How do you tell a first-time client they need a laundry list of car repairs–without losing their trust?
Have you ever had a moment when you suddenly understand what it feels like to be an automotive consumer at the receiving end of a laundry list of repair needs?
I’m thinking of that first-time client, who comes in for a straightforward oil change and and is now listening—dumbfounded—as you run through a full-blown estimate for $2,000 or more of needed repairs and maintenance. Although they’re trying to comprehend it all, they’re like a deer caught in the headlights.
I had that moment recently at the dentist’s office. While the dentist clicked from one photo of my teeth to another—pointing out one cavity after another—my eyes glazed over and my mind began racing.
“How can this be? I’ve only had 2 cavities in my entire life.”
“Are you telling me the truth or being overly aggressive with your recommendations?”
“Why didn’t my previous dentist catch all this?”
“Should I get a second opinion? But then, I’d have to go through this all over again.”
And she hadn’t even talked about the cost yet.
So now, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of your customers, Michelle Motorist and Drew Driver. They’ve come to your shop for the first time, having been referred by coworkers. Michelle and Drew have both religiously changed their oil every 3,000 miles and rotated the tires every 6,000 miles, adding in an air filter here and there as it was recommended by the dealer or Jiffy Lube or the shop down the street. In other words: They believe they’ve done everything they needed to maintain their cars.
As the expert, you know otherwise. The transmission fluid is black. The fuel filter looks original. The timing belt is 10,000 miles overdue. And now you have to explain to these unsuspecting, first-time consumers what they need, why they need it and how much it’s going to cost.
How do you do that effectively? How do you cushion the blow? Not just the financial one, but also the psychological one. After all, they think they’ve been maintaining their vehicles. And how do you do all this without losing any trust they have in you?
Here are our recommendations for turning this potential one-and-run into a repeat, loyal client and chalking this up as a one-and-run:
- Tell your client what to expect. Be upfront with them and explain that your technician will thoroughly inspect the vehicle for maintenance and repair needs. Explain why you do this: Taking a proactive, pro-maintenance approach saves them money in the long run vs. taking their chances with an unexpected breakdown. If you typically find a lot of legitimate recommendations, it’s also worth letting them know up front that your shop is more thorough than many other shops, and you may have more recommendations than they’re used to.
- Remember that “seeing is believing.” Find a way to show your clients why you’re recommending services or repairs to them. Many shops are successfully using Digital Vehicle Inspections (DVIs) to photograph and thoroughly document what they’re seeing on their clients’ cars. A picture truly is worth a thousand words. Even if the consumer isn’t entirely sure what a good rotor looks like vs. one that’s scored and pitted, making the photograph available to them goes a long way to gaining their confidence. If you’re not set up yet for DVIs, you can certainly snap a few pics with your cell phone, email them to your clients and explain over the phone what the pictures are showing. And for clients who are waiting at the shop, taking them out to their vehicle is a perfect way to show what you’re recommending and why.
- Prioritize what your client needs. It’s no secret that consumers like to feel like they’re in control of the decision-making process, and they don’t like the hard sell. When you do have a laundry list for them, work with them to prioritize what they absolutely need now (safety items), what should be done in the near future (overdue maintenance that could lead to expensive repairs) and what should be put on the watch list (upcoming maintenance). This helps them feel in control of the situation, and if done right, shows you are on their side, working with them and working within their budget. All of these are huge wins when it comes to fostering client loyalty.
- Sympathize and take your time. We all love the “quick sale,” the client who says, “Just take care of everything and call me when you’re done.” But for the other 99.5 percent of our clients, you can earn their trust and future business by carefully answering all of their questions, sympathizing with them and not rushing through the transaction.
Although these are our top four recommendations, we know there are many of you who figured out the secret years ago. We’d love to hear what methods you use in your shop to win the trust of your first-time clients.