Here's a solid New Year's resolution for you: Make whole-vehicle inspections shop policy at your business—you'll be glad you did.
The title really does describe the process. That is, carefully comb through every single vehicle for legitimate maintenance and repair opportunities. Then document your findings (refer to my last column in the Jan. 5 issue of Tire Business). Prioritize the vehicle's needs in a professional manner and then ask for the order—that is, ask for the work before a competitor does.
My field experience has been that it's not enough to just encourage, suggest or recommend this technique. Inevitably, some technicians embrace the idea wholeheartedly, but others only perform thorough inspections when the mood moves them.
To me, that result only reflects human nature: Some techs simply work harder and try to hustle more than others do. That's why bosses need to set the tone—establish ground rules—by making careful vehicle inspections shop policy.
For instance, many techs I've worked with are likely to catch the most obvious failures. Yes, they'll report a tire failure if and when there's an “egg” the size of a golf ball bulging from a sidewall.
However, these same guys are unlikely to inspect each tire patiently for abnormal wear patterns—the clues that not only produce legitimate tire sales but also the necessary suspension and alignment work. Ultimately, performing those mechanical repairs is essential to satisfying the customer and meeting—and possibly exceeding—expectations.
Recognizing leaks is another example. Any tech will report those blotches of green coolant that appeared on the shop floor within 10 minutes of the car's arrival. But it may take a firm mandate from the boss to make some techs look closer.
For instance, raise the lift a bit higher, grab a bright work light and take a serious look. This attitude fosters findings such as the oil leak that's about to reach the hot exhaust pipe. Or it reveals the oil leak that's ready to soak and ruin the steering rack bushings.
Sooner or later, these leaks will reveal themselves, upset the motorist and cost him or her money. Sooner or later, you or a competitor has to make those repairs. Why not try to swing the decision in favor of your service department?
At this point, some readers are raising an age-old objection to whole-vehicle inspections. Namely, they argue that the motorist only came in for problem A or symptom A. They aren't interested in hearing about other problems—or potential problems B, C, D and E. What's more, they'll think you are shaking them down for work the vehicle really doesn't need—or need now.
The suspicion or skepticism that fuels this objection also reflects elements of human nature. Understandably, some motorists may be suspicious, particularly if another service center took advantage of them in the past. Experience shows that the best you can do is document your findings and prioritize them for the motorist.
A percentage of them will believe you and probably will purchase maintenance and repairs from you sooner or later. The key is that this is legitimate work you may not have earned otherwise.
In a tight economy, an “earning” here and an “earning” there turns a so-so week into a very profitable one.
Of course, other motorists won't buy any of your recommendations. Instead, they won't spend money until the big failure finally occurs. Likely, these are the same people who didn't believe the roofer until they saw rain pouring in.
As I've said many times before, like it or not, service personnel are automotive doctors. Like medical doctors, the best you ever can do is present clear, polite, concerned recommendations based on the existing data, check up or inspection. Like medical doctors, a percentage of the patients take the recommendations to heart while others don't.
Ultimately, the “inspect-and-advise” approach enhances your business' reputation and culls more service sales. That's a winning combination in anyone's book.