Some businesses including some car dealerships do an excellent job of presenting their customers with opportunities to buy goods or services and at utilizing tools that promote customer retention. Consider this: Doctors and dentists have become adept at getting all patients to schedule their next appointment, even if that appointment is six months or longer in the future. That’s as good a definition of customer retention as you are likely to find anywhere. Every restaurant, regardless of the type of establishment, presents every customer with a menu of offerings, complete with prices, every time.
And a growing number of dealership service departments are presenting customers with menus describing recommended maintenance services often with great benefits to the store’s bottom line.
The not-so-secret method behind these success stories is consistency. Actually presenting the menus and following a process with every customer every time. The first step to actually getting customers to buy from your service menu is getting service advisors to present the menus, consistently to every customer.
Easy to say, not always so easy to do.
Conversations with service managers who report excellent results from their use of menus indicate that they use a three-pronged approach:
- Pick the low-hanging fruit. Execute the easy steps of placing service menus on the dealership’s website, including a menu in every communication with customers, and having the menu message run in the service lounge. Making customers aware of the menus and the array of maintenance services recommended by the OEM reinforces the importance of regular vehicle maintenance. It also builds an expectation that menus will be presented when the customer brings a vehicle in for service. In order to meet the customers’ expectations, service advisors need to present the menus.
- Use the reporting and measurement tools embedded in the menu programs. Josh Proffitt, service director at Mel Hambleton Ford in Wichita, KS, and his service managers make it a habit to check the number of menu presentations each of his service advisors. Each afternoon Josh and his advisors go over the next day’s appointments and identify opportunities.
The menu presentation occurs during and after the walk-around.Josh and his team are “striving for consistency in the number and quality of menu presentations.” Josh and his managers review the reports daily and go over them with their 13 advisors. Josh says he has found a near 100 percent correlation between gross profits and the number of menu presentations made. Whenever an advisor’s numbers start to slip it is almost always due to the advisor presenting fewer menus. Not surprisingly, customer-pay flat-rate hours and customer-pay gross profits are up nicely.
- Incorporate the information from the management reports into daily performance reviews. Charlie Vassallo, service director at Apple Honda in Riverhead, NY, is an active user and a big fan of online service menus.
His service advisors have developed a variation on the typical menu presentation that works very well for them. During the vehicle walkaround, the advisors bring up the customer’s vehicle service history and the menu recommendations on their tablet computers. With the customer, they compare the work that has been done with what is recommended by the OEM. The menu provides the estimated cost of every service that is recommended. Again with the customer looking, any work that has already been done is removed from the recommendations and the customer can see the cost estimate being reduced.
Charlie says this endorses the customer’s actions in keeping up with maintenance and the visible cost reductions show the customers that they are getting an honest estimate. He says this approach has proven to be very successful with his 3 service advisors. He is looking to hire two more advisors for the spring and summer seasons.
Charlie is an active user of the management reports and actually does a daily performance review with each advisor based on their use of the dealership’s menu program.
That’s it. No silver bullet solutions. Just three simple rules for developing consistency in your service menu program:
(1) Let your service customers know to expect to see a menu when they visit your dealership and let your service advisors know what the customers expect;
(2) Inspect what you expect. Use the management reports from your menu provider to monitor the consistency of the menu presentations;
(3) Add compliance with the menu as an element in your performance reviews and pay plans .