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Grow Your RO through Conversation Tactics

Order Reprints

When a customer’s vehicle pulls into the shop, remember this timeframe: three hours. It’s longer than the average movie, but it should be a shop’s universal hours per repair order goal in order to provide the best service for the customers.

Dave Schedin, owner of CompuTrek Automotive Management Systems, says the the national benchmark for hours per repair order is typically 3.5–4 hours. Hours per RO is not a sales goal, Schedin says, but a vehicle requirement based on the life of the vehicle's needs.

“Hours per repair order is not a sales goal—it’s a vehicle requirement,” Schedin says. “The vehicle gives you that based on true, preventative maintenance.”

It’s essential that customers feel both comfortable and safe following vehicle repairs. In doing so, it’s important that a vehicle is completely accounted for by not only focusing on what the customer needs, but also by preparing a repair order for preventative maintenance.

According to Schedin, if shops follow the manufactures' baseline minimal maintenance plan and a real industry standard maintenance plan, customers' vehicles can easily last upward of 250,000 miles or more.

“Let’s say you have a vehicle that’s an all-wheel drive, and it’s got a timing belt, and you do 5,000-mile interval oil changes,” Schedin says. “That vehicle, over the life of the car with the real maintenance schedule, will give you about four hours per repair order. And that’s not repairs, that’s just pure preventative maintenance.”

“What it takes to shift hours per repair order is not what you say to the customer, but more importantly, how you say it,” Schedin adds. “Hours per repair order is not necessarily related to be a better inspection process, though a better inspection process can impact it.”

In order to determine the hours per repair order for your customers and effectively sell them the maintenance that will get them on the road safely, Schedin and director of training at RLO Training, Barry Barrett, lay out what it takes to reach the customer effectively.


Find Your Number.
Determining your current average hours per repair order can be done using previous maintenance jobs, Barret says. According to him, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

“I want you to go get the last 10 ROs that the technician touched—and they have to be 10 in a row,” Barrett says. “And then divide by 10 and get the average.”

Barrett says a good benchmark at a shop is to hit at least three hours per repair order.

“If you do a quality inspection, you will find six hours of repair on average,” Barrett says. “If you have an average salesperson [at your shop] that’s decent, you’ll sell about half.

“It’s not as scientific as it can be, but it’s pretty based on that.”

More often than not, Barrett says customers are coming in with cars millaged at 50,000–80,000 miles. Because of that, diagnostics are typically needed, which will help produce a more thorough inspection, and thus, more hours.

“Getting there is not difficult,” Barrett says.

Navigate the Conversation.

While a customer might not have come in for more than an oil change, there could be further issues that need to be addressed in order to keep his or her vehicle in working condition. When preparing a repair order, it’s important to focus on transparency, but also the importance of circling back around to what a customer is there for: safety.

According to Schedin, the strength of the service advisor’s presentation is going to determine how much of a repair is sold.

“An A-level advisor, on top of their A game, presenting everything from preventative maintenance to diagnostics, is going to close about 70 percent,” Schedin says. “We never get it all, but 70 percent is a really good closing ratio.”

In order to inch closer to a 70 percent closing ratio, Schedin lays out steps on how to properly control the narrative when selling a repair to a customer:

Step 1: Focus On Customer’s End Result.

According to Schedin, focus all of your attention and verbalize to the customer what he or she wants at the end of the repair: a safe, reliable, dependable car, and, ultimately, peace of mind. Schedin recalls a prior lesson he learned from a coach about how to speak with the customer:

“If you’ve got a repair order that’s $500–$1,000, say, at least three or four times, some sort of form of, ‘safe, reliable, dependable, peace of mind,’”  Schedin was told. “The focus is not on the dollar, what parts, the structure of the fluid. What’s really important is that they hear ‘peace of mind,’ because that’s what they want to buy.”

Step 2: Do Not Stop on Dollar Amount.

When selling the customer’s repair order, it’s essential to not pause after revealing the dollar amount that a repair might cost, Schedin recalls.

“[The coach] said, ‘When you know in your conversation that you’re coming to the dollar point, take a breath before the dollar amount, do not stop on the dollar amount, do not take a breath, and go right by it,’” Schedin says. “End the sentence as far away from the dollar amount as possible.’”

In doing so, customers can learn the dollar amount early on, followed by the explanation of how the repair will improve the vehicle and provide safety and reassurance for the customer.

Step 3: Incorporate Evidence.

Viewing what needs to be repaired can allow a customer to develop a better understanding of the repair’s importance to his or her vehicle. Schedin says digital inspections can help provide further evidence of the necessity of a repair for a customer.

“I’ve seen an increase in the shops that I’m coaching. They’ve increased their hours per repair order, their closing ratio is now higher [because] they are actually closing more with a digital inspection,” Schedin says. “I really like them because it gives the advisor more pictures to sell and it creates value.”

Step 4: Let Customers Know What 'Yes' Means.

Once the customer chooses which repair he or she would like to have done, it’s important to go over what the repairs will result in, Schedin says.

“When a customer says ‘no,’ your job is to let them know what they said ‘yes’ to,” Schedin says. “Broaden their scope of just getting from point A to point B. What’s point B in 48 months from now?”


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