The true mark of a professional service manager is one who can increase business in a challenging market.
Here are 10 ways to do that:
- Multi-point inspections.
They are one of the few techniques I consider a “must do” for all stores. The service advisor should ask the customer at the time of write-up if the service department can perform the inspection as a customer benefit. Once the inspection has been completed, the advisor must ask for the entire order. Many advisors are afraid to do that and only ask for part of the work. Let the customer decide.
Follow up with customers who don't buy service work following an inspection. It doesn't matter who calls, as long as someone does.
- Service clinics.
A great way to connect or reconnect with customers is by inviting them to the dealership for a free service clinic. The next step is to not sell the customer anything other than just renewing the relationship! Let them see you are worthy of their consideration. Some dealerships hold simultaneous promotions, such as new- and used-vehicle specials and parts sales.
- Free diagnosis.
The local competition is offering free diagnosis when “check engine” lights go on. Granted, they are interested in selling parts, and they perform an incorrect diagnosis, but they are building a “brand” and putting pressure on us. We had a group of managers start this program and they saw a sizeable increase in their repair business. If you are the first in your market it may give you a compentitive edge.
- Free alignment checks.
This technique has been a great success. The biggest challenge is the technical staff. Some of the technicians are still fighting over it. They receive no time for the check. But how hard is it to sell them on the fact you have won a big battle by just getting the car in the door?
- Nitrogen tire kits.
It needs to be sold at the time of delivery as a value-added service. It all but eliminates tire-pressure monitoring system complaints. It's a revenue generator. Think about the advertising potential. It gives your dealership a unique sales point.
- Create VIP owner clubs for local businesses.
Many dealerships are near large office complexes with companies that have many employees. Make them members of a VIP customer program. I have one client who did this through a corporate human resource person who was receptive and allowed the service and sales managers to present their program to a group of employees. It was a big success. You don't need to launch an over-the-top program. My client offered pick-up and delivery service, if needed, free shuttle rides, and some discounting on parts and labor. They also solicited all makes and models.
- Pre-loader discount cards.
Many vendors offer them. Consider them for controlling your discounting and free offers.
- Ninety days same as cash.
A number of vendors offer this, too. It's a great tool in closing large jobs where the customer may be pressed for cash and needs a little breathing room.
- Waste oil disposal.
Sell your waste oil. One of our managers did so for $1.45 per gallon. Some stores have been burning their waste oil which results in sizeable savings in heating bills. Either way, it's a plus.
- Attitude adjustment day.
The attitude of your staff is an asset which must be managed. Consider doing something as simple as steaks for lunch, a fishing outing or a day at the races. Or a sincere, “Thank you.” Do something that says: “This dealership appreciates you!”
Next month I'll provide 10 more ideas for increasing business.
Incidentally, for the seventh year in a row, I'll conduct a workshop at the National Automobile Dealers Assn.' convention. It's next month in New Orleans. Please stop by.
Lee Harkins, president of ATcon in Birmingham, AL, is a dealership management consultant and industry speaker. He is at 800-692-2719 and [email protected]
Questions or comments about this column? Send us an e-mail at [email protected].