A One-Stop Service Shop

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In the last two months I've spoken to the employees and owners of more than 80 shops. A common concern among them is the dramatic downturn in vehicle sales. The interesting phenomenon is that while floor traffic is down, traffic in most service departments has been normal to even slightly up. Why? Because there are millions of in-use vehicles out there still requiring maintenance and repair.

With the economy in the toilet and most of us wondering what's next, it's more important than ever that service gets on its white pony and comes to the rescue. But it won't be a few extra tire changes and tune-ups that will do the trick. It's going to take selling unlike you've ever done before.

To be clear, it's not a question of whether a service writer wants to sell accessories during the vehicle check-in or whether a technician likes to install accessories. It's that for many shops, the service department must sell more accessories in order for the business to survive. Failure to wake up and smell the potential income could be the last nail in your dealership's financial coffin.

For those who believe service should be selling as much as servicing, here's a list of things you could — and should — be doing to net more of your customer's business.

  • Create self-sell displays in the service write-up area to promote products the store normally stocks and that service can install without disrupting their daily schedule.
  • Also sell accessories costing between $5 and $500 that can be installed in a half-hour or less. Selling accessories like those referenced above can turn a customer's reluctant maintenance visit into a pleasurable shopping experience — as long as you make it easy and economical.
  • Create show books with pictures of the vehicles customized by your dealership. Attach the build list to save time.
  • Print out dyno charts that show the increase of horsepower and torque from the performance upgrades you sell, and note the accessories used. Be forewarned: Most performance upgrades are not EPA- or CARB-approved, so do this for off-road purposes only.
  • When performing the vehicle check-in, identify what's on the vehicle now and make recommendations that complement the look or function. For example, if the vehicle has billet controls, suggest billet engine covers. If it has chrome wheels, suggest chrome brake components.
  • When performing the check-in inspection, do a customer interview to discover unknown wants and needs. Ask questions like: What type of riding have you been doing lately? Do you ride with a passenger very often? Are you totally satisfied with the power and sound? If you had $1,000 to burn, what else would you get for your bike?
  • Suggestion-sell by linking product recommendations to something on the vehicle now or to something the customer told you. For example: I like your chrome wheels. Did you know you could compliment that look with polished brake rotors? We have them in stock and we can install them today while your bike is in for its maintenance. How does that sound?
  • Capture your customer's business with winterization packages. Store the vehicles onsite or at a heated and secure location offsite. Create storage packages at different price points and offer free storage when the customer spends over a certain amount in parts and labor. If you don't have room to store the vehicles, then create winterization packages that prep the vehicle for long term storage at the customer's home. Offer a good, better and best package with pick-up and delivery and a spring "get-running" service included (see box).
  • Promote winterization in your e-mail newsletter and/or call current customers to drum up business. House of Harley-Davidson in Milwaukee does this, and it's up 14 percent over last year.
  • Create upsell packages for vehicles in for routine maintenance or wreck repair. This is a great way to turn a negative experience into a positive event. For example, offer chrome bolt-on or performance upgrades during a tire change, fork rebuild or top-end job. Or, offer upgraded components as options to the bent and scratched parts being replaced during a wreck rebuild. In most cases, the shop can do this for no extra labor with the customer paying just the difference in accessory versus OEM cost.
  • Call customers while the vehicle is still on the rack and make recommendations based on the accessories installed on the vehicle now. This is your backup plan for when you didn't have time to do an interview with the customer while the vehicle was being checked in.

As you can see, it's not just one thing, but a combination of behaviors that ensure every customer that comes to service has the opportunity to consider accessories that make their riding experience more fulfilling. And the additional sales may make the difference between a good day or a financial disaster.