Auto Service World
News   June 29, 2023   by Adam Malik

When to ask those key questions of customers

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Timing, as they say, is everything.

Most service advisors know what questions they need to ask when a customer calls, often in a panic, to get their vehicle serviced. But when those questions are asked may be most important.

Asking the “discovery questions” will get you to understand the needs, wants and goals of the vehicle. “But there’s a right time and a wrong time to do it,” advised Rick White, founder and president of 180Biz.

Speaking at this year’s Midwest Auto Care Alliance’s Vision Hi-Tech Training & Expo, he gave the example of baking a cake. Before putting it in the oven, what would happen if you frost it first? Of course, the cake is going to come out a mess. The frosting may be the best part of a cake — but there’s a right time and a wrong time to put it on the cake.

“So we can do the right thing at the wrong time and get the wrong results,” he said during his session, Trust is the Real Currency. “The best time to have the discovery conversation with your clients is when they start the interaction.”

Say a potential client comes to your shop. But rather than you telling them what they should do with their car, ask them some key questions about what their goals are with that vehicle. As the service provider, you want to understand their wants, needs and plans. Chances are, the client has never had a shop take such an interest.

Similar to the cake analogy, you don’t want to start out by telling them you found a bunch of bad stuff in their vehicle. The customer will immediately have their back up against the wall thinking you’re going to use that information against them. After all, that’s the stereotype that’s out there of the automotive service industry.

“So we’ve got to make sure that we’re getting them to open up in a way that’s authentic and real,” White said.

It’s about creating a safe space. “Think about it: On a scale of one to 10, how scared is your client? 10. How fearful are they of being taken advantage of? 10,” he added.

They’re coming to you scared about the health of their vehicle. They’re upset. But the first series of questions a service advisor will ask is the make, model and year of the vehicle.

“That’s not the right way to do it. We have a logical way to talk to people and then there’s an emotional way to talk to people. If they’re coming at me emotional, I can’t talk to them logical. That’s like talking to someone who speaks Russian and English,” White said.

Connect with them first, White recommended. Talk to them as a human. Ask what the problem is and what they want from you. Reassure them. Tell them you’re doing to take great care of them.

“They’re going to be more receptive to your suggestions. Because more trust equals more influence. It’s going to be easier to get to yes. It’s going to be easier to get them to buy again,” White said.

They’ll get their back off the wall and be less concerned about protecting themselves.

“They don’t see me as adversarial. They see me as somebody that’s there to help them get to where they want to go,” White said. “That’s when sales is fun.”

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