Failing to properly itemize an RO is a common mistake that breeds frustration and distrust in service customers. - Photo by SIphotography via Getty Images

Failing to properly itemize an RO is a common mistake that breeds frustration and distrust in service customers.

Photo by SIphotography via Getty Images

One of the many byproducts of training in so many dealerships is that you get to observe all the different ways people do things, from answering the phone to greeting customers. Small choices make a big difference, and the service lane is no exception.

Over the years, I’ve made a point of taking note of how some advisors and managers blow up customers in the service drive. Here are my top five, along with some observations.

5. Assume Everything.

Assume the customer knows what they need and why they need to maintain their vehicle — even though 90% of the customers in your service drive have never opened the owner’s manual.

Assume they know what is due for service — despite the fact that, if they aren’t reading the owner’s manual, you can bet they don’t know when specific maintenance must be performed or items need replacing.

Assume the customer knows whether their vehicle has an open recall, even though there have been so many recalls issued, it’s difficult for anyone to keep track of them all.

Assume they know how long the repair will take. Assume that, because a customer has been in before for an LOF, they know what is happening in your circus that day. Assume they’ll be happy to “hang around” for a three-hour oil change.

And, finally, the worst of all the “assumes”: Assume the customer does not have the time or the money. This is the No. 1 reason service advisors and service departments underperform. For those of you struggling to be profitable, do this: Inform every customer about the needs of their vehicle, then see what happens.

4. Be a Poor Listener.

I can’t tell you how many times — at least a bazillion — I have observed an advisor or manager standing behind the counter, staring at the computer screen while the customer tells them exactly how they would like to spend their money.

No acknowledgement. No restatement of concerns. No eye contact or head nods. Just staring at the screen and typing away, like the computer is going to give them money. Get your listening skills on track and start communicating with the customer. You will sell more service.

3. Forget to Put Something on the RO.

Hey, here is a neat idea: Go down to the zoo, find the bear exhibit, climb into the bear cage, and then jump on the bear and go for a ride. I suggest this because failing to put something the customer said to you on the repair order is a lot like riding a bear: You can’t get off for fear of getting bit, and the terror you feel as you buck around like a rag doll is real.

I personally have been guilty of this. And I must tell you the claw marks from those encounters take a long time to heal, if ever.

If the customer says anything — anything — along the lines of, “I was driving down the street on the second Tuesday of last week under a full moon going uphill with my foot on the brake and the front lights on. I heard a noise from the left rear and it sounded like a blender full of ice being thrown off a cliff,” write it down on the repair order.

The first thing the customer will ask you when they come back for their vehicle is “Hey, didja find that noise?” And if your answer is “Huh?,” then get out your chaps and boots, because you are going for a bear ride.

Document, document, document. Write it down. Get the tech to take a look. Who knows? There might be a blender full of ice stuck under the left rear wheel.

2. Fail to Offer Solutions.

It happens all the time: Advisors and managers immediately fall back on excuses like “It’s company policy” and “It’s not us, it’s the manufacturer” or “We are just swamped.” It’s like watching a soccer player fall to the turf whenever an opponent comes within three feet of them. Rather than offering solutions for problems the customer didn’t create but does need help to remedy, they take a dive.

It requires a new way of thinking. Start with just one common request: “Do you have a loaner car?” Then answer the real question on every customer’s mind: “Can you get me where I need to go?” Do this with every question from every customer and you will be on the way to becoming a solutions provider.

Bonus tip: Develop responses to the most common questions and make sure every customer contact person has them, whether or not they work in the service department.

1. Ask Every Customer Whether They Have an Appointment.

This must be one of the all-time worst questions to ask any customer ever! They are standing in front of you. They need help. They have money in their pocket. And you want to know if they have an appointment?

In the words of one famous politician, “What difference does it make?”

Asking that question puts the customer on the defensive. It is far easier to make a sale to a friend who just needs a little help than someone you made feel like an outsider the moment you met.

I’m sure there are many more ways and some of you won’t agree with my list. Be that as it may, there is no doubt that failing to correct these common deficiencies and processes in your service drive will result in lost sales and lost customers.

Leonard Buchholz is the founder of CarBizCoach. He helps dealers meet performance objectives in service sales, CSI, and profitability, and has extensive experience in evaluating fixed operations and providing corrective training and guidance. Contact him at [email protected].