loyal and valuable customers.

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