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How To Make Service Advisors More Effective

They need to pick their spots for when to go for the sale. BY DAVID LEWIS

shutterstock_249682324This month, we asked leading service and sales trainer David Lewis for his thoughts on several issues that dealerships frequently have with their service advisors.

What are effective ways to instill a genuine belief in a service advisor in the products and services he is selling?

David Lewis: “The most important thing that dealers have to do is, they have to provide for a service advisor with better leadership and better training. That’s what it all boils down to. If a service advisor doesn’t believe in the product or service he’s selling, it’s because he or she has not been sold it by their leader.

“A lot of times, we take these service advisors and we make technicians into service advisors, and we don’t continually work with them and we don’t continually train them. This is a function of leadership. Just like a salesperson, they need to be trained on a daily basis. Every service manager should be having a 10- to 15-minute session every day with his service advisors going over certain things and certain aspects of the job, the products and the customers.

“If I feel as a service advisor that you as a leader don’t care, then I won’t care. If I don’t feel that you have confidence in the products and services, then I won’t have confidence in the products and services.

“If I feel your entire role is just to make money, make money, make money – that you don’t truly care about the customer – that’s the attitude and approach I will take. This is a big issue with service advisors. They have very, very little training, and their leadership has even less training.”

What are the biggest weaknesses you see in the ways service advisors try to establish trust with their customers, and how do you suggest addressing them?

David Lewis: “The first thing everyone in a service department has to understand is that the customer does not want to be there. No one wakes up in the morning and says, ‘Hey, I’ve got a great day planned. I’m going over to the car dealership and I’m going to get my oil changed and my tires rotated. This will be a lot of fun.’ So, the customers don’t want to be there.

“The second problem that we have is that throughout time, we have always tried to upsell our customers, and we try to upsell them at two opportunities. First, we upsell them in the walk-around. They arrive, we do our meet and greet, we take them out to the car, we bring along our pad and iPad and we do a walk-around. Most customers realize what [service advisors] are doing. It’s two parts – yes, you’ve got to make sure everything’s good and correct, but it’s always to upsell us. The second time we’re upselling the customer is after the service technician does the multi-point inspection. Now we’re selling while the tech is talking to the customer, or we’re calling the customer on the phone later trying to upsell them again.

“This is driving our customers to our competitors, the secondary repair facilities. The reason the secondary care facilities are doing so well these days is because of the perception that they are less expensive than the dealership, that we are constantly trying to upsell them. In a dealership, we’re looking for an upsell rate where we are upselling them $200, $300, $400 for every car that comes in. When you go to the secondary repair facilities, their upsells are usually $60, $70 or $80 per vehicle.

“For example, say I bring my car in to [a dealership service department] for an oil change and tire rotation. You always seem to find something wrong with my brakes or my front-end alignment, or I will have a leak here or a leak there. When I go to Jiffy Lube to have work done, Jiffy Lube only upsells me certain things. Their average upsell is about $80 per car; that’s what they’re looking to get. So, a customer doesn’t feel they’re getting taken advantage of, because it’s all maintenance-related items.

“That being said, how do we address [the trust weaknesses]? The first thing we need to do is, we need to understand the customer, to understand that they don’t want to be there and they have a fear of us. The second thing we need to do is, we only need to do our upsell one time. We either upsell everything in the walk-around, or we upsell everything after the service technician does their multi-point inspection.

shutterstock_132040601“Number three, it’s a very good technique to always get a takeaway item in your upsell. So I might say to you, ‘You know, the technician noticed a couple of things. He noticed that your front brake pads are down to the ribbon, and this is a dangerous situation. He also noticed you have a situation with a ball joint. It’s not that bad, it doesn’t need to be corrected today, but it’s something we need to look at down the road.’ Let the customer know that there are issues but don’t try to sell them everything. Let them know you care.

“And finally, this is the most important thing: Whenever you upsell a customer anything, you must create visuals. Customers think that we’re doing things in their car that don’t need to be done or that we’re not doing them at all. It’s like if you go to the dentist and he tells you you have a cavity, but you don’t have it drilled at the time. Then you go back a couple of years later, he looks at the film and tells you everything is fine. You say, ‘Wait, I thought I had a cavity!’ It’s the same with your customer.

“If you want to build trust with your customer, whatever you’re going to upsell them, you’ve got to show them – whether it be visually in person or be a picture or video. So, when your customer needs front brake pads, I’m going out there and I’m either going to show them a quick 10-second or 15-second video, or I’m going to take some pictures and show them what their brakes look like and what a new set of brakes should look like. They can see for themselves that the pads need to be replaced immediately.

“Visuals will help you create more trust and help you create more sales.”

What makes a service advisor effective or ineffective in conducting the walk-around, which is widely regarded as an important sales opportunity?

David Lewis: “I believe an ineffective walk-around is when you create pressure on the customer to buy something. Pressure can be determined differently by each customer. Everybody has different thresholds of when they feel pressure gets to them. I am not a huge fan of selling in the walk-around presentation. I think people expect it, I think the items we sell in the walk-around are nickel-and-dime items, and I believe that it takes away from selling the bigger items.

“Because when you do a walk-around, you can’t tell if the brakes are bad. So, what exactly are we doing? We’re selling things like tires, wiper blades and headlights. We do make money on tires, but here’s the problem: If I tell you that you need new tires, and if the customer is dropping the car off, guess what that customer is doing between when they leave and when you give them a quote? They’re shopping tire prices online, and the reason why I know this is because that is what I did.

“I bring my car in religiously for an oil change and tire rotation every five to six months. The last time I was in, the guy does his walk-around and found that my tires were getting very low. He showed them to me. I agreed with him. He said, ‘Let me get you some prices on tires,’ and I said, ‘Great.’

“What I did was, when he walked away I took out my phone and took a picture of my tires to capture the model and size, and then when I got back to my office I went online and priced tires. He called me up later and told me four tires were going to cost me $1,280. I said, ‘Well, I think I will pass because I can get them installed for $890 somewhere else, with a front-end alignment.’ He said, ‘Let me see what we can do’ and then called me back to say they would match the price. When I went back to the dealership to pick up my car, I chatted with the service manager, and he said, ‘We made a whopping $17 selling you those tires. But, I didn’t want to lose you.’

“The thing is this: If he had waited until after the multi-point inspection, if he had called me or shown me a picture, I might have said, ‘Yes, do it right then.’ By doing the service walk, the walk-around, he prompted things in my mind and he allowed me to do my homework because I was given the extra time that was needed for research.

“I believe in the walk-around. The walk-around is a very important thing. A walk-around might plant a few seeds, but it’s more there for safety [issues] and to make sure there are no scratches or dents or dings in the car, to make sure the customer doesn’t need anything in the back seat. It’s for me to create dialog with the customer.

“I am just not a big fan of doing selling in the walk-around. If we do our research, we’re going to find we sell very little [in the walk-around], and the little we do sell we don’t make a lot of money on.”

Source: Service Drive Magazine, December 2015 Issue

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