Service sales professionals have many duties at a tire dealership or service shop, but diagnosing vehicles never has been and never should be one of them.
When all's said and done, the sales staff sells and advises.
On the other hand, automotive technicians diagnose first and foremost, but because they're the technical experts, by necessity they also advise.
Sometimes they only advise a sales person. Other times they're asked to communicate advice directly to vehicle owners.
Experience shows that many sales people carelessly and needlessly tread on technicians' territory. The result is an unsatisfied customer who may never come back.
Another consequence is a black mark on the dealership's or service shop's reputation.
What's more, it's relatively easy for salespeople to lapse into false assumptions, erroneous conclusions and the like—all spelling trouble. Here's how it happens.
Regular readers may recall that I have been presenting technical training seminars nationwide for more than 21 years. Therefore, I've been face to face with thousands of rank-and-file technicians. One of the single, most-persistent concerns techs have is sales staffers trying to diagnose vehicles in one form or another.
Allowing salespeople to diagnose cars, they argue, is a terrific approach unless it causes confusion and fosters mistrust—which is nearly all of the time.
My own observations in service shops and tire dealerships are the same. First, many salespeople try to close sales by attempting to tell the motorist what's wrong with the vehicle. Mind you, no one's inspected or diagnosed the car yet. Nonetheless, the fellow on the front desk pretends to know what it will take to fix it. Logical or not?
Many service sales pros also overpromise delivery. That is, they tell the motorist when the job will be done before the technician has thoroughly checked the car. My impression is that this is another tool used to close a service sale.
However, to the techs charged with testing the vehicle, this promise—this conclusion—amounts to an amateur diagnosis by an unqualified person.
Obviously, we live in a fast-paced world in which instant gratification seems to be paramount to some people. But instant gratification only succeeds when the provider accurately assesses and meets the customer's needs. For example, fast-food operations still have to give you the meal you actually ordered. If they foul up your order (unbelievable as that may sound), then the “fast” part of the transaction becomes meaningless.
The same applies to other merchants, retailers and providers who tout instant results and immediate solutions.
Mind you, I'm not discounting or ignoring the improvements modern technologies have brought us. There are plenty of instances where, for instance, medical and automotive diagnoses take a fraction of the time they once did. You should capitalize on the speed, convenience and accuracy wherever technology confidently provides them.
However, it takes maturity, confidence and patience to identify the myriad situations where accurate answers demand detailed testing, careful analyses. Maintain close working relationships with all of your technicians and listen as carefully as you can to their explanations. Heed their time estimates for testing and repairs.
What's more, don't hesitate to have a tech explain an issue a second time—perhaps have it explained a different way. That's how you learn.
In particular, these explanations help sales pros communicate more effectively with motorists in the future—without misleading them or overpromising a repair job.
Finally, recognize the foibles of human nature. People love to hear good news and hate to hear bad news. When someone hears, “It'll be ready by 5 o'clock,” they take you at your word. If the vehicle isn't ready at 5, then you're the rat who overpromised.
Overpromising work does not help the business meet or exceed expectations.