In our month-long series on improving the customer experience in the service department, we now look at the second-most common issue identified by customers. In the Cox Automotive Service Industry Study, 20 percent of service customers say they’re most frustrated with service advisors who “tried to push additional services.”
20 percent, or 1 in 5 service customers that express frustration with a service visit, doesn’t seem like a huge statistic to deal with. That’s only the top pain point for those customers, and there are likely many more who think it’s a secondary or tertiary issue. Point being, it’s more insidious than it appears.
The way the response is phrased seems loaded. As a service manager, the knee-jerk reaction is to admonish your service advisors for upselling unnecessary services. Hang tight – that’s often not the case.
While upselling unneeded maintenance and repairs continues to be an issue at stores highly incentivized on sales, this pain point in the customer experience often starts way before customers check in in the service drive. Like most (if not all) CX issues, communication breakdowns start early on.
Often, it’s related to inadequate training when appointments are set. A couple scenarios:
A customer calls in and requests a service B, a basic oil change and tire rotation. The dealership staff, whether BDC, cashier, or service advisor, fields the call and enters the appointment in the system. Unfortunately, they don’t check the customer’s history or current mileage, and there’s additional maintenance needed.
A second customer books their service appointment online. They select the mileage best as they recall, then pick an appointment time. They arrive at the service drive and learn that they’re way off on the mileage estimate and additional services are required.
In both cases, the service advisor is RIGHT in recommending the additional services per the time and mileage according to the maintenance schedule. The customer’s perception, though, is that they’re being advised to do services they didn’t expect on that visit. And their ire isn’t misplaced.
Proper training and communication are fundamental in setting appointments properly to avoid this issue. Anyone – absolutely everyone – who takes appointments for the service department should be able to check a customer’s history and the maintenance schedule, and comfortable to make recommendations for services at the time of booking.
And secondly, every appointment booked online should be contacted to confirm their required services. This is the time to make recommendations that have been overlooked and to confirm an accurate mileage.
Just like last week’s topic – “service took longer than expected” – there’s no way to fully eliminate this issue. In fact, I had a fixed operations director that said to me on more than one occasion, “If I don’t have a complaint about a service advisor being too pushy at least once per month, they aren’t doing their job well.” It’s the service advisor’s role to advise on services and repairs that customers need. Even done as gently as can be, there are some customers who will always feel like they are being pressured.
Service advisors have to be very careful not to be too aggressive in sales also. I know many service advisors, myself notwithstanding, who saw an easy target and sold repairs that could easily have waited and maintenance that was premature. With a sales-based pay plan, there’s always a temptation to make the easy money. While you can get away with it, you can and will get caught from time to time. It damages not just YOUR reputation, but the whole dealership’s reputation.
More than anything, being mindful of proper communication and following the process every time (not cutting corners) will help improve this subjective metric.