Find the Service Advisor of the Future
Gone are the days when you could take a technician past his prime, put him behind the service advisor desk and expect your business to do well. According to J.D. Power, 74% of customers say that their experience with some companies set the standard for their experience with all companies. In other words, if you do not meet that platinum standard of service expected, your company could be in deep trouble.
After thousands of hours observing and training service advisors, I have learned one important truth: Customer service matters just as much, if not more than your product. Here is the proof: A recent study found that companies with excellent quality vehicles and mediocre service have the same retention as those with poor quality vehicles and excellent service. When it comes to creating quality customer experiences, look no further than your service writers. In this article, I will tell you why they are important, how to find them and how to keep them working at their best.
Give Customers a Good Experience and They Will Come Back... And Bring Friends
Why is a good experience so important? An astonishing 85% of customers state that a positive service experience made it more likely that they would purchase another vehicle from that dealership according tosnapcell.us.com/automotive-dealership-customer-retention-statistics. And, according to General Motors, a 1% increase in customer retention brings in an additional $700 million of revenue on an annual basis. The upshot is that customers are willing to pay a premium to have a great experience. And when they pay, you profit. Think of Disneyland – customers will happily fork over $209 plus a corndog and souvenir cash because Mickey, Goofy and the Churro vendor all make them feel good.
When customers feel good, they tell their friends. According to a 2014 study conducted by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), word of mouth referrals drive “$6 trillion in annual consumer spending.” So, when you invest in an individual service experience, you are investing in a whole network of people.
What Makes a Good Customer Service Experience?
When customers come to a dealership for repairs, they are anxious. Their vehicles are part of their everyday life and livelihood. When the vehicles are not working, it can have a profound impact on their quality of life. The service advisor’s job is to reduce each customer’s level of stress while also meeting his or her specific needs.
In today’s market, you are dealing with four different generations. It is not always simple to know how to put them at ease. According to J.D. Power, 40% of the market is millennials, 25% of the market is GenX, and the remaining 35% is Boomers and the Silent generation. That means that you need to tailor your service presentations both to people who are technologically savvy, as well as to those who are old enough to remember what it was like to have human-to-human interaction.
In my experience, all customers want their experience to be three things:
• Easy to Navigate and Use
1. Easy to Navigate and Use
Today, “easy-to-use” translates to having the technology in place to meet customer needs. This means kiosks, apps and videos that reduce wait time and frustration. If you are hesitant about investing in this technology, remember that it can result in a long term return. An app that reduces the costs you pay to the BDC, or a 30 second video that saves a service advisor an hour spent on the phone with a frustrated customer will make you money in the end.
Keep in mind that easy-to-use also means that communication should be simple and short. No customer wants a 3-page email when a short text can accomplish the purpose. Today, people do not even want to talk on the phone if it is not required. In fact, according to J.D. Power, 67% of customers who receive text messages from the dealership “definitely return” for service versus 55% who were updated via phone.
We all know that there are some things technology just cannot do. In those moments, customers rely on their service advisor for an honest assessment of the best path forward. Imagine a customer who comes into a dealership and his or her vehicle needs a part that is on a seemingly never-ending backorder. Understandably, the customer is upset. Instead of throwing one’s weight behind questionable parts for the customer, a good service advisor would say something like, “Listen, in your shoes, I’d be upset too. But I do not want to give you parts that may not work. I need to touch base with the master technician and the manufacturer. Unfortunately, that requires more time. As soon as that part comes in, I guarantee you will be the first person to know.”
Authenticity and empathy are the pillars of positive customer experience.
Customers want someone who is not only knowledgeable, but who also treats them like they are important. This means that any service advisor worth their salt is friendly, reliable, patient and respectful. A simple follow-up email that says, “Thanks for coming in today. We really appreciate your business. We can’t wait to see you in four months!” can go miles toward customer satisfaction.
A service advisor who takes time to go beyond the standard, “How can I help you?” to introduce a customer to a handy app that makes scheduling appointments quick can mean the difference between a one-and-done customer and a lifer.
Go With Your Gut...And Carry Your Business Cards at All Times
Where do you find these “platinum-standard” service advisors who are personable, transparent and make the whole process so easy? Of course, a great place to look is at job fairs or at car rental places known for their customer service. Even though experience in the automotive industry helps, it is by no means necessary. You can find great potential service writers anywhere customer orientation and great attitude matter. Think about that bright eyed server at the restaurant you recently went to or that enthusiastic general manager at your local hardware store.
A few years ago, I went to Five Guys for lunch. The young man behind the counter had it all - he was animated, efficient and had genuine enthusiasm for his job. When I told him what I wanted to order, he responded with, “That’s a great choice! You know what goes well with it? A cherry coke. Here: Let me give you a sip.” I do not even like cherry coke. But he got me to order a small cherry coke. At the end of the meal, I went up to him, handed him my card and told him I thought he would make a perfect service advisor. That man is now the #1 Subaru service writer in New England.
Even if They Have the Skills You Need, You Must Still Train and Support
Your own superstar “Five Guys” guy (or gal) will have everything except experience. How do you make up for it? Like anything else with a big payoff, you invest.
Investing in your service advisors is a direct investment in your business. If your internal staff does not have the time to train, you could invest $1,000 a month for 30-minute Zoom meetings with a professional trainer to give your new recruits a leg up. How would that improve customer relations and future retention? Remember those stats on customer service. As I said in the beginning – customer service matters. Invest in the right people now and a bright future is yours.
This article was written by NAC's Corey Smith and originally published in Vol. 18/No. 3 of Fixed Ops Magazine.