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Due to COVID-19, many repair shops experienced a severe economic downturn, some with a drop in sales over 50%. Without a strong cash reserve and/or SBA funding help, many shops would have gone under. My 40 years as a shop owner has taught me to always have a cash reserve. However, never would I have ever imagined a downturn like the one with COVID-19. So, how do we plan for the next financial crisis. And, it will happen. Perhaps not as bad as the the virus crisis, but it will happen. Here are a few things to consider: Have a separate, and hard to access, cash reserve bank account that has least two months of expenses. Also, secure a line of credit for at least one to two months of expenses. Also, know your numbers, keep payroll in line, and make sure your prices are fair to you too, not just your customers. Keep in good standing with all your vendors and keep your credit score high! The bottom line here, is truly the bottom line. To weather the next financial downturn, you need a strong balance sheet and net profit to the bottom line. What other strategies are you considering or implementing?
Retail stores have known for a long time that adding or increasing the size of shopping carts also increases sales. Consumers may go to the store with a list, but as they pass through the aisles, having a cart makes it easy to add to that list. While your repair shop does not use shopping cart, the same strategy can used. Every customer that books an appointment as done so with some sort of list; an oil change service, a brake issue, tire rotation, etc. Through an effective multipoint inspection and looking at service schedules, you can make suggestions to your customers that can add to their cart; essentially increasing sales per vehicle. One last thing: Always make service and repair suggestions to the customer that is in their best interest and have value, and you can’t go wrong. It’s actually great customer service.
Most service advisors fall into one of three traps with first-time customers: they’ll either avoid recommending a complete inspection, they’ll try to bundle the inspection into a service, or they’ll just inspect the vehicle without the owner’s permission. Unfortunately, all of these approaches can jeopardize the customer experience, and reflect poorly on your shop. Let’s take a look at each one… The service advisors who shy away from recommending a complete inspection to first-time customers are typically doing so for one of two reasons: either they’re afraid that they might find something and will have to sell the customer on that service, or they’re afraid that the customer will think that they are on the hunt for additional dollars. These are the advisors who will typically tell their technicians, “He’s a first-time customer and I don't want to scare him away, so let’s just do the oil service he brought the vehicle in for. We can catch the other things the next time he comes back.” In either case this is a disservice to the customer, and a disservice to your business. Regardless of why the service advisor is afraid to sell, your customers may very well leave and be completely unaware of the risk they are taking with their vehicles, and in some cases, with their lives. Everyone loses in this scenario. The second trap service advisors fall into is trying to “bundle” the inspection. This is when the advisor tells your customers that the oil service, or whatever they brought their vehicle in for, “includes” a complimentary safety or vehicle inspection. What these advisors don’t understand is that telling your customers that an inspection is “included”, is no different than telling them you are on the hunt for dollars. There’s no doubt about it: you lose with this approach as well. The third trap advisors fall into is saying nothing at all about an inspection, then telling your customers that while doing the oil service they also inspected other things, and discovered that those other things need attention as well. Unfortunately, your customers are now under the impression that you have been doing things to their vehicle that they haven’t authorized. What’s the secret to selling complete vehicle inspections to first-time customers? It’s really pretty simple. Since fear is the primary emotion that drives most first-time customers, the first thing you need to do is put the customer at ease. You can do this by smiling, and engaging them in a friendly dialogue about their family, work, etc., when you first meet them. It’s called building rapport. Then, just like a doctor learning about the medical history of a first-time patient, you need to learn as much as you can about the service and repair history of their vehicle. This will typically raise questions about the vehicle’s service history, which will provide you with a great opportunity to build value in your inspection. You can further build value in your inspection by painting mental pictures, and putting their fears that you’re going to “try to sell them something” to rest. One way of accomplishing this goal is to close out your presentation by saying that when they pick up their vehicle, you’ll provide them with detailed notes on anything that was discovered during the inspection. When we are discussing this subject with shop owners, or advisors, we tell them that they need to approach their customers in the same way that a good doctor would recommend a complete physical to a first-time patient. Rather than raising the anxiety of the patient, the good doctors will actually put the patient at ease by taking the time to properly build rapport. They’ll tell the patient that odds are there’s nothing they're going to discover that will be of concern, that it’s a great way to take care of our bodies, and that the physical will help the patient remain healthy for a long time. Ironically, it’s no different with your patients. Just think of the vehicle as your “patient”, and the owner as a concerned parent. If you take this approach, you have my promise: you’ll be thrilled with the results, because your sales, your customer satisfaction, and your profits will all go straight up. Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while having a positive impact on their employees, customers and communities. The company offers one-on-one coaching from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.
