Want to build consumer trust in your tire dealership-and sell more four-wheel alignments at the same time? Some new computer software specifically for service shops shows just how easily it can be done. Developed by Ingalls Engineering Co., Longmont, Colo., this software again exemplifies how forward-thinking service personnel are closing service sales more often today. It also illustrates how both desk-top and lap-top computers will be used for things other than record-keeping in service shops of the future.
Regular readers know I recommend using computer printouts and displays to sell automotive repairs at every shop level. Service personnel who use printouts and displays honestly and intelligently know they can be what sales trainers call ``third-party'' evidence supporting your argument. Traditionally, third-party evidence was material such as testimonials from customers and reviews or articles from newspapers or magazines.
Arguably, computers are surpassing the spoken and printed word in some areas of automotive service sales. Printouts from engine analyzers, emission testers and wheel aligners started the trend. As the proverbial electronic age has matured, specialized software programs boasting consumer-friendly graphics are continuing the trend toward higher-tech, third-party evidence.
Rob Allman, Ingalls' technical manager, is a shrewd wheel alignment man who's been a valuable source for savvy alignment and undercar service tips. Recently, he demonstrated Ingalls' Smart Parts Program', which he helped develop. It runs on plain DOS computer systems or within Windows, and is also marketed through NAPA.
Mr. Allman said the software complements a computer's effectiveness as electronic third-party evidence for a number of reasons.
First, it's extremely effective in one-on-one sales situations, because it's designed to be used at the service desk.
Traditionally, ``show-and-sell'' graphics have been tied to the wheel aligner itself. Dragging the customer out to the aligner isn't always practical or possible. And unlike a typical printout, this program has impressive color graphics.
A service writer-advisor can run the program on a desk-top computer at the service desk and swivel its monitor around so the customer can see it. Or he can run the program on a lap-top.
Where necessary, he can take the customer aside for a personal demonstration and explanation of what ails the car's alignment and what's needed to correct it.
The second advantage of Smart Parts Program' is its flexibility. For example, with a few keystrokes, the user can access simple, attractive and understandable drawings-complete with plain-English explanatory text-that describe everything from thrust angle and toe-out on turns, to caster and camber.
Once the service writer shows the customer the alignment problem affecting his vehicle, he can access generic illustrations of the vehicle that show which alignment correction techniques apply to that vehicle-cams, shims, offset bushings etc.
Now the motorist who doesn't know a camber cam from an overhead cam easily can see for himself what's wrong and what's needed to correct the tire wear or handling problem.
Users preprogram the store's labor rate for undercar work into Ingalls' program. When they ask the program for a quote, it shows both the alignment correction part(s) needed to do the job and the typical labor time required to install them.
Not only is it fast and convenient, it logically steers both service writer and consumer toward a closed sale and a proper repair!
For additional flexibility, dealers in the salt-snow belt can customize labor quotes on jobs that require extra time to remove corroded hardware or safely loosen rusted components during an alignment job or suspension repair.
Thanks to the program's concise, menu-driven format, service writers can move around it quickly without undo keystroking-not to mention flipping pages in an alignment book.
Plus, it's clear that simply using the program over and over will teach service writers to speak intelligently about all alignment issues. The better they learn it, the more confidently they will sell solutions to wary consumers.
Ingalls' program may not be the only ``show-and-sell'' software around. But it certainly illustrates how service personnel can work much smarter instead of just working harder at the front counter.