By Rex A. Collins CPA, CVA
HBK Dealership Industry Group
Your service advisors might not think of themselves as marketers, but the way they deal with customers just might be the most telling part of your marketing program. Service advisors have more contact with your customers than salespeople or managers. They are the face of your dealership. The relationships they have with customers, good or bad, are key not only to a profitable service department but to future sales.
Consider the types of customers you want to bring into your service department:
- True advocates who tell others about how pleased they are to do business with you, who might even write positive online reviews about your service
- Loyal customers who return for service on a regular basis
- Occasional customers who are willing to pay your asking price if their issue cannot be fixed elsewhere
- Potential customers willing to pay their price for the service you provide
- Past customers who haven’t returned for service recently
Service advisors can generate more business with these customers, can build relationships, can make them all advocates of your service department and dealership; but, only if your advisors employ the proper strategy.
Every day, service advisors have six points of contact where they can be marketing heroes:
- The initial phone call from the customer
- When the customer drops off their unit for service
- With a follow-up call to consultatively “sell” the service the unit requires
- In their delivery procedure after the service has been performed
- With a follow-up call after the visit
- With a call to remind a customer it is time for scheduled service
Three of the six are face-to-face opportunities. When a customer drops off his unit, the service advisor makes a first impression – and as we know, first impressions are lasting impressions, your best opportunity to demonstrate you want their business and that your interest is in solving their problem efficiently.
Is price the reason customers don’t return to a dealership for service? Price doesn’t even rank among the top four reasons:
- The unit wasn’t ready when promised.
- The bill exceeded the estimate.
- The customer didn’t feel like they were important to the service advisor or dealership.
- They were treated inattentively or otherwise poorly on the phone when they called about their unit.
Price isn’t an issue when the service advisor explains the value of the service, that the short-term investment will produce long-term value. For those customers with spending limits, often there are opportunities to provide pricing options, so-called good, better and best options. For example, parts like batteries can vary in pricing depending upon the anticipated life of the battery.
An effective service advisor will break recommendations into steps and schedule visits to get work done according to the customer’s budget and schedule. A good service advisor can counter a price objection with the dealer’s expertise, the specialized equipment being used on their unit, the repair warranty, and assurances that parts and materials are disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner.
Communicating effectively with a customer can be a real competitive advantage.
Service advisors win customer confidence when they use their customers’ time efficiently. Much of the delivery process can be done electronically, via text or email. Dealerships are even using videos with the service technician showing and explaining the problem and requesting approval to proceed with the repair.
The customer’s experience is your brand. A dealer must create a friendly, comfortable experience that will produce repeat business, more consistent use of your service department and more consistent income. Service advisors are the face of your dealership, the gateway to future business. You need to be sure they understand that and build your practices and procedures around it.
Rex Collins is a Principal at HBK CPAs and Consultants. He directs HBK’s National Dealership Industry Group, which provides tax, accounting, transactional and operational consulting exclusively to dealers. Rex can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or by phone at 317-504-7900.