When is it a Good Day for Bad Service?

Mark Poffenberger Newsletter In my travels I’ve noticed that Advisors will often abandon service processes during times they perceive to be “busy”, shifting to a panic mode in an effort to “clear the lane.” In doing that they skip many of the important steps that help insure Customer Retention and the very steps that have made them successful in the first place.

Is there really ever a good day for bad service?

By observing the Advisors and their interaction with customers we can determine areas of strength as well as opportunities for improvement. Look for signs of a healthy Customer Interactive Process. Grab a clipboard and paper and score them in the following areas:

Are the following steps performed with every customer, every time?

1. Does the Advisor perform a friendly meet and greet?

Does the Advisor smile when approached by a customer? The first thing one will notice about someone they meet is their facial expression. A warm, sincere smile can go a long way to putting a customer at ease. Keep in mind that they more than likely had to rearrange their whole day just to bring their vehicle to you. Car repairs rank right up there with a trip to the dentist when it comes to tasks that people do not like performing. The customer may also feel apprehension and uncertainty because they have heard all the “horror stories” from friends and relatives about how poorly they were treated at a dealership. They will often enter your Dealership with a “wall” up as a defense mechanism; it’s the Advisors job to take down that wall brick by brick and build trust with the customer, a good start to the process is a friendly, warm smile as soon as eye contact is made with the customer.

Did the Advisor introduce him/herself? Did they welcome the customer to the dealership? For the purpose of a friendly greeting there are basically only two types of customers who drive into your service lane, those you’ve met and those you haven’t. You will need at least two different types of greetings to accommodate both types. Let’s first discuss the customers you are meeting for the first time.

As always it starts with a warm friendly smile, followed by a simple “Welcome to M5 Motors, my name is Mark. How I may help you this morning/afternoon?” If the customer is a male, initiate a handshake; if female wait for her to initiate it.

Of course the preceding would sound silly to a customer you know well, but the smile is still mandatory and can be followed by a friendly “Good afternoon Mr. Smith (or the first name if it’s been established its ok on a previous visit) what can I do for you this morning?”

2. Do they listen to the customer’s concern?

Listening is the strongest sales tool in an Advisors arsenal. There is an old saying that goes “We have two ears and only one mouth for a reason, use them proportionately.” Listen to what the customer has to tell you about the condition of their vehicle. Don’t interrupt them, just listen. When they’re finished and it’s your turn to talk, ask open ended questions as opposed to yes or no questions. Open ended questions start with when, what, who, where and how. Like a good News Reporter, a good Advisor will ask questions to gather all the information he can about the customers concern, the more information a technician has, the better the chance he will be able to duplicate and correct the concern in one visit. “When did you first notice? How long has this been happening? What were the weather conditions when it happens? Sunny? Rainy? Hot? Cold? Did it happen on the way here today,” are all very good investigative questions for a noise that is intermittent for example.

Look for signs that the Advisor is actively listening, and taking note of what the customer is communicating to them. The Advisor should be making eye contact with the customer as they speak, not down at a computer screen.

3. Once given the concern, do they confirm it?

Look for the Advisor to repeat back to the customer what has been relayed to them. They should use phrases like “is that correct” or “if I understand you correctly,” directly before or after restating the concern to the customer to confirm they truly understand what the customer is conveying to them.

Look to see that the Advisor gets a verbal “yes” from the customer before moving on to the next concern.

The ability to assimilate information and relay it back to the customer builds trust and confidence in the customer’s mind that they are being heard and that their vehicle will be repaired properly.

4. Communicate expectations.

After listening to and confirming the customer’s concerns the Advisor must next satisfy three questions that are surely at the forefront of the customer’s mind.

  1. What are you going to do to my car?
  2. How much is it going to cost?
  3. When will it be completed?

Listen to how the Advisor communicates exactly what steps will happen next to provide a diagnosis of their concerns. They should let the customer know who will be working on their vehicle (ie. Master Drivability Tech, Steering and suspension Specialist, etc.). Provide a total dollar figure that includes taxes and shop supplies if applicable and a realistic time frame of when the diagnostic phase of the repair will be completed. Providing a realistic time frame is very important to the customer so they can make an educated decision on whether to wait for the repair or get alternate transportation/shuttle service while the repair takes place. The Advisor should confirm the customer’s intent to leave the vehicle or wait for the repairs and offer solutions when applicable.

5. Do they perform an inquiry into the applicable manufacturer website to confirm warranties and check for any recalls or alerts?

This is a very important step because the Advisor can gain valuable information about the possibility (or lack thereof) that the repair may be covered by an existing warranty. They can also be a hero by advising a customer of an open recall that will be performed at no charge to the customer.

6. Do they present a menu to every customer that starts with factory recommendations?

Advising the customer of Factory Recommended Maintenance is a good way to build trust with them because it’s verifiable, found right in their glove box, and available to them whenever they wish to check it.

7. Do they perform a vehicle “walk around” with the customer and initiate a Multi-point Vehicle Inspection?

The “walk around” when performed on the drive provides the Advisor with an excellent opportunity to check wipers and tires with the customer present, often resulting in the opportunity to inform and provide the customer with an estimate to provide items that the customer does not often associate as a “dealership repair.”

Every transaction performed with a customer gives you the opportunity, based solely on your actions, to earn the right to serve the customer again in the future. The more completely you can service them, the greater the opportunity becomes.


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