Although you may not be able to change prices or give the customer everything he or she asks, keep this one thing in mind: the service advisor's job is not to do the impossible, but to make the possible happen.
While not everything is negotiable, some things are. This depends on the authority level you are given by management, but terms beyond the price - such as a loaner vehicle, expedited repairs or parts ordering, and more are - often within your control. As an advisor, you need to learn negotiating skills to build customer satisfaction. It's not an "if" question; in fact, it's not a question at all.
To be a more effective negotiator, you must understand and apply some key principles . Not having a working knowledge of negotiating is almost a sure guarantee of failure. Unless you are somewhat versed in negotiating practices, you stand a far lower chance of helping the customer.
Here are six ideas that will help hone your negotiating skills:
1. Be prepared. There is a rule of thumb in negotiating: "The best prepared party gets the biggest piece of the pie." Dig for the facts. The more knowledgeable and prepared you are, the better the solution you will create. Review what you already know about your customers. What will they ask for and what concessions will they make? In what ways are they flexible? What matters to them more than price? How are you able to overcome the price issue and demonstrate real value to the customer?
2. Rehearse. Anticipate and prepare for as many predictable responses, obstacles and objections as possible, and prepare your response in advance. Role-play with another service advisor, preferably one that has gone through the same types of objections you hear.
3. Reinforce continually. Reinforcement builds the type of confidence you want in the other party. Once customers see your confidence they are more trusting of your decision and advice. One way to guide a customer toward this confidence is to let him or her reinforce what you're saying. Try ending your statements with a question that requires reinforcement, and that you ask authoritatively, such as: "Did I explain that clearly?" "Does that make sense to you?" "Do you agree?"
4. Avoid arguing. It creates defensiveness that works against you. Do what will work for you, but don't become too emotional. A disciplined negotiator avoids arguing and confrontation. Don't interrupt, even to correct. Remain cool and thoughtful. Try to define the areas you are in agreement with and build on that. Remain pleasant no matter how nasty the situation gets.
5. Overlook the customer's side tracking. While we all have sympathy for those struggling financially, it really doesn't change the fact that their vehicles require repairs. Don't let that distract you from listening to what is being said. Handle the problem with a calm, rational, "Let's solve this problem" approach.
6. On the service drive there are only two possibilities: win/win and lose/lose. The win/lose scenario is a deception. When you win and the customer loses, it's a double loss. You may close this ticket and book crazy hours, but you will likely never write another repair order for this person again. Focus on win/win. It builds the relationship and feeds customer loyalty.