Five minutes isn’t long is it? What can you do in five minutes? Not much, but then again, five minutes can mean a lot. My wife was telling me the other day about something one of her friends and her were talking about. It involved a pediatrician that we both use for our kids. My wife’s friend was telling my wife about her last visit with her son there. She ended up going to another doctor for a second opinion.
It seems her child was developing a stuffiness in his ears that her regular pediatrician didn’t talk to her about. She tells it as if he seemed unconcerned. They talked about the child’s respiratory congestion and some medicine was prescribed. However, a day or two later when her child still had the stuffiness in his ears, she went for a second opinion.
The second doctor explained to her that it is a symptom of the congestion and not, at that point, something to be worried over, but it should be watched.
She was very pleased that the second doctor took a little more time to explain things to her “Just five minutes, that’s all it would have taken… just five minutes.”
Communication is vital with customers, it doesn’t really matter if you are looking after someone’s health, fixing their car or selling them a refrigerator. It all comes down to the same principle. There is a need for clear and complete communication. Granted, this is a two-way street.
The customer must communicate with you too. However, since you are the professional here, it is up to you to guide them as needed in this process.
You have to know the customer’s needs. What driving force made them bring their vehicle to you? They didn’t do it because they thought it would be a fun thing to do that day. Imagine what it would be like on your end if the customer just walked in the door, didn’t say a word to you, tossed their keys onto the counter and walked out.
You wouldn’t have a clue what they wanted done. So, why then would you attempt any service to their vehicle with only partial information.
What? When? Where? How? These are all questions that need to be answered at the time of the invoice write up. “What” is it doing? “When/Where” does it do it? “How” do I make it do it? And let’s not forget “How” do I get in touch with you?
It doesn’t do any good for you to ask these questions without relaying that information to the technician. Sure, you could tell the tech verbally these things, but they really need it to be documented on the ticket for future reference.
Have you ever had a customer come back months later saying “It’s doing the same thing” when it clearly is not “the same thing?” I have, and in these cases I have had a copy of the old repair order on file to use to refresh their memory.
One such case that comes quickly to mind was a Yukon that had burned the driver’s-side taillight grid causing a complaint of driver’s brake light out. About three or four months later, it burned the other side out and the customer was screaming “warranty.”
Of course the original complaint of “driver’s-side” light was named, the fix indicated was to replace the driver’s side, and the pn# and part description was provided that further listed the part as the driver’s side. I don’t know for sure if she was trying to rip me off, which I doubt, or if she just honestly remembered it wrongly, which is what I really think happened.
But, I do know for sure that proper written communication prevented me from having make a decision between warrantying a part I didn’t replace, or sticking to my guns without proof and possibly loosing her as a customer needlessly.
Is that about the position I’d have been in if the repair order only said “Check taillight out” and the repair stated was “Replaced taillight grid?” I think so.
When it comes time to speak with the customer, a balance between too little and too much information needs to be reached. For different customers, what is considered to be too much and too little vary greatly.
Staying Off the Boob Tube
As the professional, you have to be prepared to provide information overkill, while at the same time knowing when to keep quiet. Provide the customer with information that they will need, and be prepared with information that they may ask for.
For example. A vehicle comes into your shop with a check engine light on and a misfire. The technician inspects the vehicle and finds a faulty ignition coil as the cause. He also suggests a full set of spark plugs as well as a transmission fluid replacement. How do you approach the customer with this information? Sadly, with some individuals at some shops, the customer will simply be told “you need a new ignition coil, a set of spark plugs, and a transmission service. It’ll cost $XX.”
This might seem an easy way to handle this sale, but it can have negative outcomes. Let’s say the customer OKs the work that was recommended using the above approach. What happens later when he/she talks to a friend or relative about it, or sees an investigative report on the news later about repair shops and repair recommendations made? The lack-of information that was provided earlier is the type situation that news media feed off of because it opens the door for them to create fear with their recent experience in your shop.
Our only effective chance to combat this is at the time of the sale. I suggest NOT using the words “need” or “bad.” Instead, use an approach that explains the reason for the repair at the same time it explains in layman’s terms what is wrong with the part.
