Creating a Better Vehicle Delivery Process
Mike Davidson has a simple philosophy with any repair that comes through his shop: The job is never actually sold until the customer comes to pick up the vehicle.“You talk to the customer the first time they’re in [the shop], and you sell the job before you start,” says Davidson, owner of Parkway Automotive in Little Rock, Ark. “But all you really did was get the OK to do the work; you haven’t really sold them on anything. That comes the second time, when you have to go over all of it again—everything you did—when they come to pick it up.”
The delivery of the repaired vehicle is not only your opportunity as a shop to display your expertise, attention to detail and care for the customer, Davidson says, it’s also your last guaranteed point of contact with that customer.
“Most often, customers are in a hurry to get their cars back,” says industry consultant Dan Gilley of RLO Training. “A lot of times you have just two minutes or so for the delivery of the vehicle—two minutes to win that customer over and really ‘wow’ them.”
That’s what makes having a written, thorough and easily repeatable delivery process in your shop absolutely crucial to your customer retention efforts, Gilley says. And, as shops like Parkway Automotive have demonstrated over the years, developing such a process—and effectively carrying it out—is simpler than you might think.
Focus on the W
For Davidson, customer interaction is all about “touchpoints.”
“There are certain times in the repair process where you get the opportunity to actually interact with each customer,” he says. “Those are your ‘touchpoints.’ You can’t waste a single one.”
Parkway Automotive is a true customer-service company, evident by its slew of local and regional awards and its always steady $1.7 million-a-year sales. Developing that kind of reputation is not easy, Gilley says. It takes effort, it takes employee buy-in, and it takes a correct shop culture that allows the staff to put customers first.
Always Follow Up
Customer retention doesn’t end when the customer leaves the shop. Davidson and his team have an entire system for engaging the customer following the delivery.
With each customer, Davidson’s team tries to obtain an email address and a consent-to-text signature. Aside from his regular marketing efforts, this is how his process plays out:
1. A Thank-You Email.
Davidson sends each customer an email following delivery. In the email, he thanks them again for putting their trust in the shop—both in writing and in a video. The video is a short, simple snippet Davidson recorded himself (“Something any shop owner can do in a couple minutes,” he says). And the email includes a link to the shop’s online review system.
2. Appointment Card.
As noted, the appointment card arrives one week before the customer’s next scheduled appointment.
3. Text Message.
His shop will also send a text message to the customer the day before the next appointment as another reminder. If the customer did not opt into receiving texts from the shop, or doesn’t prefer that as a form of communication, Davidson’s staff will call them.
Once the customer comes in for the appointment, the entire process starts again.
“Everyone has to have the same goal in mind that if we take care of the customer first, then everything else follows,” Gilley says.
At every touchpoint, Gilley says, your team needs to be looking to get a W, as in a wow from the customer.
“That’s what we look for,” Davidson says. “Each touchpoint has to matter.”
And Parkway’s five-step delivery process plays into that.
Step 1: Have a Mentality—and Prepare
Because the delivery is often the last step of any repair process, everything done before is absolutely critical in making this final stage a success, Davidson says. The entire job should be building to this moment.
And that means you and your staff need to be preparing throughout.
Create a Better Shop Culture
Your staff, their skills and their attitudes will play a large role in any shop’s culture. However, Davidson has instituted a number of systems that help enhance his team’s talents in handling customers. Here are two simple ones:
1. Desks vs. Counters. Each of his three service advisors has a desk in the shop’s lobby. And when going over a repair order or checking in a vehicle, Davidson wants his staff “on the same level” as the customer, sitting next to them rather than across or standing over them at a counter.
2. Doormat Rule. Sure, the mat at the front door is for people to wipe their feet, Davidson says, but it’s also the starting point for his office staff. No customer can take a step over that mat without being greeted. Davidson wants his advisors to get up from their desk and greet the person with a handshake.
Davidson’s team has three documents that will be included in a folder that is ready at the time of delivery: the vehicle inspection sheet, the final repair order, and an appointment card to set up the customer’s next visit. (We’ll come back to that last one later.)
Also, Davidson has his staff make notes in the shop’s computer system about any anecdotal or personal information that may come up in conversation that the staff can use to make a connection later on.
When the repair is completed, all documents are placed in the folder, and the service advisor will then set up an appointment for the customer to pick up the vehicle.
Step 2: Greet the customer and Go Over the Work
After greeting the customer at the door, the service advisor then takes them back to his or her desk to review the work being done.
“You want to demonstrate everything your staff did that demonstrates your commitment to getting the car repaired correctly,” Davidson says. “That’s the priority.”Now, there are two important things to remember. First, this isn’t about price or payment—that comes later—and you don’t want the customer thinking that’s the top priority for you.
Then, Davidson wants his team to go line by line on items found during the inspection, and what his team did to remedy those issues on the repair order. You’re selling the customer on the value of your services, he says, and reaffirming they made the correct choice by using your shop.
If they have any questions or issues, Davidson says his team will go over it at the vehicle or show them the damaged parts.
Step 3: Collect Payment
Because his staff is seated next to the customer during the process, request for payment is far less formal—or daunting—to the customer. And this only occurs after the customer is 100 percent comfortable with all the work performed and the explanation of the pricing.
Step 4: Set Up the Next Appointment
The delivery process is about customer retention, and one way to help ensure that customer will come back is to set up an appointment at the time of delivery.
That’s where the appointment card from Step 1 comes in.
Davidson has a postcard that he has made up for each customer before delivery. On one side is the shop’s logo in big print. On the other is a set of lines for an appointment date and the customer’s name and address.
Before the customer arrives for delivery, his team already has a date (or a range of dates) picked out for when the customer should be coming back in for scheduled maintenance. At delivery, his staff finalizes a date that will work for the customer, and then they have the customer write their name and address on the card. Davidson’s staff will then mail the customer the card as the date approaches.
Step 5: Departure
Don’t thank them for their business, Davidson says. “Thank them for their trust they put in us.”
The interaction, he says, needs to be about building a relationship with that customer. Relationships aren’t built on business or sales; they’re built on trust, he says.
“We want them to understand that them trusting us with their vehicle is the most important thing to us,” he says. “That’s what the entire thing is about.”