Overselling/Underselling and the Right Service Menus

Most days, I field a wide variety of questions from people in the automotive business.  Recently, there have been three questions on people’s minds:

  1. How do I know if I am over selling my customers?
  2. How do I know if I am underselling my customers?
  3. My manager/owner has a maintenance menu that does not match the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance menu. Which one should I use?

I have been asked these three questions no fewer than 150 times over the past few weeks – that’s no exaggeration. I am assuming that these questions are rising to the top because many of you are likely experiencing the same thing that the people in my organization are experiencing.  Since the onset of the coronavirus, customers are buying a lot more and are much easier to close.

I have a theory about this. The pandemic has changed the way people think and react.  What once seemed inconceivable, is now commonplace.  We are one news cycle away from having all airplanes, trains, busses, taxis, and rideshare services shut down.  Customers realize now more than ever before that their only mode of transportation could very well be their personal vehicles. Even though I do not realistically think that all other modes of transpiration will cease to operate, there are millions of people who are no longer comfortable with using any form of public transportation.  This has been the case for the past several months and it may continue for years.  This makes the personal vehicle invaluable to your customers.  They want the security of knowing in these uncertain times that at the very least, their vehicles will be fully operational, efficient, reliable, and safe.  This is one aspect of their lives that they can control. They know that to ensure that their vehicle is in optimum working order, all maintenance and repairs need to be done at the time of discovery.  That being the case, your customers are investing in their vehicles like never before.

With many service advisors experiencing this phenomenon, their numbers are jumping, and they want to make sure they are doing what is right for the customer.  As a result, the same three questions keep surfacing and the following are the answers that I think best address the current situation:

  1. How do I know if I am overselling my customers? You are not overselling, if you are offering your customers service based on mileage, the owner’s manual recommendations, what you physically observe on the walk-around, or based on what your expertly trained technicians see and find during their inspection and diagnosis.
  2. How do I know if I am underselling my customers? Also, easy. You are underselling your customer, if you are not offering what is recommended to be done, based on mileage and the owner’s manual. You are underselling, if you are not pointing out and presenting what you see when you perform the walk-around inspection. You are underselling, if you are not presenting everything that your expertly trained technician listed on their inspection/diagnosis sheet.
  3. My manager/owner has a maintenance menu that does not match the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance menu. Which one should I use? Both.  I have always advocated that a service center offer two menus and here is why. I see the printed owner’s manual as a minimum guideline on how you should take care of the vehicle. This should be the base from which you work.  For example, Arizona temperatures can exceed 110 degrees on a summer day and get no lower than 50 degrees in the winter.  A vehicle operating in that state would be maintained very differently than the same vehicle in the state of Maine, where highs in the summer rarely crest 79 degrees and winter lows drop below zero.

The two-menu technique is very simple to create. Here is how it is done:

  1. Create a print-out of each menu. Contrary to popular belief, printed material is still an extremely effective tool of communication.  Having something physical to hand to your customer is essential.
  2. The Owner’s Manual Menu should be taken directly from the owner’s manual.
  3. The Local Driving Conditions Menu should be designed and defined by your expertly trained technicians who work on vehicles that drive on the same roads, under the same conditions as your customers. Service advisors and service managers can have some input, but anything that goes on the menu must be supported by facts and not based on unsubstantiated opinions, or outside vender recommendations.
  4. Once you have the two menus, the following word-track should be presented:

“Mr. Customer, one of the things you will like about doing business with me is that I will always keep you informed. I will always explain to you what your vehicle needs at each visit, plus I will let you know what your vehicle will need at your next visit.  This ensures that you are always prepared and never surprised.

The way that I accomplish this is by always showing you two service menus.  The first will be what the manufacturer of your vehicle requires/recommends.  This information will be taken directly from your owner’s manual. At the very minimum, you should do what is required/recommend by the manufacturer.  This will ensure that your vehicle receives, at the very least, the minimum service it needs. This will also ensure that your warranty will remain valid. Of course, we would like to be your service center of choice, but should you decide to allow others to perform these services on your vehicle, make sure you keep your receipts. That way, should you have a warranty concern in the future, you will have proof that you completed the services as required/recommended and your warranty will remain in effect.

The second menu that I will show you is one that was created by our factory-trained technicians, who work on vehicles just like yours, that drive on the same roads, in the same weather and conditions that you do. You will see that when we compare the two menus, side by side, our factory-trained technicians will sometimes recommend exactly what the manufacturer does.  Other times, they may recommend services earlier or later than the manufacturer. At times, they may recommend something outside of, or in addition to what the manufacturer does. The thing to remember is that they are making the recommendations based on the vehicles they work on every day, that drive on the same roads, in the same weather and conditions that you do. This is the very same menu they use when working on their own vehicles.”

“The main difference is basically this, if you are only concerned about keeping your warranty safe and doing the bare minimum, then only do what the manufacturer requires/recommends. But, if you want your vehicle to be the most efficient, most reliable, and safest while delivering maximum performance, ride, and comfort, then you would want to do what our factory-trained experts recommend and do, based solely on what local driving conditions dictate. Allow me to show you both menus.”

By presenting both menus, you are showing your customer the complete list of everything that is available.  It is direct, professional, knowledgeable, and comprehensive.  This information will give your customer the ability to make truly fact-based decisions.  You are delivering world-class service by being thorough and well versed in what is best and possible for the vehicle.  You have their back and these days, that means a whole lot. The best part is that you are eliminating the possibility of being accused of dishonesty or shady business tactics.  Using both menus allows you to address not only the manufacturer’s recommendations, but also the issues that arise because of local driving conditions. You’re not leaving yourself open to looking like you are trying to oversell.  You are presenting fact-based options, which resulted from professional inspections and manufacturer recommendations and guidelines.  That is tremendously valuable to your customer and it will breed confidence and loyalty. By presenting both menus, you preempt any question of a service not being mentioned in the owners-manual. By presenting both, you have given the customer all the information that applies to their specific vehicle, accounting for the kinds of conditions it operates under.  They can focus on making confident decisions about what services to buy based on trusted information. Well informed decisions strip away their right to complain later. Beautiful!

Don’t overthink what you are doing. Follow the guidelines presented above, and you will not be overselling or underselling. Instead, you will be offering your customers only what they need based on the facts.

Your customers are willing to buy today at levels rarely seen in the past. You can and should be offering everything they need, every time they need it, based solely on the condition or mileage of their vehicles. That is world-class service. Don’t second-guess about what services to offer based on what you think they will or won’t buy.   Regardless of the reason for their visit, all they really want to know is, “What will it take to make my care perfect?”  Your answer should always be, “This much time and this much money.”  Nothing more, nothing less. If you follow the guidelines above, more than 70% of customers will commit both the time and the money.    That’s a win where I come from.

Keep asking questions.  I will keep answering. In the meantime, Keep Winning!

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