Progressive tire dealers should be developing service offerings above and beyond the familiar oil changes and spark plug replacements.
If they don't, their competitors certainly will.
There's nothing wrong with selling maintenance ``staples'' such as oil changes and spark plug replacements. But to hear many owners and managers explain it, the world of automotive maintenance ends right there. To the contrary, maintenance is a large menu of items, many of which the vehicle manufacturers either mandate or recommend.
I have been writing this column for nearly 17 years and this is neither the first nor the last time I'll discuss the virtues of selling maintenance more effectively. Regular Tire Business readers know that underselling maintenance is an old peeve of mine. But pet peeve or not, tire dealers and service shop operators wouldn't be crying the blues about quick-service specialists if they had done a stellar job of selling maintenance. The lousier the job you do promoting maintenance, the more opportunities you unintentionally create for the ``quickie-style'' competition.
First, all service personnel should feel enthusiastic about selling maintenance because it's always a solid value for the motorist. After all, maintenance is the key to longevity and lower overall operating costs. This has to appeal to an element of the motoring public that is both perceptive as well as very cost-conscious.
For instance, most families have two wage earners because they need them. Plus, they often need two vehicles simply because the automobile is the only way to get to work. Children who work and/or go to school also may heighten concerns about the operating costs of the family fleet. Address these concerns by communicating the value of ongoing maintenance.
Second, there's no shortage of stress in the lives of your customers and prospective customers. I believe there's another undervalued benefit here. Ultimately, maintenance reduces stress by reducing worries about breakdowns and unpleasant surprises in vehicle ownership. Your service department can't eliminate ownership worries but it certainly can minimize those worries via ongoing maintenance. Pitch that concept.
Third, routine maintenance appears to be a nuisance and inconvenience to some motorists. However, maintenance always ends up being substantially less time, money and aggravation than the alternative.
Fourth, service personnel should appreciate maintenance procedures for mercenary reasons. There are a multitude of opportunities. Just consider these: fuel system cleaning; flushing the brake system with clean brake fluid; flushing and refilling the cooling system; replacing drive belts and hoses; replacing air and fuel filters; servicing the throttle housing; changing transmission fluid; replacing cabin air filters; and replacing timing belts and water pumps.
Experience shows that techs always have plenty to do and money to make when the service salespeople are selling maintenance effectively.
Fifth, everyone has to like maintenance simply because it's easier to schedule in the front end of the business and easier to predict the outcome back in the service bays. For example, certain diagnostic and troubleshooting jobs are difficult to schedule up front simply because it can be tough predicting the outcome.
Likewise, techs in the bays are often hard-pressed to estimate an outcome until they have completed the required electrical or hydraulic tests on a diagnostic assignment. Once they've completed a timing belt job or transmission service, they know exactly how long the job will take and what the outcome will be. There's a lot to be said for the confidence that predictability breeds in the bays.
Last but not least, don't underestimate the effectiveness of reviewing the owner's manual for the vehicle maker-mandated services. Doing so is the cheapest and easiest way I know to keep your bays busier than you ever imagined.