How to Turn Declined Service Into Repair Orders

Unduly pressuring customers doesn’t work, but a phone call can do the trick.

Lee Harkins

September 24, 2014

3 Min Read
How to Turn Declined Service Into Repair Orders


Chick-fil-A has a YouTube video called “Every Life Has a Story.” It’s a must-watch for everyone who is in a contact point with a customer.

We never know what customer baggage prevents them from buying certain maintenance or repairs from us. As we know, the challenges of life often cause us to have larger battles we must address first.

So, if a customer declines your recommended services, don’t take it personal. The key is to stay in touch.

First, never pressure a customer to buy any business from your fixed operations. The only pressure the customer should feel is the self-imposed pressure of making a decision. Trying to overcome their objections will make you appear like Herb Tarlek (search him on the web if he was before your time) and cheapen your brand.

A plan is required to close on additional sales that have been initially declined. It starts when the customer enters your service department for the first time. The sale your advisers must focus on is selling themselves and the dealership. It’s called building a relationship.

We can train all day about word tracks and ways to corral customers into buying, but in the long run you will lose customers by using these techniques. I have seen it so many times.

When you first use these methods, sales will jump, but what causes your sales to increase can cause them to decrease. Nobody wants to feel as if they have been put together.

Train advisers on selling the effort to conduct good business with and for your customers. I assure you, as long as you don’t pressure the customer, there will be another day. My explanation on selling declined services will make more sense once you understand my approach.

Scenario: Customer brings vehicle to your service department, and your technical staff finds additional work is necessary. An estimate is prepared. The phone call is made. The customer declines the work.

This is not a failure, just a bump in the road. Most dealerships have some type of follow-up service that sends a reminder based on labor op or key words used in the written description.

My recommendation is do not offer a discount on the repairs on your first reminder. This is a mistake many dealerships make. All we are doing is training customers to decline work in order to get discounts.

Instead, have someone call them and ask them to reconsider having the work done. The person calling should be the adviser who originally handled the customer’s transaction.

In a number of stores this is not possible, so business development center people make the call. Be sure they have a personality and enjoy interacting with customers. The right person calling customers can change their perception of your dealership. They may think maybe you really do care.

Remember, this customer’s vehicle needs work that your technical staff found. There’s no fishing here, just a real opportunity. Someone eventually will get this work; why not your service department? But, again, make sure the customer doesn’t disqualify you because you applied too much pressure.

Fixed-operations consultant Lee Harkins heads M5 Management Services based in Pelham, AL. He can be reached at 205-358-8717 and at [email protected].

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