The Art of Selling Automotive Service

Have you ever taken your automobile in for regular maintenance and presented with a list of recommended services? Consumers often feel pushed into a corner in this situation. A yes or no answer seems like the only two choices, but there are a few other options in this scenario.

Is All Fair in Auto Repair

Here we’ll discuss the art of selling automotive service. Keep in mind the repair center is in the business to make money and they have a right to do so. If the shop didn’t pull a profit for the owner, there would be no reason for the operation to exist, hire mechanics and consume business related services from the surrounding community. With that said, they should be in the practice of selling repairs that benefit the customer and their automobile.

It’s the job of the consumer to ask questions, review recommended services and cross check them against scheduled factory maintenance. I have written a series of articles about commonly recommended high profit margin auto services. Do I need a coolant system service and do I need a throttle body service are two of the more popular articles I’ve written on autorepair.answers.com. Before we dive into evaluating a laundry list and the options customers have, let’s explore the art of selling automotive service from the shop’s point of view.

Average Repair Order

Auto repair shops use different data points of measurement or metrics to evaluate the business, employees and equipment to verify everybody and everything is pulling their weight. In order to accomplish this they must remain on top of what’s going on daily. An important tool for many auto shop owners is the amount each customer spends at the facility divided by the number of customers for the day, week or month. This is known as the average repair order metric.

Independent and franchise operations will often have standards to meet for this measurement. A low average repair order number can indicate a service adviser that’s not communicating well with the shop’s clientele. A high number can indicate an overzealous salesperson more concerned with commission then the consumer’s needs. Regardless of how the shop uses this measurement it’s something they track and take action on when it falls outside of set parameters.

Covering Equipment Costs

It’s often required for an auto repair center to buy new equipment to better service their customers. It can take a long time before this investment pays for itself or begins to turn a profit for the shop. It’s not uncommon for them to use incentives to promote the use of this newly purchased equipment. As an example, a facility may find it necessary to purchase a new air-conditioning charging station. This machine can cost anywhere between five and $10,000 depending on how elaborate it is.

With this kind of investment, it can take a long time for the shop to break even on the purchase of the necessary machine. In order to accelerate the process, they can go on the offensive and offer an extra commission to the service adviser to sell air-conditioning services. This is often called a spiff which is an immediate bonus for a sale. This can also be coupled with advertising campaigns and customer incentives such as coupons or discounts to stimulate targeted sales.

Evaluating a List of Recommended Services

In the shop’s defense, just because they’re trying to sell you something, you didn’t ask for, doesn’t mean you don’t need it. When the repair center puts the vehicle up on the lift they enjoy a unique perspective of the automobile. They are also more educated about automotive systems than the average consumer, but ultimately the decision to move forward lies with the owner.

The way an auto repair customer protects themselves from unnecessary up selling is through due diligence, education and asking questions. Instead of replying with a yes, go ahead or no, put my car outside, ask for more information about the recommended service. As a specific example, if you have your car into an oil change center for a basic lube, oil and filter service and they recommend a transmission service ask some follow-up questions. A good place to begin is why they’re recommending this particular operation.

In further pursuit of this specific example, the customer should find out when the transmission maintenance is recommended by the manufacturer. This is accomplished through consulting the owner’s manual and comparing the mileage with the current odometer reading. If this research and questioning the service adviser doesn’t clear up all doubt on whether the service is actually needed, it could be time for a second opinion.