It is not unusual for some of our good clients to occasionally say they were doing okay, but it has slowed down. This is one of the areas which drives shop owners crazy. Just when they thought they were going to make some real money, the business slows down.
There are several possible sources for this problem, but the one we are going to discuss in this article is: If business is slow, it is always the service writer.
I can't tell you the number of times I have heard about shops having problems, and suddenly they change their service writer and - boom! - the business takes off.
Shops do not become busy by luck or accident. Oftentimes, successful businesses have a service writer who is good at selling, while the shops not doing well try to figure out where all the customers went. Let's look at some service writer basics which determine whether a shop will be busy or not.
Selling is a Necessary Evil!
A service writer needs people. It is amazing how many service writers really do not like to deal with or talk to customers. A good service writer likes people and enjoys talking to them.
Oftentimes, when we interview service writers from shops around the country, they will indicate that selling is a necessary evil. This is a sure-fire indicator the service writer does not like dealing with people.
I Don't Want to Make Them Mad!
A service writer has to be willing to handle customers, even the tough ones. A good service writer is not afraid of the customer!
A service writer has to have the ability to tell customers things they do not want to hear - upsetting things, such as it is going to cost more to get their car fixed. Unfortunately, some service writers are afraid to handle customers and tell them the truth - it costs money to fix cars!
Some service writers are so afraid of upsetting customers and not willing to risk it, so they resort to not telling customers the full story on their car. They try to sell only what they think customers will pay for the job, instead of asking for the money on the full job.
They suffer from the "Tricky Lower-Jaw Disease." This is the disease that afflicts service writers when they need to tell customers the repairs are going to cost $750.00. Their lower jaw goes into stutter mode, and $450.00 comes out of their mouth!
I Never Want to Rip a Customer Off!
Some service writers have high personal integrity and are careful to make sure they never rip customers off, especially by not overcharging for the work that needs to be done.
Again, this decision leads to service writers becoming rip-off artists. They end up ripping off the business, the employees, the employees' families, the owner, and the owner's family.
It is the responsibility of service writers to sell the work profitably, so all employees and the owner(s) of the business make enough money to live comfortably.
This comes from not knowing what is a fair price to both the customers and the business. Most shops set their prices based on the "Grand Fake 'Em Method." Their prices are not based on their own costs, but on what their competition is charging. Of course, their competition is going broke, but they have to be competitive.
Can't You Give Me a Ballpark?
Price jobbers! This is the area which drives a lot of service writers nuts. Many service writers are not good at handling potential customers over the phone! Some shops quote prices for major work over the phone to new retail customers.
This comes from not knowing how to handle price shoppers and, in some cases, the belief a shop must give prices over the phone for major work.
The truth is that good service writers will normally be able to get 20-30% more business if they learn how to handle price shoppers and do not quote prices for major work over the phone. There is a technology to effectively selling. Most service writers have not had any professional training.
The result is a loss of income for the business and a lot of frustration.
I Need to Speak to a Technician!
A lot of women are involved in the automotive business and many let the lack of training stop them from becoming service writers. They are afraid that male customers will not be willing to listen to a woman because she is not a technician.
At Management Success!, we have found a lot of women have the ability to be very effective service writers. Some of the most effective service writers in the industry are women who have learned to handle customers. One of the main reasons they are so effective is that most women do not have the technical knowledge for cars - and the less technical knowledge a person knows, the better they are able to sell the work.
In addition, women generally tend to be better at listening and have better communication skills. As a result, they do a better job of handling customers because they listen and do not overwhelm customers with a bunch of technical jargon that the customers do not understand.
I Want to Think it Over!
What the customers are saying with the famous "I want to think it over" statement is they are in confusion and are not sure that what their service writer is telling them is true. This is an indicator that the service writer is not in communication with the customer.
Customers who are in confusion will not buy! They will go somewhere else. Trained service writers should know whether or not their customer is tracking with them and what they are thinking - this should happen before they get to the end of the sale only to find out the customer wants to think it over.
When the customer says...
1. "I have to talk it over with my spouse."
2. "I want to think it over."
3. "I will have to wait."
...they are really saying, "The service writer hasn't sold me yet!" A lot of service writers spew out their sales procedure unaware of what the customer is really thinking. The service writer is not in good communication with the customer, but is really just talking to the customer. The customer is wondering if the car really needs the work and the service writer is telling him or her how much.
The customer is in confusion and the service writer does not know it. This is because the service writer has not been trained. Most service writers lack the technique of selling and are not in good communication with the customer. When this happens, the shop loses sales and customers.
The Phones Are Not Ringing!
"The phones are not ringing!" This is a favorite statement made by service writers when sales are down. It is normal for a shop to have one or two slow weeks; but overall, if one shop's sales are down, but other shops in town are doing well, then the problem lies in that one shop - and the problem is the service writer.
It takes a person who is motivated, likes people, and does not have his or her attention on other things to be good at sales. One problem of owners being service writers is they are splitting their attention among lots of things which need to be handled. If they have something pressing which needs to be handled, sales will drop. It does not take much for a shop to lose two or three jobs a week when the service writer is not focused. This is why it is best to have someone whose sole function is sales. When you have a service writer, the key point in sales is the rule: It is always the service writer.
I can recall numerous occasions when a client indicated the sales were down, and I gave them the rule. When they got in communication with their service writers, they found that he or she was having marital problems, had a sick child, or had another personal issue, which was diverting their attention from the job and affecting their customer service.
When a job has been growing, sales have been good, and suddenly it starts to go down, the first thing is to pull in the service writer and find out what is going on. Service writers will say it is slow and the phones are not ringing. That is a sure-fire indicator that they have something going on which is preventing them from doing their best.
Being a service writer requires a person's full attention. Service writers must like people and must be willing to tell customers things they do not want to hear. They must know how to do it and need to have good communication skills to know what the customer is thinking.
The Solution to the Above Problems
Just as you would not put someone with no training and knowledge on a tough computer diagnostic problem on a car, you would not allow an untrained person to be your service writer, correct? The sharp businessperson will make sure the service writer in his or her shop is knowledgeable in the technique of sales and has all the tools necessary to do a good job.
I recommend all of our clients who have started their training in business management to come to the five-day service writer course and bring their service writers to learn sales techniques and good communication skills. This is a challenging course that demands a lot out of the attendees. In the end, attendees leave the class with improved communication and sales skills. But, it is only money - yours!
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