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Evolving Your Process in the Service Drive-Thru

Optimizing Your Service Drive
We're very pleased to have our first guest blogger of the year, Wayne Dean,  writing on the importance of evolving process in the service drive. Being such a critical profit center for dealerships, making small adjustments can go such a long way.

The “Drive-through” started St. Louis Missouri USA when in 1930 the Grand National Bank allowed customers to drive up to a tellers window to make deposits. Since then the now known as “Drive-Thru” has expanded to many other types of business, all thanks to the automotive industry.

There is no better way to get-to-know your service customer than in the drive-thru. Relationships can be made, services and products can be highlighted and most importantly “Trust” can be established. The old adage “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” has never been truer than in the service drive.

Customers should be greeted within 30 seconds of arrival and YES this can be a challenge in this busy environment. Here’s a tip; multitask your service valets to act as greeters when customers arrive and your service advisors are busy. Make it service department policy that the first point of contact employee ensures that the next available service advisor serves that customer.

“Welcome to ABC Motors, how can I help you today?” is a friendly enough greeting, but NEVER EVER ask a customer “If they have an appointment”. To a first-time customer, this can be construed as a negative. “You mean I need an appointment to look at winter tires?” I would never want a customer to think that they couldn’t just drive-thru whenever they want. That’s the point, to let customers know your service department is friendly, approachable and open for their business and convenience.

If you are having one of those “cannot squeeze another vehicle tire season crazy” kind of day, I’d suggest saying “We’re very busy today but let me see what I can do for you”, rather than the traditional “We’re fully booked.” I know those days can be trying but you can always suggest leaving the vehicle and offering a courtesy car, getting a lube tech to assist or booking an appointment for another day if all else fails. I’ve changed wipers, cut keys, checked tire pressures, filled washer fluid and more. Nothing is more important than the customer that is right in front of you and you want them to know that.

Service advisors are the busiest salespeople in the dealership. They meet more customers than sales and can turn over more leads than any marketing campaign can do. Why? Because service advisors develop relationships and their customers trust them. So when it comes time to trade in, many will ask their advisor for advice. So encourage your advisors to turn these leads over with a spiff. One that increases with each vehicle sold over a one month period will definitely motivate. Some advisors won’t want to give up a potential service sale so it’s important to remind them that the service department will get to recondition that vehicle once it’s traded in. These vehicles will then be sold, and if the sales-to-service handoff is done correctly, this will create new service customers. Win-Win-Win!

In my opinion service advisors should sell “Factory Recommend Maintenance” to customers and not much more. After the “walk around” is completed advisors can plant seeds if the tire tread looks worn but let the actual recommendations come from the shop. If an advisor is too aggressive customers will wonder what will happen once a technician gets a chance to look at my vehicle, yikes! I like to think of the techs as the doctors of the dealership and the advisors as pharmacists. Pharmacists know the product and how they work but it’s the doctor that tells you what needs to be addressed and when. Why would we boast about having “Factory Trained Technicians” if everything was sold before the vehicle even hits the shop?

At this point, I’d like to ask you to ban the use of the words “upsell” in the entire dealership. I’ve heard of “right sell” but I prefer “recommendations” when talking internally and to customers. After all, we are trying to sell our customers exactly what their vehicles need and nothing more, right? Speaking of recommendations, make sure that your techs are all on the same page when it comes to calling brakes, for example. You don’t want one tech calling them at 4mm and another not until they reach 1mm. Go with the manufacturers' recommendation for brake pad replacement and you’ll never go wrong. Plus...customers will get consistent reports from any technician when they come in for service. Remember, trust and cooperation is a must for a successful service department. Customers trust must be earned but trust and cooperation between service advisor and service technician are key for successful selling.

I’ve been in the dealership environment for over forty years and the thing that I see the most is a lack of follow through. “Liking” this article is one thing but taking any of my suggestions and implementing them is another. My advice is to pick one and “make it happen”. Monitor and make sure that “it” keeps happening for a month and then becomes part of your dealerships process. After that...you guessed it...move on to another!

Wayne Dean has been in the automotive industry all of his life with family ties that date back to the original GM assembly lines in Oshawa. Starting off as an apprentice technician he moved into the parts department and soon became Parts Manager, followed by Service Manager and finally the Fixed Operations Manager for a very successful Greater Toronto Area dealership.

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