Long Ago, Ben Franklin wrote “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Shop Owner Coach™

Though he was referring to fire safety at the time, this same axiom applies to the needs of our customer today.

Imagine the following scenario: It’s family vacation time, the car is all packed up, with mom, the kids, the dog and every essential need to have a wonderful time creating family memories crammed inside. Those memories that will last a lifetime, should not start with dreaded breakdown in the middle of Nowhere, USA .

You can almost picture it, the summer sun beating down on a hot, non-functioning car loaded tothe roof.  “But we just had the car in for an oil change? Shouldn’t the tech have seen something was wrong?”

Of course, the repair industry has changed a lot of over the last few years. Reliability has skyrocketed, service intervals are extended and we have seen a huge technological shift in the way shops do business. There can still be opportunities to do better.

Here are five ways you can improve the effectiveness of selling preventive maintenance and help your customers avoid uncomfortable roadside situations.

Digital Vehicle Inspections 

The advent of DVI has been a huge game-changer. A well-performed inspection with good pictures and annotations can assist the customer by showing them exactly what your technician is seeing. A quality picture is worth a thousand words! You should treat your inspection process like any other fundamental process, one that needs to be trained, monitored for effectiveness, and always seeking to improve efficiency and adding value.

Keep in mind that the shops that are most successful in implementing digital inspection have the process built into their culture. If you or the leaders in your shop value and understand the impact the process will have, then the team will naturally follow your lead.

Using Visual Aids

Using a color-coded brake pad thickness gauge or fluid comparison charts/trays in photos or live video can help the customer make better-informed decisions. You can find fluid testing report cards for vital fluids and I know of a number of shops who are on this program to show their customer the state of the fluid based on science. Using objective (measurable) data gives both the advisor and customers solid ground to base their recommendations and subsequent buying decisions.

Walk Around

We train the customers we coach to add a walk-around inspection as a part of their vehicle intake process. Though it isn’t always possible when the customer is present, a walk-around inspection can be especially impactful. Not only can you look at the car together you also have an opportunity to hear directly from the customer any concerns they have.

You can gain additional insight about how the vehicle will be used in the coming months and with that information the service advisor can set up a plan to ensure the vehicle is in peak running condition based on the customer’s driving habits.

Ask For The Sale!

It might seem too simple but asking for the sale is one of the most important parts of the sales process. I have reviewed too many phone calls where the service advisor reports the technician’s findings to the customer and then just stops. No estimate, no request to have the shop perform the required work, just dead air on the phone line.

The bewildered customer might ask a couple of clarifying questions but in most cases the only question the customer will ask is “When can I pick up my car?” All the effort that you, the owner, put into the shop process, the technician’s careful examination of the car and the advisor’s time putting the details in the work order has been for nothing. Listening to your incoming and outgoing phone calls will go a long way to closing the loop in the sales process, along with training and on-going role-play exercises.

You’re The Professional

Consider your shop to be the expert. You have made a commitment to information systems and training to stay current on what is required to service and maintain the complex vehicles that hit your doors. Your customers come to you because of this knowledge and skill – they’re looking for you to recommend the best course of action regarding maintenance processes and intervals. Don’t be afraid to let them know what they need, and trust and expect them to say yes!

Here is the bottom line: your customers come to you because you are a professional, and they trust you to take care of their automotive needs. They rely on you and your team to provide the best service value and experience, and that includes the reliability and longevity of their vehicle. By reviewing and putting these simple tips into practice, you and your customers will benefit.

Vic Tarasik has been an independent auto repair professional for more than three decades and is the former owner of Vic’s Precision Automotive in The Woodlands, Texas. He is the founder of Shop Owner Coach, a coaching and training organization that is committed to helping independent repair shop owners achieve their dreams through the intentional application of best business practices. Vic can be reached at vic@ShopOwnerCoach.com