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When it comes to your shop’s selling of automotive maintenance services, there’s an extraordinary benefit to making inconsistent recommendations.

You may be striving to bring consistency to your shop’s selling practices as a way to deliver customer satisfaction and provide a model for shop operations.  Although those efforts sound like good ideas, motorists and governmental regulators think they are very bad.  So, whose perception really matters here, yours — or your customers’ and those whose job it is to protect consumers?

Let’s use the examples of customer A and customer B.  Both have visited your shop this week.  Both own a 2013 Nissan Altima with a four-cylinder engine.  Each has an odometer reading of approximately 45,000 miles.  A well-trained shop might offer similar or same maintenance services to both customers.

Maybe, right now you are thinking “Ha, I know where this is going; it’s about ‘normal’ vs. ‘severe’ maintenance schedules.”  Well, at least you’re getting there.

First, the 2013 Altima owner’s manual offers three different recommended preventive maintenance schedules: schedule 1 (more severe operating conditions), schedule 2 (less severe operating conditions) and premium maintenance.  Additionally, the manual states, “Services listed in those schedules represent the minimal Nissan recommended requirements for each time/mileage interval.”  And, “For the ultimate in preventive maintenance, ask your service advisor for a complimentary multi-point inspection every time you visit your participating Nissan dealer.”

But, we’ve still only scratched the surface of making the best recommendations for the most beneficial maintenance intervals.  If we were only concerned with what’s best for the vehicle itself, then monthly oil changes and daily car washes would certainly prolong the life of the engine and maintain the value of the vehicle.  In reality, we are only doing our job if we are considering what’s best for the motorist. 

Yes, it’s important to know what operating conditions the car is subject to, but it’s more important to know the desired outcomes of preventive maintenance to the owner of the vehicle.  Customer A may not even own the vehicle; they are simply near the end of their three-year lease.  What is the true benefit of preventive maintenance to this customer?  In reality, probably little to none.  Customer B may have recently purchased their Altima off-lease.  They got a good deal on a low-mileage car and plan on owning the car long enough to send their teenager off to college with it in about seven years.  They are intent upon getting the very last mile out of this vehicle.  And, because they know they purchased a leased vehicle, they realize that some or most early PM services were avoided. 

How could any shop make the same recommendations for service or quality of parts to both customer A and customer B?  Even Nissan knows the time/mileage intervals listed in its different service schedules are only minimal recommendations.  Let’s face it, OEMs face hurdles of helping ensure their new cars survive the warranty period without major mechanical failures while offering potential new car buyers a low, five-year cost of ownership compared to similar new car choices.  These compromises are not necessarily in the best interest of the consumer over the life of the vehicle.

That’s why governmental regulators, consumer advocates and motorists themselves expect you to base all repair and maintenance recommendations on what’s in the best interest of each and every individual consumer!

When your shop’s invoices show nearly every customer is offered the same or similar service offerings, or that they are always offered, regardless of make/model/engine or time/mileage, it becomes obvious the shop is not taking an interest in the consumer.  This can lead to consumer complaints and charges of deceptive or fraudulent business practices.  Even if you hope to avoid these issues by only using OEM recommended intervals, how do you adequately address the various schedule options and the OEM’s recognition of minimal recommendations? 

If the vehicle owner’s manual, or even the dashboard indicator, indicates 7,500 mile oil and filter change intervals, those intervals are based on the assumption the vehicle is always getting OE spec oil and OE spec oil filters.  How many of your customers choose that quality of oil and parts with every service?  It’s fair to say if less-than-OE spec oil and filters are used, 7,500 mile intervals may not be in the best interest of the consumer.

Each consumer should be offered repair and preventive maintenance recommendations based on multiple, dynamic factors.  Consistent, one-size-fits-most recommendations clearly indicate the shop is only trained to follow a process; and not trained to deliver the best results for individual motorists.

Customers are most satisfied when treated as individuals, not simply sold services based on the car they drive and its odometer reading.  Be a little more inconsistent in your recommendations.  Show your customers you care about them as much as you care about their cars.  

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