A service customer states, “Just an oil change today,” when rolling into the service drive with an out-of-warranty SUV. A potential truck buyer wants a trade-in value for a 2013 Chevy Silverado, and the deal hinges on meeting the customer’s expectations. Situations just like these occur every day in dealerships nationwide, and the outcome can dramatically affect whether the store will be in the red or black this month.
As of September 2020 in the U.S., traffic volumes are down 14.5% year over year, according to Department of Transportation. Fewer miles result in less maintenance, wear and tear, and repairs on vehicles. Millions of Americans are still unemployed, and countless more are uncertain about their economic futures. Consequently, dealerships are seeing less showroom traffic and, to no small degree, lighter volume through the service department.
How It Looked Post-Shutdown
After the initial COVID-19 restriction lifted, the auto retail industry experienced surprising growth. Service departments returned virtually to higher-than-normal volume as a backlog of vehicle owners caught up on maintenance and repairs. For those who were unsure of the future, servicing ensured a reliable vehicle for road trips while air travel remained suspended on many routes. Similarly, showrooms were bustling with car buyers replacing vehicles, their $1,200 stimulus checks in hand, figuratively speaking.
But service volume has once again slowed. Both new and used inventory levels have waned. The sudden influx of clients has leveled off and begun to drop, and where sales were previously assured, a void is now opening.
Capitalize on Every Opportunity
It’s now imperative that dealers make the most out of every sales lead and each service customer. The car owner requesting a one-line oil change may be hesitant to spend more, yet it’s all but guaranteed the vehicle needs additional maintenance and repairs. The service advisor, already busy with a set of daily tasks, has to find a way to turn wary car owners’ work orders into profit makers, not loss leaders.
And while sales managers try to pull every deal together, overpaying on a trade certainly doesn’t help anyone’s position. Giving the customer the top price possible without buying the deal is key, even if it means losing a deal to prevent a financial loss.
It’s a fine balancing act. For both service and sales, capitalizing on every opportunity is essential to maintaining profitability.
Leverage Tech for Maintenance Menus
Converting the one-line repair order to the maintenance required by time and mileage presents a challenge for a busy service advisor. When it’s coming from the service advisor, the customer often mistrusts the validity of the message.
Rather than using persuasion, more success can come from using technology to your advantage. Pulling up the maintenance schedule on a tablet and placing it in the customer’s hands to review adds authority straight from the source. “I’m not saying it’s due; the maintenance schedule says it’s due.”
By using the trustworthy source through handheld tech, the service advisor gives more authority to the message.
Automate the Process
A customer wants only a basic service — nothing else. Coming from a service advisor, an attempt to recommend additional necessary repairs or maintenance looks like an upsell. So, how do you demonstrate the need without appearing salesy?
Automate the inspection. Rather than having a service advisor spend time walking around a service vehicle, an automated inspection provides honest and evidence-based feedback about the vehicle’s condition and any deficiencies. There’s no room for debate, since it’s documented in photos.
With an automated inspection system, it’s an arm’s-length way of completing an inspection. Hi-res images show concrete proof that there’s a deficiency that needs attention, and customers are more intent on having the work completed.
Emphasize the Value with Video
Of utmost importance is providing sound reasoning for correcting the deficiency. A features-and-benefits approach offers some success, but there can be a better way. If service advisors are suggesting repairs after check-in, it could bolster a customer’s comprehension and engagement if they see the potential result of refusing the repair. Linking to YouTube videos from reputable sources — even other non-local dealers — can be effective in supporting the features-and-benefits method.
Fewer customers have been coming through the service drive as of late. Maximizing every work order is a necessity to keep customers’ vehicles running well, techs busy, paychecks flush and the bottom line in the black.