A young technician who had just opened a new shop approached me at a recent forum I was participating in. “I thought that if I was honest and did good work, I would attract lots of customers,” he said. “But things aren’t going the way I thought.”
I responded that no car owner wakes up in the morning thinking that they are going to go to a shop that has poor workmanship; they assume that the technicians at the shop they choose will do good work. Good workmanship is the baseline – it is not a differentiator. Secondly, no car owner wakes up in the morning choosing to go to a shop that is dishonest; they assume the shop they choose will be honest. Again, honesty and reputation are just a baseline; that is also not a differentiator.
How does a vehicle owner know that the shop they go to is competent? By their experience with that shop. As shops, we spend time explaining the work that needs to be done, and we think the customer understands, since they’ve told us to go ahead. Whether they understand the technical aspect of what we’re recommending is one thing, but other factors are much more important to them.
- Was the vehicle ready when it was promised?
- Was the invoice the same or less than the estimate they were given?
- Was the problem with the vehicle solved?
- Was the vehicle as clean or cleaner than when it was dropped off?
- Was there an easy place to park and drop off the car?
- Were they able to book an appointment online?
- Was there an easy to use after-hours key and vehicle drop-off?
- Was there a way to pay digitally?
- Was there a way to pick up the vehicle after hours?
- Was there a way to receive estimates and inspections digitally?
I believe that most customers assume that the shop they have chosen is honest. But I think what they are also asking for is what I call “transparency.”
To me, transparency means being clear and factual. In the case of the vehicle service appointment, it applies both to the process and the vehicle itself. We need to be transparent about all of the processes that take place in a shop. When a vehicle will not be ready when we promised, we need to take responsibility for what happened and come up with solutions.
How many times have you blamed a vehicle not being ready on your part supplier or on your technician, when in reality you forgot to dispatch it to the technician in the first place? How many times have you lied about why you have not started on a vehicle, when in reality you had scheduled the day so poorly you were unable to meet any expectations? How many times have you forgotten to order a part and then told the customer that the supplier had sent the wrong part? This is called a lack of transparency. People can usually tell when we are not being transparent, and they consider that to be dishonest.
Digital inspection platforms significantly help with transparency when it comes to vehicle inspection and repair. The pictures that the client receives are not only digital proof, but more importantly, help the client understand what they are paying for. In addition to digital inspections, we also need to inform our clients about how the process is going to take place.
Here is a sample from my training in this area that I call the “Eight Commandments of Consultation.”
Client Consultation Commitment, Part One
Our goal is to reduce your stress when it comes to vehicle repairs and service.
Here are the four sources of information we use to make our professional recommendations to you for your vehicle. As automotive service advisors and consultants:
- We Will: Listen carefully to you, regarding the performance, condition and any concerns you may have with your vehicle. We will then document this information for our professional service technicians to review.
- We Will: Perform inspections to evaluate the current state and condition of your vehicle. We will also, as per our mission statement, advise you of any other areas of concern for your review and consideration that are identified and noted by our technician while performing any diagnostics, inspections or services to your vehicle.
- We Will: Review the list of services recommended by the manufacturer of your vehicle or as identified by the servicing technician based on industry experience and driving conditions.
- We Will: Review your vehicle’s history for: inspection results, technician recommendations, and manufacturer services that have been completed, are incomplete, or have been deferred to a future date.
This information provides us with a clear approach to servicing your vehicle. We will prioritize the required services and provide an estimate for your consideration and or approval before any maintenance service or repairs are performed.
Client Consultation Commitment, Part Two
Our goal is to prevent surprises from unexpected vehicle breakdowns, or an unexpected large invoice. We are here to serve you and help you understand your vehicle’s needs clearly. Our commitment is to assist you in planning and budgeting for your vehicle’s maintenance, service and repairs.
Our team approach to this, with your primary concerns in mind, uses the following order of priorities to guide our consultation with you based on:
- Safety or Severe condition of the vehicle’s components or systems.
- Service, Repair, or Replace recommended serviceable items prior to them wearing out and causing unnecessary wear or damage to other components and a costly breakdown.
- Perform manufacturer or technician recommended preventative maintenance services.
- Advise you of components, accessories or optional systems that may require attention in the future for planning and budgeting purposes.
This way your vehicle will be safer, consistently reliable, comfortable, economical, maintain clean emissions and the best fuel economy.
It will also maintain a higher resale value with maintenance, service and repair records available when the time comes to replace it.
By giving you confidence in your decisions, we will continue to be a quality professional service provider to all our clients and will earn their referrals, recommendations and positive reviews.