hourglass with sand in shape of dollar sign

It’s Not About Speed

-by Sally Whitesell for Fixed Ops Magazine

MYTH: “Customers just want fast service. They want to be in and out quickly and they don’t want to be sold anything at the write-up.”

Ever heard these statements before? I hear this from advisors all the time, and they couldn’t be more wrong in these assumptions. Of course, it’s great to complete a service quickly, but if being fast is our primary focus, we are missing a critical part of the experience that clients are searching for.

Recently, a client, who also happens to be a good friend, shared some interesting research regarding your service customers’ opinions. I find this research invaluable because it was done by Google instead of someone in our industry. Google surveyed between 200-2000 people age 18-44 on many critical automobile service topics. The quotes and statistics completely contradict the perceptions of most service managers and advisors, while illustrating the difference in today’s research-driven clients. Let’s look at some quotes from the research that leaves no doubt as to what our clients really want.   

“I’d like it if they spent more time explaining things to me.  I know they are busy, but it would make me trust them more.”

Imagine yourself entering a business where everyone seems to be hurrying around and you are greeted with, “Someone will be with you in a second” as they rush right past you. You may notice a few cars waiting in line and then when someone finally approaches you, they use phrases like “I’ll get you taken care of real quick,” or “this will only take a second.”

When we role-play or monitor advisors during our in-store training, we observe that advisors doing a walk-around use the phrase “real quick” approximately 3-6 times per customer. The customer may not have been in a hurry at all, but they soon will be with this type of frantic atmosphere spinning around them!

We are essentially telling our clients that we are too busy to spend time with them.

Instead of taking the time to look at our clients and practice active listening, many advisors multi-task through the entire write-up. This leaves no time to develop the all-important relationships we need for customer loyalty. Do you see this atmosphere in your store? Let’s look at another client quote.

“I want proof!  I would like them to show me items needed and parts that need to be replaced. A video or picture would also be helpful. Promotions are huge but knowing the job will be done right and is needed is even more important!  If they can’t convince me, I will do my research, before I buy.”

These statements alone validate how critical it is to perform a walk-around with the client beside you during the check-in. The more transparent we can be during the check-in, the more confident your guests will feel. They want to see worn tires, dirty fluids, worn wiper blades, burnt out light bulbs etc… before they approve the work.

It is not enough to tell customers it is time to do a service; instead, you need to show them proof.

If the client needs to do research, direct them where to find accurate information so they aren’t going to the wrong places and getting bad information. For example, when we teach advisors to sell tire maintenance, we teach them to share with their clients that they can see all the rotate, balance and alignment recommendations on the tire manufacturer’s website. This sharing of information lets clients know we are being honest and thorough in recommending the right services for their vehicle.

Visual aids are a vital piece of the puzzle too. Showing clients worn or dirty parts after the MPI, either through a video, picture or a trip to the waiting room, has an enormous impact on the perceived validity of the need. Maintenance videos in the waiting area are very helpful but should be mixed in with regular programming. This generation not only wants proof – they are demanding it!

“81% of drivers agreed that quality of service and a great customer experience are more important than a low price or a good deal.”

Setting the expectations for your check-in process is critical to your bottom line and should start when the customer calls to schedule their check-in time. In our Service BDC training, we teach each representative to tell clients to plan to spend about 7-10 minutes with their advisor so the advisor can perform a complimentary walk-around and get all of the information needed to make sure the client has an excellent service experience. This little bit of direction given before they arrive can help clients prepare for the time it will take to perform a professional check-in. This ensures the client feels valued and informs them that you are going to give them the great customer experience they not only demand but are willing to pay for.

Another great perk to spending these few critical minutes with guests at the write up is that your advisors will now have the time to show additional needs and give full benefit-based menu presentations. What would it mean to your bottom line if even 2/10ths were added to the majority of tickets? If your Effective Labor Rate is $100, then 2/10ths is $20. If this advisor writes 12 tickets per day with an average of just one small item added, we are looking at $240 extra CP per day. Take that times 22 work days per month and we now have one single advisor producing $5480 more in customer paid revenue per month, or $63,360 per year with very little effort.

A professionally trained selling advisor should be able to get at least a 5/10ths increase with a thorough check-in process. Using the same Effective Labor Rate of $100, this would equal $50 more per repair order. With only 12 tickets per day you would increase your revenue by $600 per day, or $13,200 per month. This means one single advisor could produce an increase of over $158,400 annually. How many advisors do you have? It adds up quickly. Let’s look at more finding from the Google study.

“Drivers tend to stay with one shop due to lack of differentiation among service providers rather than high satisfaction.”

“They are all basically the same. No one stands out as being good or bad.”

This says it all! If the service in your store is fast, yet not exceptional, then there is no difference between your store and quick-lube facilities. Is this the reputation we want to develop for dealerships? Not only does it make us all seem the same, but it kills any opportunity to give clients all of the information they need to make an informed decision about additional recommendations. I understand if you have a quick service lane, but even then, the experience should be far more than pulling over a pit for a very quick drain and fill.

Dealerships should strive to give exceedingly better service than aftermarket shops. Your team should be trained to focus on the differences you offer that your competitors don’t, and they should be prepared to educate your clients about all of their present and future service needs.

Teach your team to highlight what makes you better. For example, your advisors should promote the value of having a certified or factory-trained technician perform a thorough multi-point inspection and providing a clear report. They should also play up the fact that you only use factory parts, even if it is a simple filter, and that they will always keep the customer updated about recalls and additional services that may need to be performed.

Clients already know you can service their car, but with continued training, strong communication skills, and daily monitoring of your professional processes, they will see the difference and understand that their automobile is worth a little more time and money. It’s time to give our clients what they want; not just “real quick” service, but an exceptional experience!


Sally Whitesell is the Founder and CEO of sw Service Solutions and Fixed Ops University. She has provided service advisor training in hundreds of stores for over 24 years at an individual and corporate level. Sally and has produced seminars, in-store coaching, online sessions, books and audio training that have helped managers and service advisors become successful professionals.

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