Menu Still Best Tool for Selling Service

Tips for a fixed-ops must-do.

Lee Harkins

November 6, 2014

4 Min Read
Menu Still Best Tool for Selling Service


The service department’s maintenance menu has changed over the years but, without question, it is the strongest sales tool we have.

In 1978, I was first exposed to a maintenance menu as a service manager for a Toyota store. My dealer had retained service consultant Chris Mazur. His directive was to make our service department profitable.

The first task was to develop a service menu. It took us several days to handwrite the master. We began to present it to customers and, wow, what a difference. 

Today, as a consultant myself, it’s still one of the first things we work on with our clients. The method of development has been made easier with the Internet and the resource of information available to us.

Each dealership is unique because of factors such as different leadership styles, markets and business methodologies. But menus are a must-do for everyone. Here are a few things I would ask you to consider:

Factory Recommendations

I’ve seen many managers want to develop their own unique menus. They gingerbread them up with services that are not needed.

Their focus is on their performance and driving their “hours per repair order” to unattainable levels. This approach will work in driving customers away.

The menu should be based on OEM-maintenance recommendations. In some areas (usually the entire country), there is a credible argument for additional local recommendations such as alignments, tire balance and possibly more frequent oil changes. State inspections are another consideration.

The format of the menu should be priced by the individual operation and not a “special-package” type of approach, which just confuses the customer.

Fluid services should be listed separately on the menu. A number of fluid providers give free menus that, by the way, just includes their products. Spend the money and develop a menu of your own.


Include parts and labor. It was the standard for years to call your competitors in the market to get their price for the services you offer. Times have changed. Use the Internet for developing your prices. There are a number of websites that do a great job of providing you with local price information based on zip codes.

Your prices must be competitive in your market. Competitive doesn’t mean cheaper-than. If your pricing structure is balanced, what you give away on the maintenance side, you make up for on the high-skill side.

Labor Times

Be fair to the technicians. Fair doesn’t always mean you use the time-standards books as your guide. Some operations can be completed quicker than the books suggests. Just be fair.

Format Options

Over the years, a lot of formats have been offered, including paragraphs, dot points and individual operations. Of all the formats, the best are the ones your customers select.

Form your own focus group with your customer. Ask them to select the format they like best and for what reason. I can give you my recommendation, which I think you will find your customer will select as well. But then I would be like everyone else in our industry telling you what is best for your customers. Form the group, involve your advisers and watch how well it works.


Everyone wants it easy. Companies have been formed to help you in this quest. But it comes down to working the basics every day, without exception. It’s why they call it “work.” It takes effort. Go to work. Every customer, every time, without exception must receive a menu in their hand. It’s their take-away. This maximizes the return on investment for your time and effort.


Your manager must develop an interactive process in writing to ensure your expectations are followed. This written game plan is developed to ensure everyone knows what is expected of them. Otherwise, it’s easy to get busy and forget. Your managers should help their people succeed.

Selling the Service

The highest level of selling is being sold, yet not realizing it. It’s imperative that the adviser staff doesn’t push customers to buy. We can’t afford to lose a single customer. If the customer doesn’t buy today, it’s not a bad thing. There will always be another day.

Menus are available from a number of sources. The OEMs have formats that are worthy of your consideration. Whatever the sources, it’s not an option. Have a menu.

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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