Training Your Service Customers: Pays Big Dividends

January 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Don Reed - Also by this author

If you are like most dealers, you are reading this article and scratching your head, wondering, “What the heck is this guy talking about training your service customers?” To begin with, I want you to come to grips with the concept that training can solve most any problem. Training can give you a higher return on your capital investment. Training can generate more bang for your working-capital buck. Training can reduce employee turnover. Training can improve closing ratios and increase owner retention. Training will generate more net profit. Think about it.

You just hired a new payroll clerk who has five years of payroll experience using ADP. However, your payroll system is on Reynolds and Reynolds. What do you do? You train the clerk to use your computer system, and, within a few days, your payroll process is back to normal. You just lost your top F&I producer and you have this successful salesperson who has always wanted to move into F&I, so you do the right thing and offer him the position. You know that in order for him to be successful in producing F&I income, he must have some training on how to become a top F&I producer. So, you send him to a professional F&I training class. Now, how about that service advisor you just hired from the competition down the street (big mistake), who is supposed to improve your falling CSI, stop your declining repair order count and increase sales? Obviously, achieving those worthy goals will require a lot of communication and sales skills. Clearly, you will also seek out a professional to train this new advisor, right? (I hope you said yes).

Now you’re starting to get the picture regarding training. This trained advisor can now go to work each day and focus on achieving the goals that you have given him/her, improve your falling CSI, stop your declining repair order count and increase sales. All three of these can be accomplished by this advisor simply training your customers. It all starts with the first oil change.

When I was a service advisor, way back in the 70s the manufacturers actually helped me train my customers. That’s right; every customer was given a maintenance booklet that resembled a checkbook, with coupons about the size of a check. The customer was required to complete all of the required maintenance items listed on each coupon. As an advisor, I would remove the coupon upon completion of the service, attach it to the hard copy of the RO and validate the coupon stub with my dealership stamp and date. Upon delivering the vehicle back to my customer, I would review what was required on the next coupon, explain when the next service would be due and tell the customer that these services were required by the manufacturer in order to maintain their manufacturer’s warranty. It worked like a charm.

My customers would walk up to me with their keys and maintenance booklet in hand and state something like, “Hi Don, I’m here for my 15,000-mile service.” When they came back to pick up their vehicle, I reviewed the 18,000-mile service. In those days, the required service intervals were every 3,000 miles for the life of the vehicle. I had very happy customers (CSI) because their vehicles were properly maintained. My repair order count continued to climb each month and, of course, so did our sales. So, why can’t we use this same process in today’s service departments? The answer is, we can. The question is, why aren’t we using this same process in service departments? Do you realize this kind of training is exactly what the aftermarket quick lube centers are doing with your customers?

Starting today, ask each of your advisors what maintenance is required by your respective manufacturer. I’m betting they don’t know. If that is the case, then require them to read the warranty book and they will find the words “required maintenance” inside. So, wouldn’t it be a novel idea to advise each and every customer, on each and every visit to your service department, of the maintenance requirements for their respective vehicle? If you did so and they agreed, do you think they would be driving a more reliable vehicle? The people who build the vehicles think so. If they have a more reliable vehicle, will your CSI improve? Yes. If your CSI improves, will your customers keep coming back? Most likely. If you advise them on what is required next and when it is due, will even more of them come back? Probably. If more customers return for more required maintenance, would it be a good idea to offer them recommendations for additional maintenance based on your local driving conditions and their individual driving habits? Absolutely.

Now, what are the benefits of following this simple process from the 70s? Your CSI improves, your repair order numbers increase and your sales go up, along with a nice steady supply of repeat customers for your sales department. With someone always saying, “Sell more cars,” isn’t it about time you get serious about service and start training your service customers?

Vol 4, Issue 12

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