Broski: The Phrase that Pays

Oct. 11, 2022

Here are 15 phrases service advisors can use to wipe out auto repair stress for customers, and to put a smile on their faces instead.

15 service advisor phrases to remember 

Years ago, a lady customer limped in her older Porsche into our Porsche repair shop. We had done some work on it a month earlier, but now she had a new problem. I could tell she was very concerned about whether she could afford the new work. I calmly and reassuringly said, “We’ll take care of you.” Her tense shoulders relaxed considerably. I thought to myself, Wow, I’m going to remember that phrase. From then on, I made it a point to remember the phrases that had a similar effect. I’ve got a partial list below to get you started creating your own list. Heck, think back to phrases that worked for you in the past. Soon you will have a list that will come to mind when needed to calm some tense situations or just make your customers smile.  

I called a customer to tell them the final amount and that their car was ready for pickup. I added, “Your car is happy again.” There was a pause, and then they broke out in laughter—another phrase to remember. 

I called a vendor, and we exchanged the usual opening pleasantries for a while. The guy eventually said, “How can I make your day better?” This time, I was the one who paused and laughed. What a great line! Add it to the list. You can even share the fun replies you get from customers. Such as after I said to a customer, “How can I make your day better?” There was a long pause he said, “Shoot me.”  

I chuckle at the usual reply to the traditional start of a phone conversation: “How are you?” It’s almost always followed by the requisite, “I’m fine.” I decided to mix it up one day. I answered the phone at about 11:30 am and got the standard, ”How are you?” I said, “I’m hungry.” There was a pause, followed by a big laugh. Oh, I’m on to something. It works every time. 

When a customer answers the phone with a cheerful hello, I say, “If I’m ever in a crumby mood, I’m calling you. In fact, I’m calling you tomorrow.” They love it! 

Once, a customer asked, “Do you take credit cards?” I said yes. They then smiled and asked, “Do you give them back?” (Maybe next time you’re asked that you can say something like, “Yes, but we don’t give them back,” or some variation.)

After explaining the overdue maintenance work needed on their car, I say, “Don’t you just hate cars sometimes?” When a customer’s car has more repairs than usual during the year, “That’s not fair.” 

A lady asked if we can take a check. She said she lost her credit card. I said, in a funky voice, “You want me to take a check from someone who lost their credit card?” Ha, ha. But be careful about joking about people’s money. I had one boss who said, “I’m going to fix your car no matter what it costs you.”  Eek. 

Phrases for Tough Calls

Ok, let’s crank up these phrases for the tougher issues at the shop.  

When a customer leaves but drives back 10 minutes later, don’t get nervous or wonder what went wrong. Be positive and surprised! Walk out, smile, and ask, “What did you forget?” 

How many times have you heard, “What do you charge per hour?” One shop owner I worked for would say, “I’d LOVE to charge by the hour. Then I can slow down and take my time.” Ok, sort of funny. Maybe say, “Since we diagnose quicker, we’re actually cheaper.” 

When a customer asks; “Do you use factory brake pads?” We answer something like this: “Porsche doesn’t make brake pads, they buy them. We use the same brand.” 

I know you’ve heard a customer say, “You guys just worked on my ____ and now my _____ won’t work.” I don’t know how many times I’ve said, “This is a coincidence business.” 

If I’m going over a customer’s additional work needed, and they cut me off to say no to something, I say, “Hang on. Let’s go over your whole list so you can make a better decision.” That makes it a group decision, both of us deciding what to do from the list. They feel like they have a say in it. It’s not just me rattling off what they need to do. 

Years ago, a customer looked around our lot and said, “You guys look slow.” I thought, darn, customers can read too much into that. Luckily a co-worker said, “Yeah, we’re finally getting caught up.” I love that!  

Phrases for Even Tougher Calls

Here’s a tough one: while working on a customer’s car, something breaks. That’s usually not a fun call. 

I start with, “While we were repairing your ______, the _______ broke.” Hopefully, it is an old, heat-fatigued plastic part. I add, “The good news is that it happened here. Can you imagine if it broke while you were driving it?” Of course, I used the phrase; “I’ll take care of you.” 

When a customer wants to decline some maintenance work, I remind them that if they scrimp on maintenance, the eventual new buyer will wonder what else you cut corners on that they can’t see. That is, it will cost you money when you sell it. 

(Side note: I answer the phone very cheerfully. A customer said she now knows that everything is good. I believe it shows we're a positive place to get their car serviced and repaired.)

My intent was to share some of the phrases I use that work very well, which you are welcome to use, but mainly to inspire you to create your own list of useful phrases. 

About the Author

Victor Broski

Victor Broski has more than four decades of experience in the automotive repair industry. He worked at five different German car repair shops, learning something from each. As a service advisor with a degree in speech communication, he figured out how to easily get customers to say yes to the additional (DVI) work and be happy about it. Victor learned that great customer service brings great customer reviews, which brings inquiring phone calls that convert to new customers.

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