Be sure to define the repair action that address their main concern: “The #7 ignition coil has become weak and is causing the engine to skip on that cylinder, and at least that one spark plug because it has been fouled.”
Define any maintenance issues that are linked to the repair of the original concern without pause or break from the main repair recommendation: “Looking at the wear on the others and mileage on them, I suggest replacing all of the spark plugs at the same time.”
Define any maintenance issues that are not related to the concern last. But I do suggest a brief pause to let the first bit of information sink in, as well as let the customer have a chance to ask any questions about the part that addresses the main concern.
“Looking at the mileage of the vehicle and comparing it to what the manufacturer recommends as service at that mileage, the transmission is due for that service. We checked the fluid to help confirm it and it has changed from the reddish color of new fluid to a brownish color that suggests it has been some time since it has last been replaced.”
Just a couple of minutes spent here to break it down for the customer helps them to see the situation with your eyes. This helps them to understand why you are calling these parts “bad” and that they “need” to replace them.
So what about “too much” information? Talking yourself out of a sale can also occur. For example, when it come to the price, simply providing the total price of parts, labor and tax, plus any shop supplies, will satisfy most customers. Only a few will want it broken down and itemized.
You need to be prepared for these people, but only if they ask for it. If you come right out itemizing every detail about the price, then you will have buried most people in a sea of numbers before reaching the total. This leaves too much of a chance for them to be confused as to exactly what they are paying, which opens the door for an argument at the front counter that never needed to occur.
Some people will only want to do some of the repairs at that time. So, have your calculator ready and simply start with the after tax total quote of all repairs combined that you were prepared to quote them, and just subtract the sub-total of each unwanted service from that. The quote will remain slightly high due to tax difference, but they will be happy about that when they pay out.
Don’t break a quote down to the point of your formula. I’ve seen people say “It calls for X number of hours which is $XX in labor.” I’ve even seen some go so far as to tell the customer the shop’s wholesale purchase price and how much the part is marked up for resale. Unless your state has some sort of law that requires this, then don’t talk about hours and markup. That is just insane. All most people really want to know is how much it will cost. Don’t tell them how much some book says to charge and how much profit you’re making. That opens the door to a whole world of argument that just doesn’t need to happen.
The Hard Sell
If you are currently the “hard selling” type who would have just came out and said “you need this, this, and this,” then it is possible that in the beginning you might notice lower per-ticket selling average by changing over to this method. That may be because some people at that point, who otherwise would have done it all or nothing, may opt to only fix the part that is causing the concern, and wait on the maintenance. I promise you that in the end, you will notice a higher overall selling average. This will be due to the fact that in the long run, your customer’s trust in you will rise. You’ll find that they trust your judgment more because now they are beginning to understand more about “why” rather than just “because.” You’ll find that a greater number of people who tell you that they will be back to get the other things done, really will be back to get the other things done. You’ll find that you have a fewer number of customers who seem to detour through your bays one time, because these people will come back to you more than the other shops who didn’t devote five minutes to explain things to them.
It doesn’t take long to properly explain things to your customer so that they feel better informed. It also doesn’t take long to say something that will cost you their business. So take a few minutes to explain things to them without getting carried away. Five minutes, properly handled, can bring a lifetime of business.
Know the customer’s needs. What driving force brought them to your shop?
Try not to use the words “need” or “bad.” Instead, use an approach that explains the reason for the repair while at the same time explaining in layman’s terms what is wrong with the part.
Just a couple of minutes spent to break it down for the customer helps them to see the situation through your eyes. This helps them to understand why you are calling these parts “bad” and why they “need” to replace them.
As the professional, you have to be prepared to provide information overkill and at the same time, and know when to keep quiet.
It is up to you to guide the customer in the communication process.
You have to know the customer’s needs. What driving force made them bring their vehicle to you?
Talking yourself out of a sale can also occur. For example, when it come to the price, simply providing the total price of parts, labor and tax, plus any shop supplies, will satisfy most customers.
Have your calculator ready and simply start with the after-tax total quote.
Define any maintenance issues that are linked to the repair of the original concern without pause or break from the main repair recommendation.n