Smart service sales professionals do more than concentrate on a single problem or breakdown. Rather, they comb an entire vehicle for all available service opportunities.
When a motorist shows up and cites a symptom, the easiest thing to do is simply address that symptom and that symptom alone. If the water pump's seeping, for example, many service personnel want to throw a water pump at the vehicle and then get the job out of the bay as quickly as possible.
As a matter of fact, my field experience has been that this highly focused but narrow-minded philosophy is the most common approach used in the automotive repair business.
Many service personnel—whether they're at the front counter or back in the bays—consider that a correct and routine approach.
The easiest approach isn't necessarily the most appropriate one, though. The service sales professionals I respect the most take their roles more seriously than their competitors do.
They see themselves as automotive “doctors,” advising motorists on the long-term health of these complicated, expensive, four-wheeled “patients.”
Therefore, they'll look deeper than, as in the example I just cited, the most obvious action of stopping a coolant leak via a new water pump. They consider the overall health, longevity and performance of each vehicle.
These service managers and service advisers realize there's a range of legitimate services they can sell that improve the overall health of a vehicle.
Keeping a vehicle healthy, in turn, improves its reliability, enhances its resale value and lowers its overall operating cost.
These three results do more than benefit the motorist's pocketbook. They also reduce stress—owning and operating a vehicle can be very stressful for an uninformed or undisciplined motorist.
What's more, this broader view of the vehicle's overall health isn't just some “feel-good” theme. To the contrary, it's a mature business philosophy.
The best service salespeople I know understand that sooner or later, every vehicle needs maintenance and/or major repairs. No matter how sturdy and/or sophisticated, every one of these machines requires a certain amount of upkeep.
Some auto service provider in the neighborhood is going to sell that work, so it may as well be us instead of them, they tell me.
You can't ask for a more practical business philosophy than this one.
So once you understand what this “whole-vehicle” maintenance philosophy is, you have to apply it successfully.
Some owners and managers argue that the approach just isn't practical, but there are several simple reasons why it appears to fail.
First and foremost, top management can make or break any program, including this one.
Therefore, owners and managers have to set the tone by insisting service personnel check the entire vehicle for potential service work and neglected maintenance.
Second, make it shop policy to inspect every vehicle regardless of its mileage and outward appearance.
Sometimes, outward appearances are deceiving and the vehicle needs more maintenance than you or the owner realized.
Third, slowing down rather than speeding up the inspection process is the key to boosting overall service sales and profitability. Owners and managers must allow time for service advisers and technicians to inspect every vehicle.
To refer back to my earlier example, get out of the mindset that you must turn out that water pump replacement as quickly as possible.
Instead, focus on culling as much legitimate service work from each and every vehicle. Long-term, it's more profitable to maximize service sales from each vehicle while it's in the bay.
Last but not least, the boss may need to formalize the vehicle inspection by creating vehicle inspection check lists of some kind. Then require technicians to use the check-lists faithfully on every vehicle.
Experience shows that checklists—even the simplest ones—can be the most effective discipline necessary to get the job done.
Don't hesitate to hold team meetings and have your own service advisers and techs design practical vehicle inspection lists. Then refine and tweak the lists as needed.
The sheer volume of common repair jobs isn't what it used to be. It's more important than ever to get the most service work possible from every vehicle. So think “whole vehicle.”