How do you translate scribbles on a repair order into sales? There is no magic trick involved — the key is to document the vehicle inspection process.
The more you know about your customers’ vehicles, and the more you are able to document repairs for their next visit, the greater the possibility that you will be able to sell necessary services.
Writing notes on a repair order is one of the best diagnostic and sales tools in your arsenal. Documenting the thickness of the brake pads or the condition of the battery can help you make the sale today and a sale in the future.
Enter notes about inspection items, attempted sales and estimates that are not sold into your shop management system. If a customer doesn’t approve a recommended service, make a note in your database. An unapproved service item isn’t a failure for the shop, but rather an investment in the future when the customer comes back. Type it in and don’t forget!
Name Your Inspection Service
What do you call your inspection form? How is it labeled? What it’s called is just as important as how it’s presented to the customer. The form sets the tone.
• Courtesy Inspection: Conveys low-pressure information and will be seen by the customer as an extra service.
• Service Alert: Commands attention and a sense of urgency.
• Vehicle Condition Check or Vehicle Condition Report: More matter of fact; no sales hype.
• Multi-Point Inspection: Dealerships often use this phrase. But what are the “points,” and how many are inspected?
When it comes to the actual inspection form, oftentimes fewer items are better. Fifty or 30 points may be too much for a technician to get to in a reasonable amount of time, but too few could leave the customer wanting more. Depending on the type of business you have, 15-20 items could be the sweet spot.
The form should concentrate on the safety items first, and then move on to the preventive maintenance items. If your shop services specialty vehicles like hybrids or diesels, develop special forms that can best meet the needs of the customer, vehicle and technician.
The most commonly missed items during any inspection are the shocks and struts. Just performing a bounce tests and looking for oil leaks will not spot wear on the valves. You may want to develop an inspection form for test-drives as well so that the condition of the chassis and shocks/struts are fully inspected.
Words As Tools
Think about the words you use to convey the urgency or necessity of a repair or service. You shouldn’t be overly technical, but don’t be too vague either. When trying to sell a highly technical product like automotive service, avoid using the word “need” and instead use a phrase like, “the vehicle requires the repair to return it to the manufacturers’ specifications.”
If an inspected item is not up to snuff, you need to explain why.
• “Not performing the intended function.” This means something is not working. It could be a burnt-out bulb or a leaking hose.
• “No longer within specification.” This phrase can be used to describe a brake rotor that’s worn past the discard limit, or a tire that’s worn to the wear bars.
• “Missing.” This word can be used to describe a belt that is no longer there or a wheel weight that has fallen off.
Using non-specific terms like “dirty,” “broken” or “old” can leave the customer guessing about the importance of the item and lead to lost sales.
Prioritize Your Recommendations
Don’t overwhelm the customer with a long list of required and suggested services. Even if it is accurate, you run the risk of scaring the customer away. Any estimating process should be prioritized:
1. Address the reason the customer came to your shop. This is critical.
2. Safety-related items that should be done now, such as tires, brakes and lights.
3. Items that can wait until the next visit.
4. Maintenance items that are coming up soon. It could be a 90,000-mile timing belt replacement or a 100,000-mile spark plug replacement.
Color-coded inspection forms with red, green and yellow can help differentiate the items for the customer. Never fail to tell the customer the true condition of their vehicle. If you do, you are losing potential sales and potentially leaving the customer stranded on the side of the road.