By Bob Cooper In today’s market, service advisors are facing a number of challenges. One of the more complex challenges is when a skeptical first-time customer comes in for an oil service, and the advisor discovers that this customer needs a long list of repairs. This is what most advisors refer to as the proverbial “laundry list.” Unfortunately, what most service advisors will do is either hold back some of the recommendations because they are afraid they’ll scare the customer away, or they’ll struggle through their presentations. So here is what I am going to recommend that you do... #1. With every first-time customer you need to do a lot of fact finding. Beyond the standard questions you ask, you need to ask them how long they have owned the vehicle, and whether they bought it new. You also need to ask when was the last time the vehicle was in a shop, what it was in for, if anyone else drives the vehicle, and what their plans are for it. In essence, you need to discover if they plan on keeping it, and if so, for how long. #2. Have a conversation with every first-time customer about your vehicle inspection process, and how they’ll win. Take a moment to tell them about the qualifications of the technician who will be inspecting their vehicle, and let them know the inspection service is being performed for two reasons: to ensure there are no safety concerns, and to establish a baseline for what services may need to be done, and when. #3. When you build your estimate, always bundle all repairs and services that are relative to each system on the vehicle; the brake system, suspension system, cooling system, etc. This way you are prepared with a price for taking care of everything that needs to be done in each of the systems. #4. We all know that when we start a sales presentation, and the customer senses they will need a number of repairs, they’ll get anxious. They’ll then immediately ask for a price, or they’ll tell you they just want the oil service done. The secret? Always ask for permission to talk about the price after you’ve reviewed your discoveries with them. For example… “First of all, Mr. Smith, when you brought your car in this morning, you said you were concerned about a couple of different things, so tell me if I am missing something here! You said the brake pedal was going down quite a bit, and you also said you needed to have your Mustang back by 4 o’clock. If I remember correctly, something about an anniversary dinner; is that right? Well look, I have some really great news for you. When it comes to your brakes, and being able to have you out of here by 4 o’clock, we’re going to be able to solve both of those problems for you. As I mentioned this morning, the gentleman who inspected your Mustang is Jim Piraino. He’s an ASE Master Certified technician, he’s been with us for 12 years now, and I have to tell you; he’s really gifted at what he does. Now we’ve taken a look at all of your service records, and I’m actually looking at a copy of Jim’s inspection report, so let me tell you what we discovered. First of all, I’d like to say congratulations on taking good care of your automobile because your battery, your tires, your suspension, and your drive train all appear to be in good, operable condition. Now, in addition to the brakes, there are a couple of other things that I’d like to chat with you about, so if it’s ok with you, let me tell you what Jim’s discovered, we’ll have a conversation, then I’ll be more than happy to answer any questions you might have, and we can go over the prices at that time as well. Are you on board with this approach, Mr. Smith? Terrific!” #5. If they can’t authorize everything, and you need to prioritize, always start with what they brought their vehicle in for, followed by anything that has to do with their personal safety, then the safety of others, followed by vehicle maintenance and comfort items. #6. Never compromise your ethics. If you do the right things for the right reasons, and if you never put money ahead of people, it will show through to your customers. Combine your shop’s ethics with the above guidelines and you have my promise: you and your customers will be thrilled with the results. For additional help building a more successful shop that will have a positive impact on your employees, customers and community, please feel free to take advantage of Elite's Complimentary Shop Performance Review.