Service consultants are the front-line representatives of a dealership service department and face a range of challenges in their daily interactions with customers. With an earning potential well into 6 figures and no degree required, a service consultant is positioned in the nation's top 15 percent earning bracket! This article will explore some of the required attitudes to be a successful service consultant. We will also discover resolutions to the most common customer complaint about service consultants. Buckle up and hang on there is a lot of information coming your way...Many of the principles in this article are interpretations or adaptations from the Audiobook by Horst Schulze, Excellence Wins, 2019, Zondervan
First, it must be known and practiced that customer service is everybody in the entire dealership's job. If you do what the customer loves then the money will follow. This is not a job that you perform for your supervisors or managers, you do it for yourself and for the customers and because you love helping people. Proper consulting involves caring for people and not manipulating them. Your company should respect you and show where you are making an impact. Establishing a purposeful and trusting relationship with the guests is your ultimate responsibility. Every time a customer comes in it should be a positive experience and they know what to expect.
A dedicated service consultant does not do it just for the money. They embrace the opportunity to learn, to grow in their responsibilities, to contribute to others, and to be recognized for their achievements. Their drive to be the best does not settle for less. With proper support, vision, and company culture, the sky is the limit!
This position is extremely busy but also very satisfying. People skills, phone skills, typing, daily processes, and multitasking are all a must. Yes, I said it, mandatory and not optional! It is not uncommon for a service consultant to have a phone call coming in, a guest in front of them, an estimate to approve, another customer pulling in, and a technician waiting for directions simultaneously. There is a correct way and order to respond to each need and that response should become second nature. Acknowledging everyone, prioritizing their needs, and governing yourself as a professional is paramount. Below are several principles adapted to the car business that Horst Schulze references in his audiobook, Excellence Wins, to help you establish a cultural habit of wowing your customers!
1. The purpose of being in business is to create value and exceptional customer service. The whole dealership leads the charge.
2. Know your product’s features, benefits, and competitive comparisons.
3. Prepare for the guest's arrival to personalize their experience by knowing the customer's vehicle complaint, what was previously done on their vehicle, and what is likely due now.
4. Always give your guests your complete attention and focus. Relate to the customer as a person that means something and use their name. Don’t talk to your computer monitor or co-worker instead of the guest. The guest takes priority.
5. Always provide a warm welcome or fond farewell to every guest regardless of whose guest they were.
6. Answer the telephone within 3 rings and with a smile on your voice. Be sure to use a pleasant tone. Do not screen calls. Avoid call transfers and placing a guest on hold.
7. Take care and pride in your office. Be sure that all areas of your office are immaculate. This is a direct reflection of the perceived care you take with a customer's vehicle.
8. All forms of written or typed communication reflect the company image. Be professional with proper spelling and grammar. Don’t use tech or industry jargon that a customer cannot understand. Anyone should be able to pick up and read a final repair order and know precisely what was done.
9. Your appearance must represent the professional that you are.
10. Always recognize a guest within 10 feet of your person. Greet them with a smile and offer them assistance. If you are with another guest, then recognize the new guest with a good morning or afternoon to let them know you see them.
11. Always escort a guest until they are comfortable with the directions or make physical contact with the destination. Do not point. Pointing is not only found offensive but impersonal and unprofessional.
12. Be respectful of a guest's personal time and privacy. Unlike the excitement when they bought the car, they are not excited to be in the service department.
13. When a guest encounters a facility or happenstance concern during their visit, you are responsible for owning it. There should be much empowerment provided to correct it. Never blame something or someone. Own it and rectify it.
14. Be proactive in finding ways to delight and surprise your guest. Make it memorable. You should strive to make a lifetime customer with every guest.
15. As service professionals, we are always gracious and treat our guests and co-workers with dignity. For internal concerns, utilize the proper chain of command and channels. A good team will want to work together and resolve a situation. Never let the guest see anything but your happiness and willingness to serve them.
16. Be sensitive and adjust to the guest's style, pace, and situation. If the guest has an analytical personality style, then take the extra time they will need to explain all of the things they have done to address their concern as well as their hypothesis. The other things stacking up on your desk come second to the guest in front of you.
17. All associates assist each other by stepping out of their primary duties to provide outstanding service for our guests. There should be no “that’s not my job” Everyone works together to respect and achieve complete customer satisfaction. For instance, while listening to a long guest dissertation you have multiple completed repairs stacking up and other guests waiting, a team member should be happy to help. Do not shut down the guest. What they have to say matters.
