Ditch the Hard Service Sell

Life in the service department has changed forever. Some say for the better and others believe for the worst; either way, there is no arguing it has changed. Your technicians and advisors require leadership to lead them to the new ways of interacting and providing service to your customers. The tactical methods employed in your stores must embrace a higher level of customer service to earn the customer's

Life in the service department has changed forever. Some say for the better and others believe for the worst; either way, there is no arguing it has changed.

Your technicians and advisors require leadership to lead them to the new ways of interacting and providing service to your customers. The tactical methods employed in your stores must embrace a higher level of customer service to earn the customer's business at every opportunity.

A dealer told me something many years ago: “You can skin the sheep once, but you sheer them many times.” I'm for sheering.

You must clearly define your definition of selling. If not, then advisory staffers are left to determine that for themselves, and it may not parallel your beliefs.

You're selling system must include an aggressive focus on long-term customer retention. My definition of selling is: “The transfer of information in a weighted fashion to influence a decision.”

What does your advisory staff sell?

You may think that's a crazy question, but consider this. Selling service is based on need. Everyone needs an oil change at some time or another. They don't need to be sold on that need. For them, the question becomes, “Who is my vendor of choice?”

Establishing your service department as the vendor of choice for your customers will ensure customer retention. Selling the effort to correct a condition with the car and showing empathy for the customer situation are far more powerful than your advisor's ability to pressure the customer into buying a flush service intended for your benefit.

Most advisors are not comfortable using word games to overcome the customer objections. Most advisors' performance is consistent with their belief structure. So train them to be themselves.

Focus their efforts on building friendships with customers. Do that by understanding the customer's needs, and selling based on that.

Selling vs. Telling

Anyone can tell the customer they have made a good choice in selecting your dealership as a service provider. But sell them on that point, don't just tell them. Telling them does nothing for your dealership other than position you as one in the crowd.

Sell them by your actions. A high level of personal service goes a long way to ensure your service operation is given future opportunities to serve your customers.

Product Consistency

This is one of our biggest challenges. Inconsistency drives customers away. When the customer arrives at our dealerships, are we consistent in our greetings and interactions? Are our service write-up areas always inviting?

Is the finished product consistent with the level of expectation we set at time of write-up? Does the price match the original quote? Did we call when we said we would?

Rather than training your advisors to focus on the sale, train them to be consistently “good” in every interaction opportunity. Forget for a while about trying to exceed their expectations. Let's try to meet them first.

Hard-Selling Days Gone

The best sales tools in your service lane are the ears of your advisors. Listening aids increased parts and labor sales.

Your customers rehearse in their minds the conversations they will have with your advisors. If the advisor blows by that in order to sell the service, it appears customer needs are not as important as the dealership's.

Add to this that the advisor receives a spiff to sell (or should I say push) those contrived services that the owner's manual says aren't really needed. How does this appear to the customer?

Pressure service customers and they will defect. Worst, they won't consider buying their next cars from you.

Yes, we need to sell our services. But we must know when to back off and focus on the big picture.

Lee Harkins is president and CEO of M5Management Services Inc. Contact him at 205-747-8305 and [email protected].

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