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“Mr. Smith, this is Bob at Hometown Dealer. While performing your oil change and tire rotation, we found that you need front brake pads and rotors. They are worn out and should be replaced now. I have the parts, and that would be $387.49. I can have that done for you by the end of the day today.

The above follow-up call example can be viewed in many ways, depending on the actual circumstances involved. I have heard many calls and in-person conversations in the same fashion time and again.

Let us assume for the moment that this is a regular service customer who also purchased the vehicle from us. While we may know “Mr. Smith” well enough for the above information to be sufficient for him to say, “Go ahead, call me when it is ready,” did we really place any value in our services?

Would the same conversation be of value to a first-time customer?

Was that price an out-the-door price, including the oil change?

Another question I would ask is if we are consistently performing a multi-point inspection, was the customer aware before today that they may require new brakes at this visit?

While we informed our customers of what they needed today and how much the investment will be, we did not highlight the value of the multi-point inspection, nor did we detail why the brakes are needed today.

We also did not ask for the sale. I did end the sentence with a kind-of assumptive close, but it was not truly clear.

Another clear distinction would be this: it is the vehicle that requires the brakes, not the customer.

While our ultimate goal would be a department full of customers who all know and trust us through the building of long-term relationships, in which we can just hear, “Whatever it needs, just fix it and call me when it is ready” at the time of the write-up, we have to earn those relationships.

So, what is our process, and where does it begin?

Truly, in the case above, it should have begun at the time the customer purchased the vehicle. A consistent Sales to Service hand-off process is where our success starts. With all the technology we have at our disposal, there are many options available to have a world-class process in place. We will have another article on this topic at a later date.

For our advisor staff, it starts with a proper greeting and a walk-around process. We should consistently involve our customers in the walk-around, informing them of what we are doing and why.

Once we have all of our information and addressed our customer’s primary concerns, we should inform our customer of our multi-point inspection and get their permission to perform the inspection.

At this time, we should also be informing our customers that once their technician has completed the inspection of their vehicle, we would like to speak with them if any items need to be addressed, get their permission, and set the expectations at the time of write-up.

Determine our customer’s preferred method of contact. This is where we will need to set our specific follow-up time if the vehicle is being left with us. Place the importance and value of the multipoint inspection at the time of write-up and set the expectation of the follow-up call to review the inspection.

One important note here is that the inspection should be complete to include proper measurements of all brake pads and tire tread depths. If a Technician comes up to an Advisor and wants to inform them that brakes are needed, are all other items already checked? A second phone call to add any items after we have made one recommendation usually does not go as well. Do not let this happen to you if it can be avoided.

Let’s take another look at the same conversation, recommending front brakes with these elements added. You be the judge.

“Hello Mr. Smith, this is Bob at Hometown Dealer. It is 10:00 am, and I wanted to make sure I called you at our appointment time.”

“Your technician has completed the multipoint inspection on your vehicle and is finishing the oil change and tire rotation as we speak. All of the items on our multipoint inspection are in good shape at this time, except for the front brakes.”

“I recommend that we perform the front brake pad and rotor replacement today; I want to ensure your vehicle is both safe and reliable. I have the parts in stock and can have your vehicle ready for you by 3:00 pm today; the total would be $427.98, which includes parts, labor, and tax, including the oil change and tire rotation. Would you like me to have your Technician get started on that now?”

While I am not a big fan of completely scripted word tracks, all the essential items do have their place. The point here being I want my Advisor staff to use their skills and personality while utilizing all of the key elements for success.

What else can we do here? A picture is worth a thousand words. Video may also be an option. Can we utilize texting or email to achieve the same goals?

We can and should go beyond this scenario by having a solid process to track work that was noted as being cautionary or “Yellow” on a multi-point inspection from the previous visit.

Many Dealerships have an electronic multi-point system and also track declined work within that system. Some dealers are still using paper forms. Whatever your current situation, develop a process to utilize the multipoint inspection to both the dealership and the customer’s full benefit.

Work that is placed cautionary or “Yellow” on a multipoint inspection is typically work that will need to be performed within the next visit or two depending on driving habits. Two of the most common items are tires and brakes. These items are also two of our most common points of defection.

These items are not declined work, as they are not yet due; however, I find many service departments are tracking items like this as declined work, which can lead to either confusion or an upset customer depending on how the information is worded on a repair order.

I recommend tracking this type of future work through a specific operation code, especially if you are still utilizing paper inspections. Those of us using an electronic system, are you utilizing a similar feature within the system? How are you tracking it?

You can create your own Op Code and name it as you choose. I recommend using “NEXT” as the name.


NEXT: Please review the notes below for any items that may be recommended or due for your next scheduled maintenance visit. Thank you.

This code can usually be a forced march through your appointment system, being added any time an appointment is made.

The service advisor can now utilize this operation to record any items due at a later date, including regular maintenance. I recommend including the details, any good, better, and best pricing, such as tire options, the out-the-door pricing, and how long the total future work will take to complete.

Once completed, as part of our active delivery process, review this line with our customer. Highlight the line in bold color on the printed copy, make it important.

In today’s economy, especially, if we are giving our customers time to prepare for a future item rather than the sticker shock of now I need brakes at this visit, and why did you not inform me at the last visit, we will begin to build a higher level of trust and appreciation with our customers.

Often we will hear “thank you” from our customers much more than we do now simply because we gave them time to prepare for future investments.

This operation can also be reviewed every time during an appointment call. Often customers may forget what was recommended on the last visit. This is our cue, and if we properly recorded all of the information with pricing in one place, we have an opportunity to capture the work at the time of the appointment.

Just like a multi-point inspection, if done properly, over time, our customers will come to expect this from us. They will start paying closer attention, remembering what was going to be due, especially higher dollar items, and they will ask for the items to be included at the next appointment on their own.

In our first scenario above, if we had already been tracking future recommendations, our advisor would have had the opportunity to ask for the sale on the front brakes at the time of the write-up at this visit and save time having to contact our customer for this item. Time savings equals increased efficiency in our shop.

The above are just a few examples of improving our customer interaction, trust, and relationships. There are many other ways depending on your department structure, DMS, and support systems you have in place right now.

Are you utilizing all the tools you currently have? Do you have all the steps in place to build the credibility and trust we need to ensure that we have lifetime customers and staff through consistent training and process improvement?

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