Gathering an accurate, meaningful vehicle history is paramount to meeting or exceeding customer expectations.
Here are some tips on collecting automotive service “intelligence.”
Everyone should repeat this mantra: “Fixing the vehicle correctly the first time is essential to meeting expectations.”
OK, collecting worthwhile automotive intelligence, in turn, is vital to fixing these complicated machines properly on the first try.
In my last column, I stressed that personnel on the “front end” of any automotive service facility should never attempt to diagnose vehicles. Instead they should concentrate on collecting as much information on the customer and vehicle as practically possible.
Years of experience confirm that this process is both an art and a science. The art, for instance, entails politely but persistently coaxing information out of a potentially cranky, uncooperative and/or obstinate motorist.
Remind consumers that you and your colleagues are “automotive doctors”—which, in fact you are. Vehicle usage and history is as important to you as patient history is to a doctor.
Meanwhile, the science aspect of intelligence gathering may involve an impartial guide such as a customer questionnaire. Unconsciously, a vehicle history questionnaire seems more scientific and impartial because it's asking the questions instead of a person behind the counter.
Strange as this may sound, some motorists respond to a professional-looking questionnaire more enthusiastically than they do to a service salesperson's interrogation.
Once again, don't underestimate the usefulness of those medical analogies.
For example, the doctor learns that blinding headaches began only after the patient slipped on ice and struck his or her head on the pavement. That's a potentially huge clarification — an invaluable piece of cause-and-effect data.
Similarly, a motorist may qualify for the shop's service director that the family car's symptoms appeared only after the temperature warning light turned on and the radiator boiled over.
Be aware that when taking the medical diagnostic-type approach, you're bound to encounter some skeptics.
Experience shows some motorists are suspicious of anything short of prompt, pat answers to their inquiries.
These kinds of motorists assume that you can simply look at a red Ford Taurus, for instance, and recite all potential ailments of that make and model—without leaving the service counter.
You need not appear stubborn or stand-offish about motorists' concerns. You can show empathy and neighborliness by suggesting some potential causes of a vehicle's symptoms. In fact, citing the collective experience of the service shop or tire dealership may enhance your credibility.
But as quickly as you cite potential causes, you must restate for the customer the importance of a thorough diagnosis. Proper testing ensures that you don't waste the motorist's time and money.
Walk the fine line
Where necessary, remind your sales prospect that skill, training and experience only get technicians suspicious about the causes of the car's symptoms — only proper diagnosis can confirm those suspicions.
Furthermore, diagnosis always takes a certain amount of time.
Always tread carefully here because there's a fine line between simply suggesting some potential causes and sounding like you're diagnosing the vehicle for free.
Savvy sales people gauge how well they're persuading the prospect by monitoring his or her body language. Surely that's as valuable a selling diagnosis barometer as it is selling tires.
Meanwhile, readers, I always welcome your advice on and experiences with collecting vehicle history and selling diagnosis. Please check in with me and let me know.