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Answer the “What” & the “Why” to Increase Service Business

Answer the “What” & the “Why” to Increase Service Business
October 26, 2022

Low inventory and sky-high vehicle prices mean fat profit margins for dealers today. However, as inventory levels normalize and prices drop, many customers will be in a negative-equity position and will likely hold onto their vehicles longer than they normally would. This could mean a significant slump in front-end profits within the next couple years that must be replaced by service revenue. 

There are hundreds of articles out there about how to boost service business with service specials or targeted post-sale communications or loaner cars…all key ingredients to success. Yet, I think a big part of the puzzle is employee training, specifically: how to handle customer objections using a “what” and “why” communication approach. 

For one reason or another, many consumers believe the dealership is the most expensive place to get their vehicle serviced. Another pervasive belief is that dealership employees talk customers into services that are not needed. That’s why many customers stop visiting the dealership service drive once their warranty expires – or even before it expires. 

Yes, there are shops that are more aggressive in pushing fluid exchanges and other services. Even if a vehicle is running great and brought in just for an oil change, a customer may get a laundry list of maintenance and repair items that add up to hundreds of dollars.  Unless safety is an issue, this approach will drive away customers.  

Radical Price Transparency. 

The “what” and “why” approach employs radical price transparency, with the help of a detailed multipoint inspection, to earn the customer’s trust and sell from a position of integrity. When you can back-up recommended services with hard evidence and sell from a place of integrity, you can embrace objections as a way to educate your customers and an opportunity to build value as a trusted vehicle consultant.  

Start by addressing customer pricing concerns head on. Put transparent pricing on your website so customers can’t immediately assume your shop is more expensive. Audit the independent shops in your area and note price differentials. Prepare your team so they can explain to customers why your shop may charge more for certain services. For instance, you have direct access to the quality benefits of OEM-certified technicians or you offer service guarantees. 

The What & The Why

Building value in the service drive requires employees to fully understand recommended services and why they are important for the customer, not for the dealership. It’s always smart to emphasize how needed services will make a vehicle safer for the driver and passengers and/or protect the customer’s investment. 

Let’s look at an example. A multipoint inspection reveals a customer needs a tire rotation. The employee should explain that rotating tires ensures a more even pattern and wear, and helps promote longer tire life which saves money. The employee then backs-up the recommendation with images of the customers’ tires and points out the wear and tear. 

In this example, a natural progression is to then recommend front and rear brake service as combining the two saves time and money. The employee should explain that brakes are exposed to outside elements like slush and water so they need to be cleaned and lubricated to move properly and not bind or stick. This maximizes the life of pads and rotors, and more importantly, makes the vehicle safer. 

I recommend creating a What & Why document for service employees. The What column should list your most common services. The Why column should detail why the service is important for the customer in language the customer can understand; no industry jargon. Employees shouldn’t share this document with customers, but rather use it as a cheat sheet to guide conversations. 

Handling Customer Objections

Customer objections are a part of doing business. The problem is when employees view them as negative and become defensive or apologetic – both of which erode trust and call into question your shop’s integrity. Instead, objections should be taken as a request to clarify or provide additional information as customer and employee work together to ensure a safe and protected vehicle. 

Let’s look at an example. The most prevalent objection is that the price of services is too high. Never apologize, always support why! An employee should say: “What makes you say that? Have you seen this service with factory components advertised for less?” If the customer says “yes” your employee should find out what was offered, who offered it, and the amount. Then follow up with service management. 

If the customer says “no,” the employee demonstrates the value. For example: “As you can appreciate, we only use factory parts. What that means to you is that our parts are designed and manufactured to manufacturer specifications. They also carry a mileage warranty for both parts and labor, which is good at any manufacturer dealership in the country. Inferior parts on your vehicle may save you a few dollars, but they will not be as safe nor carry a warranty.” 

Another value point is the expertise of your technicians. For example: “Our technicians are manufacturer certified. What that means to you is they have undergone extensive factory training and can quickly and accurately complete the repairs your vehicle needs.” 

A third value point is the diagnostic equipment and inspection technology your shop offers. For example: “Our technicians have the latest diagnostic equipment available for your vehicle. You can see in this video the works that needs to be done to make your vehicle safer. Keep in mind that every dollar in maintenance can actually save you much more on unexpected repair costs.” 

Create sample scripts for your most common objections and share them with employees and BDC agents. Role playing is an effective way to train employees on the “what” and “why” communication strategy. I think it’s acceptable to set aside 15 to 30 minutes a day to role-play, share success stories, and listen to customer calls, both good and bad. Focus on what went right first, then talk about areas of improvement. 

The Future is Now

The modern service lane leverages technology to help employees handle objections, build trust, and streamline the experience for customers. Modern tools can set your shop apart from the independent down the street. 

Today’s multipoint inspection software promotes consistency, transparency, and customer communications. Capturing video and images of parts needing repair allows you to show not tell customers what needs to be done, which is a great way to build trust. Text integration makes it easy to communicate issues to customers and get faster approvals. 

Digital voice assistants (DVA’s) make it easier for customers to access your shop and make an appointment, but they can also help inform customers of recommended maintenance or recalls. Many customer objections are the result of being taken by surprise when they come in for one service and are informed they need others. 

Today’s DVA’s can cross-check a returning customer’s VIN with manufacturer recommended services and/or open recalls and offer to include these services on an appointment. Even if a customer declines, you have planted a seed that services need to be done, which makes it more likely the customer will approve when an employee brings up the services again in person. 

Highly targeted marketing using your CRM is also a powerful way to plant the seed of needed services before customers arrive in your drive. A customer who has been notified via email or text of a recall or manufacturer recommended maintenance arrives readier to hear the “what” and “why” and approve the service. 

A normalization of inventory levels may arrive sooner than you think. Offset a potential slump in front-end profits with a service strategy focused on overcoming customer objections by detailing the “what” and “why” of needed services. Create service scripts, practice role-playing, and leverage modern technology to build trust and capture more opportunities in your drive. 

To hear more about this topic check out our episode of PDS On The Rocks: Journey Mapping for the Service Drive


Jason Beckett is the COO of Proactive Dealer Solutions, a leading provider of training and software solutions for the automotive industry. With a background in product development at Blackberry and infotainments systems and a Master of Business Administration, Jason joined Proactive Dealer Solutions in 2014, bringing his expertise in strategic planning, product development, and project management.