Such programs give customers a reason to say “yes” to additional service work and parts sales.
In previous articles, I’ve talked about increasing service absorption, whereby the parts and service departments generate enough gross profit to cover the dealer’s overhead expenses. This scenario enables any dealer to weather just about any economic condition, such as the current high cost of fuel. One of the easiest and most productive sales tools you can implement starting today is the Maintenance Menu.
Many RV dealers open their service and parts departments each day and wait for their customers to call for an appointment or come in. When they arrive at the service department, they meet with a service advisor who usually listens to their concerns, records those concerns on a repair order and then tells the customer they’ll call with an estimate for repairs and completion date. In this case, the advisor is acting simply as a clerk who records information. This process is not conducive to increased sales or a high level of customer satisfaction because there were no recommendations given to the customer for preventative maintenance.
The very name, preventative maintenance, implies the benefits of performing the recommended maintenance. You can prevent mechanical breakdowns, equipment failure, appliance malfunctions, water leaks, abnormal wear and tear, and save money at the same time if you advise your customer on how to properly maintain their RV.
It doesn’t matter whether it is a towable or motorized, gas or diesel, old or new — it applies to every RV coming into your service and parts departments. Therein lies the very key to the point I’m trying to make. This process of presenting maintenance menus to every customer on each and every visit costs you nothing! After all, the RV is already at your dealership. No additional advertising is necessary — it’s just a simple process of ensuring that your employees, both in service as well as parts, present a maintenance menu to all customers. As I’ve stated before, most RV customers do not realize or pay attention to what is needed to properly maintain their “condo on wheels.”
Preventative Maintenance Services Basics
Some RV dealers believe that they can’t perform mechanical repairs due to a lack of technicians and/or equipment. To address this concern let’s consider a sample listing of the maintenance items I’m referring to: Lube, Oil and Filter Change; Hydraulic Filter Change; Generator Service; Clean & Inspect Brake System; Appliance Burner Service; Air Filter Replacement; Battery Service; Water System Pressure/Leak Test; Engine Cooling System Filters; Replace Transmission Filters; Wheel Bearing Repack; Air Conditioning Service; Fuel Filter Replacement; Tire Rotation & Balance; Roof & Sidewall Sealant Inspection; and Transmission Service.
For the most part, these 16 maintenance services require a “C” level technician and very little equipment. These technicians traditionally are paid less than a certified journeyman technician, which means your profit margin is going to be much higher on these types of services.
Additionally, most customers do not know how to perform these services and many times are not even aware they need to be done at specific intervals so they are appreciative when someone like your advisor is looking out for their best interest. This, of course, builds trust and it’s trust that builds owner retention resulting in more and more sales over the long run.
To properly present these services to a customer one needs to understand the following: “Customers do not want to buy products or services — they only want to buy the benefits those products or services bring them.” For example, no one wants to buy brakes (product), but they will buy safety (benefit).
Preventative Maintenance: Selling the Benefits
Benefits can be categorized as performance, safety, economy, luxury and reliability. So when presenting any maintenance or service to your customers you must always explain the benefits they will realize by following your recommendations.
You will find throughout the year that at least 50 percent of your customers will say “yes” to a proper menu presentation. At the beginning of the season through the spring the percentage is even higher. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like pretty good odds to me.
This does not require any high-pressure salesmanship. You simply must advise and let the customer decide. It’s their RV. It’s their money. You must therefore give every customer the opportunity to say “yes” to the benefits of preventative maintenance.
When presenting these menus, you will need to gain as much information as possible about the customer’s buying habits as well as the RV itself. Things like maintenance history, mileage, generator hours and time expired since their last service. Once you have identified what’s needed on this visit you can then advise the customer what will be needed in future visits so why not go ahead and schedule their next appointment before they leave your dealership. If so, then you will want to install an appointment reminder process by mail, phone call, e-mail or all three to keep them coming back for additional maintenance services, winterization, de-winterization, etc.
Depending on your local climate, you will want to package some menu items based on the seasons in order for your customers to enjoy their RV’s to the fullest. (Reliability) This will also enable your service team to schedule more effectively to reduce the back log during your peak seasons.
These menu packages can be either in print form or electronic depending on how sophisticated you want to get, but I can assure you that the worst menu you can design will increase your sales dramatically if you just present it properly (benefits) to 100 percent of your customers 100 percent of the time.