If you're the editor of an automotive service magazine, one thing is certain: people ask you about their vehicles. The most common request I get is: "Does this work order/invoice look too expensive to...
If you’re the editor of an automotive service magazine, one thing is certain: people ask you about their vehicles. The most common request I get is: “Does this work order/invoice look too expensive to you?” Usually, it’s about right for the service performed, but a recent experience brought home an issue that I think we’re not addressing directly: Dealer service, or more accurately, the practices of some service departments that are driving sales with tactics that would land an independent on TV’s “W5”. One of the Business Information Group’s (SSGM’s parent company) employees brought me an invoice for “scheduled maintenance” performed on her late model SUV. With little more than 25,000km on the clock, the lightly-worked vehicle was inspected, the engine oil changed, and….the transmission fluid changed also. For some $200, over and above the “maintenance package” that the owner bought with the new vehicle to cover oil changes.
Can the aftermarket do it? Of course. But we have to get that message across to more than just ourselves.
There are several issues here. One is how anyone could upsell that particular service on a low-mileage street-driven vehicle. Another is the use of expensive “maintenance packages” to lock drivers into the dealer service department for the life of the vehicle. Still another is the owner’s belief, driven by the department’s service manager, that only the dealer’s service department can service modern vehicles.
The “maintenance package” issue is an old one. Dealers have been selling or “throwing in” free oil changes for years, and in the aftermarket, we’re not fighting back adequately. If we must use oil/lube as a loss leader, maybe we ought to add value to the service by attaching it to regularly scheduled maintenance, instead of just giving it away for next to nothing up front. One key is to make sure that the customer understands that those “free” oil changes, aren’t, and that there’s still a good reason to switch to your service even at the cost of abandoning the pre-sold dealer package. Another is to demonstrate through the owner’s manual, that scheduled maintenance is laid down by the manufacturer. Offer upsell services like flush/fill, injection cleaning, etc., but NEVER imply that it’s necessary unless you have some hard evidence like a TSB to give the upsell solid credibility. And the last issue is the toughest to contest: the “only-dealers-have the know-how/equipment-to-handle-your-car” argument. To attack that, you need two things: the ability to get your quality message across to doubtful consumers, and the ability to maintain and repair those sophisticated vehicles, because if you screw up and the dealer gets it right, that customer is long gone. Can the aftermarket do it? Of course. But we have to get that message across to more than just ourselves.