Keys to Pre-Scheduling Service Appointments
Pre-scheduling service appointments is a great way to ensure you will regularly see customers and can revisit concerns or areas of need when it comes to their vehicle. Finding success with pre-scheduling, however, can be a challenge. In particular, many shop owners become discouraged when customers have to reschedule the appointment. Joe Fenski, owner of Fenski Automotive Center in Sugar Hill, Ga., has been pre-scheduling appointments at his shop for the last two years and has a 90 percent success rate. Fenski breaks down the keys to pre-scheduling service appointments and guaranteeing the customer shows up.
The pre-scheduling of the next oil change is what we focus on because it’s routine maintenance that needs to be done all the time. Most people do recommended repairs but the pre-scheduling of the next oil change is important because it gives the opportunity to get the customer in and check in on what was discussed at the last appointment. You have more opportunity to capture new work and to build a better relationship with the customer.
It’s about keeping our shop on our customer’s minds for that next appointment. It’s trying to build loyalty. It helps everyone plan for things, and it goes a lot smoother. That helps the shop and the customer. It just helps open up more dialogue and build a better reputation with them. We want to help them care for their vehicle, not be a pain in their neck.
We make the next appointment when they’re checking out. We go over the invoice with them and we explain what was done that time. They may have had an oil change service done, and then we tell them that the next one is going to be due at approximately X date. We let them know that we are going to go ahead and put them on the schedule for that. We also let them know up front that it’s not that we can’t change that; it’s just to help remind all of us that a service is due.
It’s important to build that relationship ahead of having this conversation so you know how many miles they’re driving and how many months it takes them to get to the next oil change. That way they know that we’re not forcing something down their throats that they don’t need. Any time we do stuff, we are trying to look out for the customer and their vehicle to help them maintain and service it properly.
Of course, the tricky part is getting customers to actually show up for the appointment. When the appointment starts to get closer, we will send an email reminder about two weeks ahead of time. That way we’ve already soft touched them. Many will respond to the email and say, “Great, it works.” And then there’s no more follow-up after that. If we don’t hear from them, the following week we will call and leave a message. We created a policy and a script for the front office staff to follow and it’s very simple. We just say, “We have you scheduled for this time and date. If that still works for you, we’d be happy to confirm that appointment, and if not, we’d be happy to change it to a time and date that does work for you.”
It really goes a lot easier than people think. Many shop owners don’t want to ask people because they’re fearful they’re going to get pushback. But 98 percent of people have no pushback at all and actually think it’s a great idea. There are some that don’t like it but we still put them on the schedule because we’ve talked to them about it. We’ll call them when the next appointment is coming up and try to schedule that. You don’t really have to pressure them into it. It’s a reminder. It’s a fairly comfortable thing and it actually goes surprisingly well, once you get used to doing it. I know we were scared when we first started and implemented it that we were going to get a lot of unhappy people but we really don’t.
Consistency is everything. You think you’re going to get all this negative reaction and you’re not going to. We’ve gotten a lot of compliments over the years. Very few people don’t like it. What has surprised me is that it actually helps us stand out. Many customers say, “We’ve never been to a place that does this kind of stuff. That’s really neat.”