What to keep your customers happy and build referral business?
Rui Martins, executive vice president of the Automotive Aftermarket E-Learning Centre, says the key is to inspect every car that comes into the shop.
Martins recently told a mixed audience of service providers and parts distributors at the Automotive Industries Association’s annual Western Canada Automotive Service Providers Forum that inspections not only drive sales for repair shops, they’re what the customer wants and expects.
“Credible inspections is what it’s about,” he said at the Mayfield Inn and Suites in Edmonton, Alta. earlier this month. “If vehicles are properly inspected, we can count on a significant bump in overall customer satisfaction.”
Martins shared the podium during the one-day conference with management guru Donald Cooper, and automotive consultant Bill Haas. The conference, with the theme of “Raising the Bar” attracted 115 people, including about 50 service providers.
“If we’re not inspecting vehicles properly, we’re not delivering on our professional responsibility,” Martins said. “Our professional responsibility is to check the vehicle out properly and allow the client to make the decision as to whether they want to move forward with the repairs or not.”
Fewer visits from customers
The need to inspect vehicles is even more critical these days, as the number of visits customers make to their service providers continues to shrink. It used to be as many as four times a year.
“That number has been reduced to one to two times per year, and is getting closer and closer to one time a year,” he said. “That five to six minute window that we have to build trust and rapport is being shut down. It used to be about a half hour a year. And that six minutes is being rushed even more.”
He urged shop owners to establish a process for giving every vehicle a quick courtesy inspection, lasting five or six minutes, that identifies areas of mechanical concern. That’s in addition to any inspection that is specifically requested: a seasonal inspection, or a complaint-based inspection.
Courtesy inspection on every vehicle
Out of 18 cars, then, you could have as many as 36 inspections, he said.
Not only that, but the inspections should be done first so the service advisor can complete full estimates on every concern found and present it to the customer.
“If you do the inspections, a beautiful way to throw money down the toilet is to not complete an electronic estimate for the work that is found,” he said. “Sound like a lot of paperwork? This is about process, and about explaining to the client what we intend to do before we even go down this road.”
An estimate for every concern found
Martins said presenting the findings of an inspection is part of the shop’s professional responsibility… and it is what today’s consumer wants and expects. They may not choose to do all of the work immediately, but you’ve done your job in finding the concerns on their vehicle, and chances are high that they’ll return to have the work done.
“Mathematically, 70 per cent of those clients will go home, discuss budget, discuss when and where, discuss how the vehicle will be dropped off, and they will return for those repairs,” he said, adding that the confidence that is built will lead them to recommend your shop to others.
“When your clients start referring their friends and family to you, and that deferred work starts coming in your door, you’re going to have to figure out how to control it,” he said. “Quality and credible inspections done 100% of the time need to be part of the change in culture. Advisors and technicians need to understand that is what we are delivering on. Inspections is what we do.”
When the process breaks down
Martins said having processes in place makes it possible to track down internal problems and correct them. At his own shop, the follow-up to any problem was intensive.
“If there was a client issue, if something broke down, if we did something incorrect, if there was a comeback of any sort, my first question to the service advisor was where did the process break down. I want to know where we went wrong. That would be my first question. And in order to know that, that handbook needs to exist. That process has to be established.”
He said establishing processes and insisting employees follow them will probably mean losing a few staff members.
“A change in culture takes time. Sometimes changing culture means shifting some bodies out of our building, because they won’t shift culture," he explained.