Lifetime parts warranties are useful marketing tools for any tire dealer selling automotive services. Just don't assume they're instant answers for service sales objections, or ``trust potion'' for suspicious prospects. Plus, a lifetime warranty in the hands of careless service personnel may create more problems than it solves-including damaging customer relationships beyond repair. Having observed dozens of lifetime warranty ``encounters'' first-hand over the years, I've learned how something that looks so right can go so wrong.
The tips in this column and the next one, which are borne of experience, benefit service personnel who are already selling lifetime parts warranties as well as those contemplating selling them.
The biggest single mistake I see service personnel make is failing to clarify these warranties' requirements and limitations. First, explaining warranty details takes time and may create unforeseen objections to closing the service sale. It could introduce enough doubt to stall or postpone a sale.
Like other sales persons, service sales people usually are groomed to close sales as quickly as possible, then move on to the next prospect. Obviously, the quicker you close the sale, the less likely you are to encounter any objection-especially one you can't overcome!
Plus, the pressure to sell puts many counter people into a mindset shared by political image-makers: If you're explaining, you're not gaining. That is, you aren't winning votes or service sales if you're defending or rationalizing your position or product.
As a veteran of the service desk, I realize you can't spend all day qualifying every detail of every warranty. But you must find a happy medium between talking too much and giving warranties the glib treatment often heard around service desks. At the very least, service personnel should know key provisions of each warranty by heart and be able to discuss these details concisely and intelligently.
Also, take a proactive stance to marketing lifetime warranties by anticipating the increased and sometimes unrealistic expectations that accompany these warranties. Everywhere I travel, techs and service managers confirm that motorists are more cost-conscious about repairs than ever before. Consequently, there's a tendency for some cash-strapped consumers to read more into a lifetime parts warranty than really exists.
Clarifying warranties up front eliminates unrealistic expectations when it really counts-before the sale! You can play the percentages by explaining details only if and when the customer comes back.
All too often, the customer listens intently and nods as you explain why the warranty doesn't cover this failure or that one. When he or she quietly pays the bill for a do-over, it's the last you see of him or her.
The bottom line is that however unrealistic the customer's warranty expectations were, your store failed to meet expectations. When you don't meet expectations, you lose customers. The disgruntled people spread the word that your store doesn't stand behind its work.
It's easy to quip, ``We're all adults and grownups know there's no free lunch out there!'' However, experience shows anxious consumers ascribe to warranties what they will when key limitations aren't spelled out beforehand.
Some service writers think they've done their duty by stapling the warranty to the front of the work order. Supposedly this ensures the customer sees and reads the warranty, but few people are going to linger at the service counter with a magnifying glass combing through the fine print.
If and when something goes wrong, the motorist could be back in your face, discussing the prominently displayed warranty (which he or she still hasn't read) at 120 decibels in front of a crowded waiting room. Regardless of who is right, it still makes you look shortsighted and unprofessional in front of the other customers. Chalk up another demerit for customer relations.
Finally, you're not alone if you realize there's a handful of service customers your warranty explanations just won't reach. Bankers and lawyers understand. They can entertain you for hours with examples of clients who received painstakingly detailed explanations of documents at hand.
After stating he or she understood what was at stake, the client signed the document-only to violate the agreement afterward. When called to task, the same client fired the banker or attorney for failing to communicate effectively!
Next, I'll offer more insight on coping with the psychology and reality of lifetime warranties.