The Evolution of the Service Presentation

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Not too long ago, I saw an Internet meme of a stand-up routine. The text read, “We’ll tell our kids about the newspaper someday and say, ‘Son, when I was your age, someone would print 30 pages of the Internet on paper and deliver it to our doorstep every morning.’” I chuckled, but it revealed one undisputable fact: the way we get our information is changing.

With news consumption evolving, it makes sense the way you communicate with your customers should evolve, too, particularly when it comes to service presentations.

“Back in the day, you’d have an ’86 Toyota and open up the Chek-Chart books to see what the manufacturer recommended,” said Steve Hockett, one of the national sales staff for Integrated Services, Inc (ISI). “Service recommendations, along with the advent of computer database information and the fact that there is more data available on more services, have grown and changed. But, it’s still about being able to have an easy way to present those owners manual recommendations to the customer.”

At its core, the reason for service presentations remains the same: to let the customer know what the manufacturer recommends for their specific vehicle.

“That way, if a vehicle owner picks up their owners manual, they will see the exact same thing,” Hockett said. “It tells the customer, ‘Hey, it’s not just XYZ Quick Lube recommending this service. It’s the manufacturer.’”

As we well know, every person absorbs information and learns in a different way. In recent years, service presentations have started to evolve to complement a variety of different learning styles.

“Some people are visual learners, some people learn by listening, other people learn best by being able to read or hold something in their hands,” Hockett said. “That was the motivation behind the newer graphical service presentations. If a store is using a full graphical service review, no matter how a customer learns, you’re hitting one of the areas they learn best.”

One of the greatest strengths of a graphical service presentation is the visual on-screen display. Indicated by red, yellow and green bars, customers can clearly see what services are due now, due soon and the maintenance areas that are OK at the time of the oil change.

“It opens the door for discussion,” Hockett said. “Do you want to have this done today or come back later? And in my opinion, it’s just as important to be talking to the customer about what is OK on their car as it is to talk about what they should be thinking about having done.”

However, the on-screen display does not eliminate the traditional, verbal review. It merely enhances it.

“It’s easier for the store staff to talk to the customer because they have the information right in front of them,” Hockett said. “They aren’t reading it right off the screen, but it allows them to incorporate it into their procedures and what they, as a store, want to communicate during their service review process. Providing the printed review helps the customers who learn by reading.”

Hockett recommends printing the review for more reasons than education alone.

“A customer can continue to review the information even though you have already finished the service review,” he said. “Maybe they initially said no, they didn’t want a service that day, but you’re still working on the car and they’re looking at the review. Some people digest information a little slower or they need a little more time. It’s very common that before the technician finishes work on the vehicle they go ahead and opt into that transmission service or whatever the case may be.”

Some people take it home and continue to review it after they’ve left the shop.

“It’s very possible for a customer to come back for their next oil change or even in between oil changes and the driver has the service review in their hand, wanting to have some of the services done,” Hockett said. “Some of our customers have highlighters handy, so if there is a service the customer honed in on, the store can highlight that section on the review form.”

In addition to a highly visual presentation, technology has allowed for a richer service presentation experience.

“We have six of the most common services on a benefits screen accompanied with short videos,” Hockett said. “They show where the parts are, what the reasons are for having the service done and the benefits that go along with it.”

Graphical service presentation tools also allow operators to customize the visual portion of the review.

“Some of them can use tools and information from vendors,” Hockett said. “For example, if they are using Brand X, they can use material from that brand to talk about the benefits of the product or service.”

With more to see and talk about these days, it might be beneficial to re-evaluate where you choose to hold these reviews.

“From a service review standpoint, if you’re sitting in the lobby and a technician starts talking to you about what services should be done, one of your thoughts as a customer is, ‘I don’t want to ask a stupid question in front of all these people,’” Hockett said. “Trying to create a one-on-one situation allows customers to engage more freely in conversation. And that’s really what the customer service review is — a conversation.”

If you keep your customers in their cars while services are performed and haven’t already adopted a mobile service review strategy, now might be the time to consider it.

“Take it to the customer on an iPad,” Hockett said. “If the customer is waiting in their car, you can go right up to them with your mobile review and show them all the same things you would at a fixed work station. There’s a great technology sizzle that comes with an iPad. Plus, it’s made it much more convenient to perform the review.”

Like anything else in the fast lube business, a new kind of service presentation requires training.

“It’s an ongoing necessity,” Hockett said. “You want to train your staff so they understand the benefits of the tool, the service review, how to use it and how to incorporate it into the shop’s procedures.”

The key is consistency. Hockett compares it to implementing a new tool in the shop.

“Let’s say a vendor pulls into your shop with a specialty tool, saying it will save you three minutes of service time per car,” he said. “The tool is purchased and for a month, times are down three minutes. Then, the time slowly increases again and you go to the pit to find the tool on the workbench. At that point, the tool isn’t doing what it was intended to do. Doing it every time is important.”

Why? Customers will begin to expect it, and part of above-average customer service is rising to meet those expectations.

“If you don’t do it, it could be a red flag,” Hockett said. “They’ll feel they didn’t get their full service because no one came and told them what they should be doing. You set the expectation by doing the service review, so you want to be sure you’re doing it every time with them.”

It’s what Hockett calls the three “everys:” every vehicle, every time that vehicle is in the store, by every employee.

“Then the tool, the graphical service review, will do what it’s supposed to do — give you the opportunity to sell more services,” Hockett said. “However, it’s not a selling tool. It’s a presentation tool. But, typically the net result is more sales.”

It might even prompt a few customers to shake the dust off their long-neglected owners manuals.

 “You’ll have customers who will go home with the information, and that will prompt them to get that owners manual out of the glove box and flip through it,” Hockett said. “They’ll look down the list you’ve given them and find it’s credible since it lines up with what your staff is saying. That credibility is everything when you interact with your customers.”

We may someday shock future generations with our explanation of the daily newspaper; technology and vehicles will continue to evolve, as well as the way shops perform service presentations. But the reason for doing so will remain the same: customers will always want to know what drives the vehicle that drives them.

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