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Customer Service vs. Selling Service

“One distinction between sales and service jobs is that service employees typically help customers resolve issues proactively, whereas salespeople have to draw out buyer objections to a purchase and persuade them to focus on benefits.” 

(This is a quote from an article on interview techniques when hiring for a customer service position… )

Service Advisors don't actually "Hate" selling... they just think it's uncomfortable.

In the dealership Service Advisor role we typically expect both at the same time. At times this results in some push back from the Advisor.

So where is the emphasis?

  • Building Trust between the Advisor and Customer?


  • Selling the customer by overcoming Objections and focusing on Benefits?

It is not hard to imagine that doing both at the same time is difficult. If management does not understand that a successful Service Advisor has navigate this fine line of distinction, they often send the Advisor mixed signals.

“Sell More… But Make Sure your CSI Remains High”

Are these very different roles even compatible? At DealersEdge we think they can coexist, but not without some carefully guided instruction and training. Management must also have a better feel how these two roles play out on the Service Drive.

Filling both a Sales and Customer Service role can result in some serious discomfort about the job and what is expected by management. Service Advisors are not unique in this discomfort. People employed as Customer Service in other businesses  inherently believe that “selling” violates the very trust that they are trying to build with the customer. 

Customer Service Reps are on the front lines… and from that vantage point have the best perspective on how their selling efforts are perceived by the customer.

Management emphasis on “upselling” is often thought by the customer to be an over-reach by a dealership. They conclude that the dealership’s interest in them has more to do with taking more money out of their wallets than it does helping them to “resolve their problem.”

This is not always an over-reach, but customer perceptions are powerful influencers. And… customer perceptions often get transferred into the Advisor’s mindset and fears of rejection. That spells trouble for all involved.

Is it possible for Service Advisors to do both at the same time?

The Service Advisor is to be the Trusted Advisor to the customer when it comes to the care and maintenance of their vehicle. If successful, the Advisor will also be Trusted and the Customer will accept valid recommendations for today’s service visit, as well as return time and again for future service and vehicle purchases.

The job certain suggests that the Advisor would recommend maintenance or repairs that will enhance the value and durability of the customer’s vehicle. So where is the fine line between “Advising” and “Selling?”

If Management and the Service Lane Team both understand how this dynamic works to their advantage, the whole dealership will benefit from the short-term and long-term results.

Don Tipon wrote about this all-important Service Advisor role in the “DealersEdge Guide To Service Advisor Success.”

Here is what he wrote:

Getting Customers to Come Back Over and Over Again

Successful completion for any single customer visit is the immediate goal. However, true success is winning the confidence of the customer so that you are their “source”… your name and phone number are saved to be used over and over in repeat visits. Here are some tips…

First, You Need a Little Self-Analysis About the Current Service Visit…

Ask yourself 2 questions:

  • How to you want your customers to feel about you and the dealership after having contact? Was the experience memorable, or just functional? If everything was exactly what they expected it was pretty much a non-event… like filling your car with gas.  If the customer was were not inconvenienced, it was a non-event. Your goal should be to surprise them with a level of service and concern that others are not likely to offer. Be special.

  • What do you want them to say to others about their service experience? We all know that if someone is unhappy, they are more likely to share that experience with others. Most do not comment on those things that went right. However, if you have surprised them and you were special… that too can end up being repeated to others.

Honoring Your Promises – Key to Customer Retention

The number 1 complaint on CSI surveys is that the dealership did not keep the customer informed. Start here to improve the Customer’s trust by adhering to a strict policy and practice with regard to the STATUS UPDATE. It’s really a big deal and it is a place where many of your competitors will fail. You can stand out in the crowd and be SPECIAL.

Status Update Time:

  • Everyone gets a Status Update Time

  • Use the Customer’s preferred method of contact (text, email, phone, etc.)

  • Keep in mind that it will take less time out of your day to reach out to the customer with an update, than it will to react to their voicemail messages when they come in. Set the time and stick to it, or even beat it (earlier).

  • Being proactive in this process keeps you in control of expectations

  • Contact the customer even if there is no progress to report. “No Progress” is a status and valuable information to the Customer.

  • Keep the Customer at ease by keeping them informed.

What Customers Expect:

Good customer service is NOT about how you deal with the Customer. It’s about how they deal with YOU.

He or She Expects:

  • To be treated with respect at all times

  • To be treated like they are important

  • To feel you understand their concerns

  • The work to be performed the right way… the first time

  • You to honor promises… especially Status Updates

  • All charges to be explained before beginning the service

  • Her or his patronage to be appreciated

  • To be thanked for coming in and allow you to service her or his vehicle

  • You to ask him or her about their future needs

  • To leave your Service Department wanting and expecting to return

The last impression your customer has of you and the dealership will stay with them until you get an opportunity to change it. Obviously if the impression is negative, that chance may never become a reality.

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