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How Service Appointments And Reservations Destroy Customer Retention, Survey Scores, And Upsells

How Service Appointments And Reservations Destroy Customer Retention, Survey Scores, And Upsells

Jeff Cowan

In my workshops, I always like to have plenty of Q & A time so that I can address the real concerns that Service Advisors believe keep them performing at their highest level. One concern that never fails to be mentioned revolves around the issue of service appointments and reservations.

Typically, when your Business Development Center (BDC) or your Service Advisor sets your customer up with an appointment or reservation, the customer assumes it means the same thing as it does at a restaurant: when they arrive at the given time, their seat will be ready no waiting. Just as when they make airline reservations, they expect to be on the plane backing up from the gate at that reserved or appointed time. When you set up a reservation or an appointment for your customers, they have been trained by business, in general, to believe that the work will begin at the appointment time. No matter how many times or how well you try to explain to your customers what is really going to happen upon arrival, the mere usage of the words “reservation,” or “appointment” reinforces their belief that the work will begin at the exact time of the reservation.

This is a serious problem. According to what I hear from your Service Advisors, and based on what we witness when providing our training on your service drive, three-fourths of the customers your service staff work with every day have this misunderstanding at the initial write up. As your Service Advisors try to explain that the time set for the appointment was for the purpose of gathering information, the exchange with the customer quickly turns into an argument. Therefore the write-up and the relationship begin with an argument. An argument that your staff can’t win; an argument that takes about six minutes to resolve; an argument that only gets the customer thinking that what they were told was just a ploy to get them in and an argument that drives the mindset that you don’t do what you promise. Anytime you start out a relationship like this, you put yourself at a big disadvantage toward accomplishing the goals of customer retention, high survey scores and, the chance to acquire any necessary upsells.

The simple, easy solution to stopping this and turning it around is as simple as implementing the following two steps.

Step 1. In service, never use the words appointment or reservation again. Not verbally. Not on signs. Not in print. Not on line. Not anywhere. Appointment and reservation times imply an exact time that an event is going to begin. Check-in time implies that waiting will be involved. For instance, when you go to the airport you are encouraged to arrive two hours prior to check-in. Once you check-in, the next step is to wait for the reservation time when you will board the plane and take off.

From now on, you are going to start scheduling “check-in” times for your service customers so that after they check-in, they will wait for the appointed time set by the Service Advisor after they have had a chance to talk with the customer in person about their needs. In the customer’s mind, appointment and reservation times indicate that the event will commence at that specific time. Check-in time, however, precedes an appointment time. In the customer’s mind, check-in time refers to a preliminary period designated for the collection of information. After the information is given, an exact time for work to begin can be determined. Check-in time and its implications are familiar to customers.

Step 2. Now that we have replaced the words “appointment” and “reservation” with check-in time, the following word tracks are how you are going to explain check-in times to stop the arguments forever.

Word track one is to be said by your BDC or by the person scheduling the check-in time.

“Mr. Customer, now that we have established your check-in time for 9:00 a.m. tomorrow, allow me to take a minute to explain to you what that means and what will happen once you arrive. First, you will want to arrive as close to your check-in time as possible. Getting here early means you will have to wait and getting here late could result in you losing your place in line. Once you do arrive, your Factory-Trained Service Advisor will be ready with all of the information you just gave me. During the first part of the check-in process, they will go over all of this information to ensure that I wrote everything down correctly, to make sure they understand what your concerns are and to see if anything needs to be added to your list. The second step in the check-in process is when you and your Factory-Trained Service Advisor will walk around your vehicle to collect numbers off your vehicle and do a quick visual inspection. The third part of the check-in process is when it will be determined which department and which Factory-Trained Technician will be the one best suited to diagnose and repair your vehicle. That decision will be based on what you and your Factory-Trained Service Advisor discussed and saw during the earlier part of the check-in process. Once that is determined we will then look at the schedule for that department and Factory-Trained Technician and that will determine approximately when your vehicle will enter our state of the art shop.”

By using this one-minute long word track, I have fully explained to the customer exactly what to expect when they arrive, exactly what happens if they are early or late, and exactly what will happen and why. I have explained that the check-in time does not mean reservation or appointment. I have explained and prepared them to wait. Once they arrive prepared, the Service Advisor has two-word tracks to deliver:

“Mr. Customer, thank you for arriving on time to get your vehicle checked-in. Now that you are here let me explain to you what we will be doing to get your vehicle checked-in. First, I will be going over all of the information you gave us on the telephone to ensure that it was written down correctly, to ensure that I understand your concerns, and to add anything that needs to be added. Once that is done, we will both walk around your vehicle to collect some numbers off of it and to do a quick visual inspection. Based on what we discuss, and what we see during the visual inspection, we will select the department and/or Factory-Trained Technician that will be best suited to address your concerns today. Once that is determined, we will take a look at their schedule which will dictate approximately when your vehicle will enter our state of the art Service Department.”

After the Service Advisor completes everything as they said they would, they follow with this final check-in time word track:

Mr. Customer, now that we have reviewed all of your original concerns and done our visual inspection, I believe the department/ Factory-Trained Technician that would be best to diagnose and repair your vehicle would be ____.  Right now they are working on another customer’s vehicle, so it is likely your vehicle will be entering our state of the art facility at approximately _____.  Let’s give them about one hour to an hour and a half to complete your diagnosis, meaning you can expect a telephone call from me between ____ and ____ with an update on the status and findings regarding your vehicle. Fair enough?

By using these two-word tracks, which combined take one minute to deliver, you have done the following:

1.  You have started the relationship on an up note, not an argument.

2.  You have done everything to the letter that your BDC told them you were going to do.

3.  You have established the reality that when you say something is going to happen, it is going to happen. They can count on you.

4.  You have saved about four minutes at the write-up by being in control of your customer and the write-up itself.

5.  You have slowed the customer down giving yourself more time to build rapport and inspect their vehicle which will substantially impact customer retention, survey scores and your ability to get necessary upsells.

6.  The customer has been educated that speed is not the most important thing in getting their vehicle repaired.

It’s really that easy.  By changing your verbiage from appointment or reservation to CHECK-IN TIME, and by delivering these three simple word tracks, you will experience immediate impact and the arguing will end forever. I have always felt the best way to win an argument is to eliminate all possibility of an argument arising. You can always tell a great Service Advisor by the number of scars they have on their tongues from years of biting back argumentative words. The solution I have presented here will do two things; stop the arguments before they start and save your Service Advisors from acquiring unnecessary scars.

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