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Automotive Service Management Newsletter
Vol 1, No 4, April 2007

Helping Customers Feel Safe
Buying Needed Services and Repairs

This is a continuation from last month's newsletter concerning customers believing that the services recommended for their vehicle are actually needed. I want to look at the technician inspection of the vehicle and preparing and presenting the vehicle needs with accurate prices. I know this may seem a bit redundant but I don't find a lot of service facilities doing this consistently.

Technician Inspections

As soon as a technician gets a job, two things need to happen, the diagnosis for the Primary Concern and the final vehicle inspection that compliments the service advisor walk-around inspection. Of course, the service history needs to be checked by the technician by either looking it up or having it attached to the repair order so that services that may have been completed on previous visits are not being presented again which affects customer trust.

The diagnosis and vehicle inspection need to be completed as quickly as possibly with the technician focusing on the Primary Concern first before worrying about selling anything. The technician should be checking these areas during their part of the inspection:
  • Oil, if not checked by service advisor
  • Coolant mixture
  • Any leaks around the engine, transmission, transaxle and differential
  • Power Steering fluid and system
  • Transmissions fluid level
  • Air filter
  • Cabin Air Filter
  • Lower engine hoses
  • Battery load check is optional but very easy to do if the tech has the right tools
  • Brakes, front and rear
  • Shocks/Struts/Suspension/Steering components
  • CV Joint boots
  • Exhaust system
A well organized technician can complete this inspection in less than 5-10 minutes. The vehicle inspection results need to be organized in two areas for the service advisor to present to the customer, immediate and future, or next visit, concerns. Each area should have a full listing of needed labor and parts.

Organizing and Presenting the Needed Services

Once both have been completed by the tech, then the information needs to be turned over to the service advisor for pricing and parts availability. Also, the service advisor needs to verify the services to make sure they are not part of a general group of services that some technicians put on every vehicle regardless of need.

Once this is all verified and understood by the service advisor, then the advisor needs to price out the repairs and services with parts availability. All prices should be accurate and to the penny including shop supplies, other charges and taxes. Customers don't like estimates, they want accurate prices for repairs. I learned this when I worked for J D Power & Associates in the late 1980's. When I worked in service, I discovered it was very easy to generate an accurate price for anything. I also learned that customers hate it when the price quoted does not match the price given, even if the price is lower. They still think something may be dishonest, especially if it is a car dealership service department.

If the diagnosis is for a major engine or transmission repair, then the customer should be given an initial diagnostic fee to approve tearing down the engine or transmission so that an accurate parts list and final labor costs can be determined. If the customer decides to decline the repair after being given the final, accurate price, then they will only pay the initial diagnostic fee.

The service advisor should organize the accurate pricing by primary concern, scheduled maintenance and immediate needs from inspections. Then there should be sub-totals and grand totals for all that needs to be done. The idea is to present a total cost for all the needed repairs and services. Then if the customer does not want all the work done, the advisor can quickly give the price for the items the customer wants for that service visit. Customers like seeing that the service advisor is well organized and does not have to go back to sum up a new price, but can give the new prices immediately.

Another pricing presentation method is to set up the repairs and services in a priority format, especially if the vehicle has a lot of needs. This will allow the service advisor to help the see customer what is needed now, and then if the customer does not want all the repairs on this visit, what can be planned for the next service visit.

The pricing organization should be done on either a form or just set up on a piece of paper. This can be faxed to customer if necessary for approval and it can be attached to the customer's copy of the repair order. All pricing, completed and not completed, should be attached.

I have designed an example of a pricing form in a format you may want to review. This can also be easily organized on a piece of legal pad paper in a format similar to my example form.
Here is a sample of a filled out form . If you would like to experiment with this form, download it here.

Many service department computer programs have similar forms as these you can use, too. The main point is having something the service advisor can easily fax to the customer for review and can be attached to the repair order showing the details of any services completed and not completed.

When the service advisor calls the customer with the vehicle information, I would recommend it be done in this manner after the greeting:
  • Review the diagnosis results for the Primary Concern, no price given yet
  • Review the results of the vehicle inspection, no price given yet
  • Review any scheduled maintenance needs, no price given yet
  • Present a total price for all the services, including shop supplies, other fees and taxes
  • Optional, present in the priority of needs format
  • If the customer does not approve all work to be done at this time, then the service advisor should let the customer know that they will give them a list of the declined work with accurate prices
  • I would also recommend that the service advisor let the customer know that they will check back within 3-5 days to remind them of the needed services. This can be done over the phone or via email.
When the customer arrives for delivery of their serviced vehicle, the service advisor, after reviewing what was done and answering any questions, can let the customer know of the services that will be due on the next visit. It is also a good idea to set up an appointment for the next service. If the next service is based on mileage, then it should be easy to see how long it takes on the average for the customer to reach that mileage interval and schedule appropriately.

Copyright, 2007, J. Daniel Emmanuel


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