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As we all compete for the same pool of customers, I often ask my clients, “What makes you different, and why would a customer choose to do business with you versus your local competition?” Usually, a logical response is not provided.

In this article, I would like to provide some suggestions to consider for implementation:

  1. First impressions: The next time you enter your business, please be observant of what a first-time guest would experience. Is your property welcoming? Is the property clean of litter? Is the landscaping well-groomed? Are there signs available to direct your guests to the specific area they wish to go? Is ample parking available? Are there enough staff members to greet them?
  2. Warm and friendly greetings: Do you assign an employee to greet the customer at the door? A warm and friendly greeting will set the stage for the entire service visit. A guest who needs to wait for assistance will become anxious and disengaged rather quickly.
  3. Are we prepared? I recommend that a pre-write system be established. This would consist of an appointment log for the day, a pre-written repair order, a vehicle history report, manufacturer warranty information (including any open recalls), a current maintenance service menu, hang tags and key fobs, and a copy of the multi-point inspection form. By being prepared, we look professional to our guests, ready to do business, and we value their time with us.
  4. Is our service lane process consistent with each visit? This requires training the team on a “keys to keys” service process. All advisors will provide our guests with the same “world-class” experience with each visit. The process should include the following:
    • Greeting in the service lane
    • Confirmation of customer information, including permission to communicate via text
    • Inquiry about the primary reason for the visit
    • Providing status update times
    • Offering the maintenance service menu
    • Conducting a vehicle walk-round with the guest
    • Obtaining permission to perform the multi-point vehicle inspection
    • Obtaining permission to perform a car wash
    • Pre-authorization of any applicable charges
  5. Our waiting customers should have options available to them. Providing a quiet area for reading or work without the distractions of a television, paging system, or music is appreciated. Beverages and snacks should be available in a more central area of the lounge for our guests to enjoy.
  6. Our service advisors need to keep their commitments to following up with our guests on status updates of the progress of the visit. When our staff displays genuine concern about the value of our guests’ time, customer satisfaction will be at the highest level. Prompt communication of additional recommended service request items will produce additional sales for our service and parts departments and ensure safety and reliability for our customers’ vehicles.
  7. Upon the technician’s completion of the vehicle, a process of the car wash, invoice, and staging area to deliver the vehicle from is essential. For dealerships that have the benefit of an indoor service drive with an exit lane, it is recommended.
  8. Providing our guests with a thorough active delivery will leave a lasting impression. Our service consultant will provide complete details of services performed along with associated charges, recommendations for future maintenance or repairs, a maintenance service menu that highlights the next maintenance interval service due with pricing, and establishing a next appointment time. Our guests should be escorted to their vehicle by the service advisor. At this time, the service advisor should ask our guests for their consideration in referring their friends, relatives, and neighbors to do business with our dealerships and themselves. Any negative response while asking this should be addressed by the advisor or management team.

Training in this process will result in consistency of the guest experience, customer satisfaction and retention, employee satisfaction and retention, and growth of income for your fixed operation.

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