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  • Jamie Rogers

Warranty work - More opportunities to upsell?

I've worked in a number of roles within the automotive industry - from lowly teaboy through to management and company ownership, this also includes a stint as a service manager for a main dealer.

I know all the ins & outs of the service trade; the methodology, the pricing, timings, bonuses, wear parts ... everything right up to training techs to view a car as if they were looking to buy it with their own money.

The Inside Line

Despite what you may think, dealerships run a pretty tight budget, and they're under constant pressure to maximise profit and turnover, they'll never pass on an opportunity to do just that, so when a car comes in for work, the tech's are trained to pick up on every small detail.

In my life, I've had a rather eclectic mix of cars and motorcycles, ranging from super-nails through to some high-end sportscars, today however, I run around in a 10-year-old Honda CR-V. And I love it.

A few months back, my car was called in for some warranty work at the main dealer, I can't remember what it was, but it necessitated me being there for around an hour, I was happy to wait in their plush waiting area.

After half an hour or so, the service receptionist wandered over to talk to me, A4 clipboard in hand, inspection sheet clipped to the board ...

SR: "Mr Rogers, our tech has inspected your car, and we've notice that there are some items that we should bring your attention to"

Me: Go on

SR: "Well, your front tyres are pretty low, we'd advise replacement in the near future, the brake pedal rubber is wearing thin, and your front shock absorbers look like they need attention"

What they actually told me wasn't incorrect, but there was an element of ... optimism would be about the fairest way I could describe it.

Just for fun, I asked what sort of prices I'd be looking at to sort my car, the tyres were about double the price I'd expect a normal (ie, not trade) consumer to buy them for, the shocks were an unknown until "they'd been inspected" and the brake pedal rubber ... £17 + VAT + FITTING.

As the service receptionist was about to launch in to her spiel about safety, reliability and all manner of bunkum, I let her know my experience of cars, and that I used to be a service manager for a well-known group ... did she really want to continue the conversation?

The Outcome

Thinking about it, she hadn't told me anything wrong, but I do feel they'd been less than honest with me - my guess would be that a typical Honda customer would have signed up there and then.

It reminds me of the time when I was a workshop controller - we'd had an elderly customer come in with his old car, needing a new clutch. The service manager (my boss) quoted him for everything that he could, the bill coming in at around £700 and something, and yet the manufacturer had a 'wear parts' catalogue, designed to minimise bills such as this.

The service manager was adamant in that he saw nothing wrong with his behaviour - after all, all he'd done was quote for the job at full retail price and the customer had accepted. Legally, the manager was right, but morally?

I resigned the next day.

Long Term Customers

I believe that maximising profit is all well and good, and something that is a necessary evil, but I also feel that many dealerships lose sight of the bigger picture and put short term profit before long term stability.

Although specialising in digital content and copy, I work closely with my client's to understand their business, and any strategies that may help them to widen their net when it comes to new clients, it's surprisingly often that I see this sort of behaviour, and one that I'll always try and steer them away from.

Successful service businesses are built on solid service, trust and repeat customers, not short term money making.

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