From the service customer’s point of view, there are always three things you want to know. It’s not hard to understand. You are wired the same way as everyone else. If you don’t build an answer to those questions into your interaction with service customers, you are asking for trouble.
Imagine this … you are about to have the appliance technician out to your house to fix your washing machine. Never mind if you could fix it yourself. Play along for a minute. You have the tech’s dispatcher on the phone. Think about it with me. There are three things you want to know before setting up an appointment for the tech to come. What are they?
I’ve asked that question hundreds of times over more than 30 years. Anyone who answers it seriously always says the same three things. They are:
- What is it going to cost?
- What are you going to do?
- And, how long will it take?
If you were honest in your response to imagining the scene, you said the same thing.
So – why is it different on the dealership’s service counter? For some reason, we must think our customers are different than everyone else on the planet. We invent reason to avoid answering those questions. Here are some examples:
- I don’t know because the tech hasn’t looked at it.
- I don’t know because we charge for time and materials.
- Sometimes the same job takes longer.
- I don’t know if we will have to order parts.
- I don’t know what we have to do until I know what needs to be fixed. There’s no way to know when it will be done. My schedule is too fluid.
- I can’t promise anyone anything because when I do I have to change it.
For each of those and many more I didn’t mention there are proven things to say and to do that give the customer a straight answer and settle the three questions in they have in mind.
For the questions about not knowing the price, the first step is to give prices for the things you know. If you’ve been writing service for more than 90 days you likely know what 80 percent of the routine items cost. Have you written them down? Do you have a listing of what they are?
If you don’t know what is to be done, start with a diagnostic charge. Let the customer know that you will charge a fee in a specific amount. Tell them that if it is more than that amount, you will let them know before you proceed. If they decline the work that’s all they will owe. If they have the work done the amount quoted will be included in the repair. If it is less you will charge less.
Many folks on the service counter don’t want to commit to a time when the job is done. But you can and should commit to a time when you will have looked at it, done the initial diagnoses and will be able to give a price. Then be sure you follow up to let them know. The most common complaint is that we don’t call customers back.
That leads me to another one. Let’s say the customer says something like, “I don’t care when you get it back. Just let me drop it off.” Trust me. They care when they get it back. The rule of thumb is to communicate with them in a period not longer than three business days. Any longer than that and they start to wonder if you are paying attention.
There’s another closely related to that. “I don’t care how much it cost, I just need to get it fixed.” Trust me. If you believe that you might as well take a stroll in a minefield. When someone says that, give an estimate and prices anyway. In 13 year of writing service I only ever had one person complain that they had told me it didn’t matter.
You should build the answers to those universal questions into the reception process done in your service department. It will mean a lot fewer headaches and upset customers when you do.
Chuck Marzahn moderates virtual 20 Groups for RV dealers in the U.S. and Canada. He can be reached for comment and questions at [email protected].