The processes that we are talking about today can make a difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars in your dealership. Some of you would find this difference in 7 figures however, that's not why we do it. We do it because it's the right way to do business, and you'll find the money follows that. We don't need to beat our customers up with word tracks that manipulate and intimidate the customer into purchasing something they don't feel they need.
What we need to do is, have consistent processes that provides our customer with an incredible service experience, that illustrates what their needs are for their vehicle to be at peak performance every time every car. Understand, it's the customer's expectation that your dealership is going to tell them what their vehicle needs to remain safe. I am telling you it's our obligation to tell them what that vehicle needs every time, every car. The fact is, it doesn't matter to me one little bit if your customers buy the recommendations or not. What matters to me is that your customers are informed and educated about every recommendation with the feature benefit presentations in a professional manner.
The shocking truth is the staffs at most dealerships don't even recommend or notice the customer's needs are. They have pre-determined in their minds the customer won't buy that or this advisor won't sell that. Even worse, the technician doesn't like to do that type of work. I was walking through the shop during a client visit, and walked underneath the vehicle that was getting a front and rear brake job. The technician was well on the way to complete the repair and I noticed the brake lines are corroded so badly, in my view, they were unsafe. I asked the technician a challenging question. Did the customer decline the brake line replacement and approve the front and rear brakes?
This technician's answer illustrates perfectly why we all need incredible processes and the culture change in our dealerships. He said, he didn't like to work with brake lines so we didn't recommend them...It was an older vehicle and I'm sure it had the original brake fluid. I've heard technicians say they don't recommend brake fluid flushes because occasionally the bleeder screws are corroded causing it not be an easy maintenance item. I've heard technicians say they don't recommend wiper blades because it doesn't pay them enough and would require more time to get approved than it was worth.
Why don't we recommend More?
Many of you might be thinking: I don't recommend brake fluid flushes because the factory doesn't include that in the owner's manual. We all know brake fluid draws moisture. My personal viewpoint is, that if your brake fluid is over 3% water it should be flushed out and replaced. Many manufacturers do recommend brake fluid flushes every two years. I have seen dealerships install a process of checking every vehicle for the amount of water in their brake fluid and improve the dealership sales on that operation over $40,000 a year.
What about the Batteries?
Another example I would like to illustrate has to do with batteries. The battery's useful life might be 5 to 7 years. I find it interesting the age of the average vehicle now is over 10 years old. I have dealt with many customers over the years that have had their vehicle towed into the dealership because they would not start. They did not understand how they could have the battery replacement cost them $350 when Walmart puts it in for $85. I would go into my standard explanation that the battery wasn't $350. We had $100 for the vehicle to be towed into the shop, and then had to diagnose the concern, finding the cause was the battery and then replacing it. The sad part about this is that we should've recommended a maintenance replacement before the battery failed. If we had done that and the customer declined it their opinion would be dramatically different. They would say, I should have listened to you and replaced the battery as a maintenance item when you recommended it rather than wait for it to fail.
Manufacturer's Special Pricing
No matter where I travel dealerships complain about the manufacturer's special pricing on oil changes and tire rotations. I find it interesting that in every case they are not performing tire balance operations in any significant count. All of us know to maximize tire life they need to be balanced every 20,000 miles or so. Occasionally when we don't balance the tires the change in position when rotated will cause a vibration when driving highway speeds. In every example the customer believes that you damaged their vehicle when it was in for maintenance. If they were recommended a rotation and balance and declined it they would feel bad about their decision. They would come back and politely ask how much additional would it cost them to take care of their vehicle properly like you recommended. The other option is to have them angry and expecting something for nothing feeling your dealership staff is incompetent. It also turns a low profit labor operation into a more profitable situation for your dealership. A feature benefit presentation about tire rotations takes all of about 20 seconds. Dealing with an upset customer takes a lot longer and always costs money.
I challenge you to look at your labor operation frequency on rotation and balances and compare that to the amount of oil changes you see every month. The reason you aren't selling them is simply you're not recommending them. If you don't ask you don't sell. You will never hear my company recommend that you sell anything to your customers their vehicle doesn't need. However, I strongly believe the dealerships obligation remains to inform and educate the customer every time, every car, what the vehicle needs to be at peak performance. Obligation is a strong word and I understand that. Your dealerships profitability demands you meet this obligation. Your dealerships customer satisfaction demands you meet this obligation. Your dealerships customer retention demands you meet this obligation. Do you?
Rob Gehring, President
Fixed Performance Inc.
Rob is President and Founder of Fixed Performance Inc. which he began over 15 years ago. His passion for customer care and helping others has assisted hundreds of dealerships with their fixed operations performance. His common sense coaching and training lifts people up as individuals and team members. With over 30 years of dealership management experience, he understands and respects the daily challenges of fixed operations. Placing a strong value in people and best practice processes always provide growth. His articles have been published regularly in national publications and weekly newsletters are read by thousands.