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Want to Increase Service Revenue? Start with the Basics!

By Stephen Coambes

After decades of working in and with dealerships all over the country, I find that many don’t have a proper process in place, or if they do, it's not being followed. I can't tell you how many times I have pulled into a service lane and have not been greeted or am met by service advisors who are obviously rushed and busy.

Common problems I have seen  include no proper greeting, not verifying contact information, not doing a vehicle walk around, not looking at past vehicle history and letting you know if there are previously declined services that should be taken care of... and the list goes on.

No matter how busy your service lane is, it is important to follow a proper meet and greet and check-in process. Processes are in place for a reason. If your employees aren't following them, I guarantee you are leaving money on the table and hurting your customer satisfaction and CSI scores.

Here are a few best practices I have pulled from some of the most successful service departments:

The Walk Around. Take two minutes to do a thorough walk around in front of the customer. Document any damage on the car, both verbally and on your RO. If you skip the walk around, the customer may blame the damage on your dealership.  You can also find common ground when doing the walk around.  Maybe they have kids, maybe they fish… find something in common.  This builds the relationship.

The Multi-Point Inspection (MPI). Skipping the MPI means missed upsell and revenue opportunities.

Review Vehicle  & Customer History. Before every appointment, review the customer and vehicle history. Be prepared to let the customer know about previously-declined services and/or recall notices. The customer is far more likely to approve a service in person than if you call them after the fact.

Record Notes. If the customer has any questions or requests, take the time to record notes. Don't rely on your memory. If you forget, the customer is unhappy.  Listen to them and engage them.  This process is not about rushing them off of the drive like you are herding them.  This process is what makes all future engagements with the customer easier.

If you're looking for ways to increase service revenue and/or CSI scores, start with the basics: make sure your processes are being followed. Here are a few tips.

1) Document Processes

Make sure your processes are written down and require that your employees read them. Review processes occasionally and get employees involved in updating and documenting changes. They are far more likely to follow a process if they have input. Also role-play the meet and greet and walk around, you can even make it a competition. Practice makes perfect. You have to practice prior to game day.

2) Enforce Enforcement

Every manager knows they should be enforcing processes. Not every manager does it. This has to come from the top down. You have to enforce enforcement and inspect what you expect.

When I worked as a service advisor, if we didn't greet every customer properly, we would be sent home for the day.  If our GM saw it happen, and I am not joking, it was not a good thing. One time I skipped a walk around during a lane check in and had to pay for a bumper. I never skipped a walk around again. If I got a good CSI survey it affected my pay, if I got a bad CSI survey that also had an effect. It may seem harsh, but I guarantee, if you start tying processes to wallets your employees will catch on, and quick.

3) Give Support Where Needed

No matter how great your employees are, they are not superheroes. You can't expect four people to do the job of six people. But you can't expect upper management to approve the hiring of more employees without presenting a case for ROI.

If being understaffed is a problem, you may find a low-cost option is to hire someone to answer service phones, greet customers, and schedule appointments. There are really only two reasons why a service advisor should ever be on the phone with a customer: to update them about their vehicle that's in the shop, and to discuss needed repairs. Your advisors should not be playing phone tag, scheduling appointments or spending time with customers who want an over-the-phone diagnosis.

If you have a BDC, give them the proper tools, calendars and some instruction on how to book appointments in a way that doesn't overload or underload shop capacity.

4) Trust, but Verify

Somewhere in your DMS or third-party software solutions you have the tools to verify whether processes are being followed. If you notice an advisor has checked in 10 out of 10 cars without documenting damage, there's a problem. Check with the service advisor, remind them of the process and check again the next day. Asking once should do it. If not, address with them individually to confirm they adhere to the process and find out if they are clear and understand why we do this.  Teach and coach.

Also review MPI results such as upsells and declined services. I recommend choosing five or six KPIs related to your core processes and reviewing them on a regular basis. You will soon start to notice trends and identify where problems are occurring.

It's human nature to occasionally skirt the system or try a shortcut, but if left unchecked, occasional bad habits turn into permanent ones. Process compliance requires constant vigilance. Technology can help, but ultimately it comes down to management priorities. If you make process a priority, revenue will naturally follow.