Automotive dealers have been engrained in America’s cities and towns for more than a century. But the most successful and profitable dealers don’t have the most horsepower, the coolest technology, or the shiniest facilities. These dealers, and specifically their service drives, are the best at something very simple — making customers feel like a valued part of their operation. Customers long forget what repairs were done, but what keeps a great many coming back year after year is how they feel walking away.
Planting the seed of good service will bear fruit in the service drive tomorrow – The difference will show in next month’s CSI score.
The Customer Service Index is the closest measurement we have that gauges that feeling. While not a perfect science, there’s an undeniable correlation between dealers with a strong CSI, longevity and yes, the P word, profitability. Below we will examine five techniques to help your service advisors maintain high CSI scores and build long-lasting relationships.
- 1.Trust the Process: Profitable dealers with a strong CSI all have a common thread — a service-based sales process. FPG’s RISE method is a procedural service-based-sales platform that emphasizes what’s most important — the relationship. Customers are your guests and deserve the very best. The RISE method is a simple, customer-focused way to keep your service drive filled with friends, not transactions. So how does it work?
- Rapport: Get to know the customer as more than a name on a repair order. What’s important to him or her? What do they value in a car dealership, and how can we appeal to that to earn their loyalty? Customers buy from who they trust, and rapport is the first step in building it.
- Inquiry: Determines important details that affect the service like current intervals, time allotment, expanding awareness, and need. It also provides an opportunity to preface and pre-sell. It’s also a good way to showcase your facility and leads the customer to suggestions.
- Suggest: Advisors are experts in service and experts make recommendations. The suggest phase ensures the customer understands your menu and knows what, why, and how the work is being done. It leverages the advisor’s expertise to help the customer make an informed buying decision.
- Educate: Objections are opportunities to inform — expect and embrace them. Having informed, relevant responses to common objections can have a huge effect on the trust being built. Show the customer what’s in it for them. Stay positive and remember that scare tactics leave scars.
- Extend: This gives the opportunity to build for next time, confirm contact info, and thank the customer for their patronage. A customer who feels valued today will return for future service. We want them to know the invitation stands at any point.
- Activate Your Delivery: The active delivery process is a crucial moment. How a service advisor approaches at this moment will determine whether the customer comes back for quality dealership service or chases a coupon at a discount shop next time. Give the customer a thorough but bulleted understanding of what was done to their vehicle. Equally important, let him or her know the benefit, affirm their choice, and add a value statement for reinforcement. “Mr. Smith, we switched out the cabin filter. During drives you’ll get a breath of fresh air in the cabin, for a more pleasant ride.”
- Look Forward: With loyal customers, it’s never goodbye, but “see you later.” Offering the invitation to return shows we’re in it for the long haul. Engaged customers are likely to return. Use declined services as an invite the customer to return. It keeps you and your dealership front-of-mind when it comes time for the next repair. “Mr. Smith, as I mentioned, next month is Truck Month. We’ll have some great promos and events here at the dealership.” Or, “Mr. Smith, everything looks good here, we’ll see you at 40,000 miles and we’ll take a look at those new Rain X wipers at that time.”
- Walk and Talk to the Cashier: Many advisors make the mistake of ending the transaction at the computer and offer directions to the cashier. Customers remember their last impression of the service. Make it favorable by walking the customer to the cashier. This process should be as comfortable as walking a guest out of your home after a nice visit. It shows you value the person, not the transaction. Give a warm handoff to the cashier and the customer will remember it next time.
- Survey Sincerely: We spend time, energy, and money to do right by the customer and make their experience positive. But too many dealers don’t create a strong enough correlation between the experience and their CSI survey. To wrap the transaction and just before saying farewell, ask sincerely about the service and gain commitment to reply to a survey accordingly. Use verbiage from the survey to familiarize. If your CSI measures “Exceptional Experience” an example might look like this: “Mr. Smith, we know you service your vehicle with us often. We appreciate your business and value your input. In two to three days, you will be receiving a survey. If you feel your experience was exceptional and feel comfortable saying so, we hope you will reflect that on your survey. As always, if we fell short in any way, please bring to our attention. Thank you again for your patronage.”
Mastering these techniques will strengthen the bond between your business and customer. Planting the seed of good service will bear fruit in the service drive tomorrow. The difference will show in next month’s CSI score.
Ken Stellon is a partner & EVP with FPG. His firm helps organizations create best in class service-based sales cultures. Andrew Rodriguez is vice president, Automotive Solutions with the Frontline Performance Group (FPG). For over three decades Andrew has led successful operational and sales teams in the automotive, car rental and staffing industries. Matt Sonetto is assistant performance director with FPG. Matt has worked in the automotive and car rental industries since 2002, helping large and small organizations improve profitability and transform culture.