The Red Carpet Treatment

When your customers leave your dealership, do they feel like they received the treatment they wanted and deserved?


Does your staff have to call and offer complimentary services or borderline beg for their customers to return the manufacturer survey completely satisfied? If so, your staff needs to master “the red carpet treatment.”


As the former president of a consulting firm, one of the first things I noticed in my new employment at a Colorado Springs dealership was that their active delivery system needed immediate attention. Here are the steps the service team at Mike Shaw Buick-GMC followed and mastered:


·         meet and greet


·         walk-around


·         write-up process (repair orders)


·         status calls (updates)


·         how and when to present an estimate


·         incoming/outgoing phone skills (service consultants and service receptionists)


·         quality control (fixed right the first visit)


·         preparing invoices with proper stories (3 C’s – concern, cause, and correction)


·         thank you cards


·         proper exit


The first step was to master the meet and greet; always smile and welcome your customer to your dealership and introduce yourself.  Also, the walk-around is one of the most important steps to a successful service drive because it’s the best time to build rapport with your customer. It also helps build credibility as you walk around their vehicle and are explaining why you are inspecting their tires, wipers, lights, windshield (chips and cracks), and brakes.


There are two more very important steps to complete before the walk-around is over. First, if you notice a scratch or dent in the customer’s vehicle, politely point it out to them—if you have a body shop, it’s a great way assist in creating business.


Second, obtain fluid samples from their vehicle by either pulling the samples yourself or having your porters pull samples while the customer is present. Either way, have the samples at your desk while you are creating the repair order—it’s easier to sell a service when you can visually compare old versus new. When writing up a repair order, always listen to your customer as they explain their concerns. Ask specific questions about the problems they mention, so that they know you are really listening. Next, verify your customer’s name, address, phone numbers and email, and set up the best times for you to contact them with a status call.


Now it’s time to prepare and present an estimate. After your technician has given you his multi-point inspection form results, you need to be very detailed and spot-on in preparing the customer estimate. No one likes a surprise that costs money. Surprises equal poor customer service. If the customer is at work or home, try to email your estimate at least a few minutes before you call them so they can review the estimate while you are talking. If the customer is in the dealership waiting room, try using a staging table set up with new parts on it (like brake pads, rotors, belts, filters). Then, all you have to do is bring your customer to your staging table and explain the parts that failed or that are recommended to be replaced. Again, using visual evidence to expedite the sale and convince your customer that they came to the right place for all their automotive repair needs.


Incoming/outgoing phone callsare extremely important. On incoming calls, always sell the appointment, not the price. Manufacturers have great warranties and stand behind the dealerships in labor and parts warranties. Sell the benefits of this to your customers. Outgoing calls need to be completed in a professional manner—no chewing gum or eating while on the phone, speak clearly and pay attention. Remember, people can read body language over a phone as well. Quality control is very important. Are your service consultants or shop foremen verifying all repairs have been correct, that no tools have been left inside the vehicle, and that the vehicle is clean and ready to go? Remember, great detail skills, equal completely satisfied customers.


The 3 C’s—concern, cause, and correction are a must! You must have your technicians get used to being very detailed in their stories on customer invoices. When the husband or wife gets home after their vehicle has been in the shop, what happens while they are having dinner that night? The spouse will ask what happened at the dealership that day, and the first thing they will do is pull out the invoice to review. Take the time to give your customers the details they are paying for. Tip: Have a “thank you” postcard made up with your picture on it and a short thank you note, and put it on every dashboard or center console before the customer drives away after repairs have been completed.


The proper exit procedures will determine whether you receive a “completely satisfied” report on the customer survey, or not. You need to go over the invoice with your customer line by line, explaining details and answering any questions they might have. Then, have their vehicle ready to be delivered like you are trying to sell it to them for the first time. If your dealership has a car wash, then wash it! Now it’s time to walk your customer to their vehicle—yes walk your customer to their vehicle. Once you get to their vehicle, show them the repairs that have been completed if possible. After showing them the repairs, open their door, shake their hand and tell them you will be calling tomorrow to verify all repairs have been satisfactory.


Do you see how you can receive completely satisfied customers without relying on complimentary service offers or begging? In thirty days, our dealership became number one in their zone for CSI results after instituting these procedures. You can make that happen at your dealership too.


Randolph S. Lofgren isthe director of fixed operations at Mike Shaw Buick-GMC in Colorado Springs, Colorado.





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