Flashback: The Lessons from the Past

Every other week we’ll “Flashback” to an early article that we’ve run in the past. This was the article that we ran in our very first newsletter back on 08/11/10.

I had the opportunity to speak at a recent OEM-sponsored parts and service meeting, I was pumped to see the number of people smiling again! What a welcome sight. We have a lot to be thankful for, and at the same time must look back and ask ourselves what we have learned from the last several years.

Customer retention is king!

If we didn’t get anything else, get this! The drop in new car sales has caused dealerships to lose their client base and caused a sizable drop in repair order traffic. We need to be geared up and get focused on taking care of the customers at each and every touch point. Starting with the service write-up area: Get your advisor to smile or get rid of them.  How hard is this? Carl Sewell told me one time “a smile can cover up a lot of mistakes.” Amen to that! The smile is an easy, first step in building a lasting relationship that will benefit your dealership for many years. Your advisor’s main task is to turn your customers into “key chuckers” …“Here’s my keys–do whatever it needs.” This is the highest compliment a customer can give us. This is the level we must push everyone to strive for.

Your old methods of doing business must change

No pressure! I have been in stores where the dealer said to me, “No, we never apply any pressure on our service customers.”  I walk into earshot of the service lane and hear a service advisor reply to the customer’s answer, “No, I don’t want the pads replaced,” with a “Why not?”  Some would call this overcoming objections–I call it applying pressure. You have the follow-up systems (or should have) in place. Just stay in contact with the customer; it’s an opportunity that should not be missed. The consumer is slow in making a buying decision on auto repairs–be patient.

Your customer’s expectations are continually changing

They are demanding a higher level of convenience, and you must give it to them. Your structure of your service operations must support this objective and everyone in your dealership must understand it. Convenience is your future!

Stop trying to exceed your customer expectations

You are chasing a moving target that some of you may never catch. My recommendation is to meet the expectation on a continuous basis. Just push for consistency of product. Be consistently good. If we have a hard time getting our advisors to smile at the customer each time, do you really think we can exceed their expectations?

The business is about hitting singles – not the “long ball”

I have said this many times in past articles:  Trying to hit the long ball is outdated. We must learn to make money in our service department without whacking the customer over the head, and accept that the revenue per repair order has dropped. That’s why customer retention is and will be so very important in the future. I spend a lot of time with the OEM’s and the conversations that we’ve had is that the future maintenance requirements will become less and less, such as 10,000 mile plus oil changes. This will require us needing every customer we have and then some. It’s about the quantity of customers. You need at least three to four customers today in revenue value to make up for one customer value three years ago.

Get into Tires – BIG TIME!!

We just finished some phone calls shopping for tires. What a total breakdown. Phone shop your dealership for tires and ask yourself, is this the image I want?

Written by Lee Harkins

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