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Bunch: Tech is a Tool—Not a Replacement

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“In the last economic recession in 2008, companies that prioritize customer experience realized three times the shareholder returns, compared to the companies that did not.”—David Kaplan

Over 25 years ago, I was at lunch with an older technician having a conversation about our industry during our break from our technical training at the Isuzu headquarters in Orange County, Calif.

As we enjoyed our cheeseburgers, he expressed his thoughts on how plumbers and electricians banded together and maintained prices that would keep the technicians’ pay rates high. I was intrigued by the conversation, being only a few years into my career as an automotive technician at the time.

He went on to say that they blacklist anyone doing discounted sidework, as they realized how it could erode the value of their services. As a young and impressionable technician, I will never forget how this gentleman, who was easily 20 years my senior, shared his frustrations with the career he had once loved. Like most technicians, he loved diagnosing and fixing vehicles, but hated how the industry kept handicapping itself from getting the respect and pay it truly deserves.

The older I get, and now having my own business, I understand his frustration more and more, and still see technicians and shop owners continue to inadvertently bring down our industry in so many ways. These include low labor rates, low parts margins, undercutting each other, filthy shops, bad mouthing every other shop in town, and having poor customer service. Most of you reading this are shaking your heads in agreement, but I want to dig deeper into an area you may not be thinking of. 

My colleague, Jason Servidio, vice president of sales training for the Transformers Institute and former vice president of Aspen Auto Clinic, has been training service advisors, managers, and owners across the country for the last 10 years. He has a unique style that incorporates consultative-style selling, which leads to building loyalty and trust in just the first few visits.

In a recent conversation, after teaching a group of managers and advisors, we discussed our concerns about a rising trend that we see from advisors and how they use technology in the sales process. With COVID-19 driving most shops to a touchless interaction and closing of waiting rooms, service advisors find their digital inspection platforms to be an excellent tool to show the customer what their vehicle needs and communicate the estimate.

Herein lies the issue: Most of us built our businesses on relationships and trust. People buy from people they know, like, and trust. Buying car repair is different than buying a new TV from Amazon. The data shows that service advisors see a 20 percent increase in their closing ratio, just by using digital inspection platforms. What concerns us is they are achieving these results just by sending the inspection with the estimate and waiting to see what is approved and sent back to them. While this seems like a great thing, it's short-sighted.

“But Greg, it’s working so well and saves so much time!” you say. Please keep reading.

We are professionals and cannot skip the advising part of our job. As a professional, helping our clients prioritize the service and repairs is part of our job. My suggestion is to send the inspection, but don’t send the prices until you are on the phone with your customer and go line by line through the estimate. Yes, even if they show resistance.

It’s our job as service advisors, managers, and owners to build trust and rapport with our clients. This is done by conversing with them and helping them prioritize the needed service and repairs based on their driving habits and finding out what their goal is for the particular vehicle they are bringing you that day. You cannot do that unless you asked the right questions during the intake process. You cannot guide them into making the right purchase without going over the inspection and estimate in person, video, or on the phone.

I'm a fan of technology and enjoy the conveniences it brings to my life, but I don’t want it to replace real and tangible human interaction. I want real relationships with my doctor, attorney, accountant, vendors, clients, colleagues, my friends, and my family. Your clients want this with their mechanic too. Texting and emailing are great, but I challenge you to not let them replace a fist bump, handshake, hug, or a telephone call.

It could be easy to let technology “do the work” for us, but we would be undercutting our own business that way. It would only be a matter of time before our profits were eroded, we lost the human connection of our clients and then see much less of them. Let’s not allow the emailed or texted DVI to allow our service advisers to become complacent or rob themselves of the opportunity to show and sell the value of our services. Be human, be nice, be memorable, be compassionate, take time to connect, spend the time to educate your clients, and you will have more work than you can handle!

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