Become More User Friendly

As consumers, we are no different than our customers. We demand convenience, too. It never ceases to amaze me how employees of many dealerships hold customers in contempt for being in a hurry, but are the first to complain if they don't get their way in a retail setting. As consumers, we all set a level of expectation of how long something should take. In some cases, our expectation is altered. The

As consumers, we are no different than our customers. We demand convenience, too.

It never ceases to amaze me how employees of many dealerships hold customers in contempt for being in a hurry, but are the first to complain if they don't get their way in a retail setting.

As consumers, we all set a level of expectation of how long something should take. In some cases, our expectation is altered. The expected time for an oil change is a great example. The quick-oil change industry — using words such as “express,” “quick,” and “jiffy” — has raised customer expectations on how convenient an oil change should be.

Now, let's look at dealerships' parts and service department. As a group, we are perceived to be inconvenient to the consumer. We can improve our perceived value by doing a few little things:

Keep Time Promises

At the write-up time, customers typically ask, “When will my car be done?” It is not an option for the service advisors to answer this question. It's a requirement.

If an expectation is not established by the advisor, customers will develop what they think is a reasonable time based on their emotions and what little knowledge they may have on the needed repairs.

The expectation is set in their minds unless we provide a time, or at the very least an agreed-to time for an update. Your entire service and parts operation should be structured to focus on giving the customer a time for an update or completion of repairs — period!

Think how you would feel if someone essentially says to you, “Let me take your car for two days and give you evasive answers when you ask me when your car will be done.” Chances are, you will not return to that dealership.

Much money has been invested teaching service advisors how to sell. But for the most part we have been successful in running customers off. The repair completed in a convenient timeframe is their most important desire. Combine evasive answers with pressure to buy, and you have customer defection.

Keep Customer Updated

Your advisors can supply accurate promise times maybe 80% of the time. The other 20% is providing accurate up-dates. Keeping the customer in the loop is important to long-term retention. Customers can be forgiving if they know the repair process is involved and complicated. The advisors must set an expectation for the customer and manage it.

Do Write-up at the Vehicle

The customer wants the write up to be done at their car or at the least have time at the car where they can point to a component and say, “That's what's making the noise.”

Advisors need to get out from behind the desk and go to the car. Having the porter check the car in doesn't count. Don't you think the customer may buy more business if they are comfortable in the setting?

Provide Quick Service

This is a game changer. The most significant advantage to your dealership is not the added service and parts sales. (Those are nice, don't get me wrong.) It's the additional traffic pulling in. Changing your brand from traditional service to a new convenient “while-you-wait” service operation will drive in new and existing customers.

Having your customers consider you first for their maintenance and repair needs is the ultimate goal from a retailing perspective. Drive the habit in their minds you are the solution to their automotive needs.

Option for a quick service or an express-lane operation varies from stand-alone facilities to integrated stand-alone to fully integrated. Development of a convenient brand can be your game changer.

Convenience drives our lives. We are a time-hungry society. Dealers that realize that will see an increase in their business.

Lee Harkins is a fixed operations consultant and can be reached at:? 205-747-8305 or at: [email protected]

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