Running a Shop

What Exactly Are You Servicing?

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If someone were to ask you what you do for a living, what would you tell them? Would you tell them you are a technician? A mechanic? Manager of an automotive service center? Or maybe, would you simply tell them you perform oil changes for a living?

Actually, your job is customer service.

Everything you do to the customer’s car is done as a service to the customer. Never forget, the car itself is an inanimate object. It does not know anything — least of all what maintenance is done to it, who’s doing the maintenance, if the maintenance is done correctly or why it is done at all.

Customers are ultimately the most important aspect of our entire service model. And as such, it is vitally important we communicate to the customer exactly what needs to be done to their vehicle, why it needs to be done and, after the service, that it was actually done efficiently and effectively. If the customer has no knowledge of the work we have done to their vehicle on their behalf, the effect is the same as if we did not do it at all. This is called customer perceptions.

Here is a mantra I want you to never forget: The customer’s perception is our reality.

That simple statement confuses many throughout the entire customer service industry. However, it is actually a very simple concept to understand and embrace.

During every customer interaction, you must make sure the customer leaves the business fully understanding everything that was done to the vehicle on their behalf and why those things ultimately benefit them, the customer.

In today’s world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to grab and hold the customer’s attention while they are in our shops. It seems if the professional, hard-working executive is not constantly on his cell phone moguling and completing business transactions while you are working on his vehicle, then it is the young person with their cell phone who is texting their friends or playing the latest version of whatever game is popular.

The key to commanding attention from your customer during the service presentation is to let them know you will be talking to them throughout the entire service process. You do this by talking to the customer as soon as they get to the location and engaging them in meaningful conversation.

For many years, serious professionals have known that the surest way to get someone’s attention is to call them by their name. As soon as you meet your customer upon arrival, introduce yourself by telling them your first name, and then politely ask them what their name is. When they repeat their name back to you say, “I’m glad to meet you, _______, and welcome to our location!”

Use the customer’s name a couple of times while you are greeting them at the beginning of the service experience, and they will then be prepared for your full service presentation only a few minutes later.

Another aspect of customer service that many have failed to capitalize on is to let the customer speak.

By “let the customer speak,” what I mean is, if you ask the customer a question, let them fully answer the question without interruption from you — even if you think you know what they’re going to say.

If you have not asked them a question and the customer is simply relaying some information to you, let them speak completely and finish what they are saying, even if you think you know where it is leading to.

The No. 1 complaint from customers about mechanics or service writers is that the service writer did not listen to what the customer was trying to tell them. This happens because, let’s face it, most of us actually do know what the customer is going to say and our patience will sometimes get the better of us. We then cut the customer off or complete their sentences, because we know where they are going. While this might be technically accurate, it is the worst thing for making the customer feel like they are not being heard by the professional. (That’s you!)

The No. 1 advantage to letting your customer completely finish their sentences is that it gives you much more time to contemplate how you are going to answer the customer, choose your words and develop your responses for the best effect. The odd part about taking your time with the customers is that it actually speeds up the entire process. You don’t have to go back and keep talking about the same thing over and over again with the customer. They will typically get it much faster — often the very first time you explain it to them.

What is a Benefit?

That may seem like a simple question, and one that typical technicians think they know the answer to. Many service technicians, however, are confused about what the specific benefits of the products they are recommending actually are. Benefits must be described in such a way that it brings a positive effect to the customer, not the vehicle.

For example, a new set of windshield wipers may seem to have the benefit of: “cleans the windshield.” While this is true, it is not directly the benefit to the customer.

Cleaning the windshield helps the customer to see better, which increases the safety of their driving, so the benefit of new wiper blades should be explained as: “Helps you see better and drive safely.”

That benefit description has much more of a personal impact on the customer as opposed to “cleans the windshield.”

Each of the items you recommend to your customer should have clear benefits attached to them, so the customer can clearly understand what each is doing for them. This will help encourage them to agree with your service recommendations, because they will want to receive the benefits you explained to them.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that you can just “wing it” and come up with the benefits during the service review. Sit down and figure out the exact benefits for each product or service you offer. Then, memorize those benefits so you can clearly explain them to customers. By not trying to choose the correct words on-the-fly, your customer will sense that you are knowledgeable. Therefore, the customer will feel confident in what you are recommending.

All of this will help the customer have an overall better service experience. They will know exactly what was done for them, by you, on their vehicle.

This concept is amazing because it provides a great opportunity to increase customer satisfaction, return rates and overall sales numbers. At the same time, it’s the least expensive method to increase those items. That is a win-win scenario.

Put these ideas and methods into your daily practice immediately, and make it happen! See all of you next month.

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