18. All associates are responsible for identifying and immediately correcting imperfections before they affect a guest. Think safety. It is everyone's job. Think of a guest's perception of a vending machine in disrepair. It is everyone's job to create a place that a guest should want to do business with.
19. Suggested hours are guidelines, not limitations. Do whatever it takes to serve the guest. The reward will follow.
20. Be positive both inside and outside of work. You are an ambassador of your workplace. Attitude is altitude.
You must show extreme care to be a service consultant. There are daily processes and word tracks to assist on this journey. The number one complaint by customers is alarming and provides valuable insight into the needed training of our service professionals. There are numerous things that a service consultant is required to do. They spend the most time with the customers yet the number one complaint by customers is that the service consultant did not keep them informed about their vehicle.
Below are practical solutions to keeping a customer informed in the service department:
1. Establish if the consultant is uncomfortable with the conversation they need to have with the customer. If they are then teach them to overcome the objections or, in many cases, their own false perceptions.
2. Set a time-bound goal for customer follow-up and track progress toward that goal. The industry standard time is 10 am and 2 pm all guests are updated. This may not be the right time based on your demographic. Regardless, each shift should have an all-call time frame twice a day.
3. Utilize the CRM or DMS software to manage follow-ups. The call-back times for each customer can be color-coded at the pre-determined time in many systems, which allows for an easily identifiable follow-up call.
4. Teach consultants the importance of communicating with the customer when they said they would. Even if it is bad news or no news at all. When they dropped off the vehicle an expected time for a follow up was set. You can’t build trust by not doing what you said you would do.
5. Be sure that your team does not anticipate your customers' financial situation. The call must always be made assuming the customer has the financial means to pay for it.
6. Show your team the monetary gain that proper and timely communication will build by instilling value and trust which leads to having customers for life.
7. Role-play with your team to build a proper presentation, objection word tracks, and self-confidence.
8. Coach with clear expectations while setting performance metrics and performance reviews regularly. Tell them why it's important, empower them, and hold them accountable for the results.
As an experienced automotive industry professional, I have seen firsthand the importance of well-trained service consultants and their impact on customer satisfaction and profitability. A drop of just one percent on the employee satisfaction survey translates into an obvious decrease in the bottom line. It is imperative that you do not hire someone just to keep the day-to-day functions going.
The process of building great employees requires four things: (Schulze, 2019)
1. Initial selection
2. Inspiring Orientation
3. The teaching of specific job functions
4. Sustaining what was taught.
It is important to note that details of how to perform a particular job function come after the vision/mission statement of the company. Orientation should not be routine or something to be endured. It is to build a platform and create a focused, energized culture. A team that lasts. What do the people who work for you think of their work environment? When asked, do they answer with “we” or is it “they”? Your employees should feel like they are a part of something bigger and they should know exactly what that is.
Ten minutes should be spent each shift reinforcing every department's company vision/mission statement. Time could be spent going over some of the cultural habits I listed above. A better practice is to consider making a pocket card instilling your company values and goals and then providing it to your employees. Refer to the card in the daily meeting. Every employee at every level must be able to lift the company's values and culture and know what that stands for. (Schulze, 2019) You must keep reinforcing what will make you number one and everyone should know their part in it.
Managers push where leaders inspire. Lead your employees to want to be part of the overall goal. Great leaders hold great expectations that they will not compromise. Maintain focus and energize your employees to join you in your vision of the goal. Show the employees how you are going to achieve the vision together. Several dealerships I visit are like a car traveling without a destination. They have no vision of where they are going. They are just going.
After a customer purchases a vehicle from you, the service consultant becomes the face of your dealership. You can’t expect what you don’t inspect. What do the most customer-facing people in your dealership mean to your customers? Are they adhering to the expectations you have set or just taking orders and doing a job? Those who lead businesses and organizations are not in the numbers game they are in the people game working with customers, employees, owners, colleagues, and all others for the best possible outcomes. (Schulze, 2019) In the words of Simon Sinek, “Happy Employees Make Happy Customers and Happy Customers Make Happy Shareholders…Is the employee first and then the customer in your culture?
With a proven track record in dealership fixed operations maximization and customer service for over 25 years I can help. Don’t hesitate to reach out anytime at (813) 602-1964 or email me at email@example.com