AKRON (March 1, 2004) — Knowing the average amount a motorist spends monthly on automotive maintenance is invaluable to selling more work and scheduling it more effectively, a service shop operator told Tire Business.
In this and succeeding columns, I'll discuss why this information is so valuable and how service personnel can monitor it.
If your tire dealership sells automotive repairs and maintenance, you probably know the following scenario. You or one of your service sales staff prepares an estimate on needed maintenance and/or repairs.
The estimate may be the most reasonable and most competitive one in town, but the vehicle owner flips out nonetheless. “How much? Are you kidding me? Forget it, this car's been costing me a bundle,” he whines.
By the way, if you've spent time at a service counter, you'll likely agree that the volume and intensity of this whining is directly proportional to the size of the audience this unhappy motorist notices in your customer lounge! Believe it or not, they're playing for sympathy and hopefully an accompanying price break.
Or a polite motorist may hear your estimate and grimace. Then he calmly and politely whispers, “I think it's time to unload this car because it's just been nickel-and-diming me to death.”
If you had the customer's actual vehicle expenditures handy, you could cope much more effectively with these age-old objections. You'd have hard numbers—reality—to combat the motorist's emotional, wrong-headed perception that a vehicle is costing him/her an arm and a leg.
For example, he or she actually may be spending a sum equal to or less than the national average for monthly vehicle expenses. It just so happens that the vehicle's reached a mileage at which several relatively large services came due—the car needs a timing belt and water pump, a cooling system service, front brakes and tire rotation now. It's due—nothing more and nothing less.
In other situations, the condition of the vehicle definitely mirrors the monthly automotive expenditures. That is, the motorist's monthly car expenses are nearly nil because he doesn't spend a dime on required maintenance.
Not only does the condition of the vehicle reflect that, but now all the neglected maintenance has finally caught up with him. The result is the impression of a very large, unplanned car expense.
Believe me, these reactions and objections are hardly new. I heard the same complaints more than 30 years ago when I worked the service desk. Also, regular Tire Business readers know that my work requires me to travel extensively. This traveling enables me to observe countless service personnel firsthand.
Unfortunately, many service salespeople I observe today are as ready for these objections as I was years ago—largely unprepared! Knowing the motorist's average monthly maintenance/repair costs may not be a panacea for your service sales staff. But you'll score more legitimate sales and build more loyal relationships with the information than without it.
I'm convinced that first and foremost, service personnel should have a history of monthly vehicle expenditures available at each personal computer on the service counter. If they need to refer to it, the data should be at their fingertips.
Check for this feature in your existing computer program. If it doesn't have it, I know of at least one program that does: Take Charge by Automotive Visions (215-836-9909, www.auto-vis.com).
Although I was aware of this program, it's only recently that I stumbled upon this feature in it. What's more, David Benbow, owner-operator of Flourtown Service Center in Flourtown, Pa., gave me a great little tutorial in how service salespersons can maximize use of the feature.
He brings 25 years of experience as a successful shop owner and ASE-certified technician to the party as well as having studied business administration and management at Temple University.
Mr. Benbow said the national average expenditure on automotive maintenance and repairs is $1,300 annually on a 6-year-old vehicle. That's about $109 per month. Whether you estimated higher or lower, tune in next issue to see how you can use that figure to soothe some of the savages who don't like your estimates.
Dan can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]