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Welcome to Auto Repair Estimating. These lessons are designed to provide you with the basics to Auto Estimating. I hope you enjoy the lesson. Donnie
Lesson 10 – Customer Sales and Service
For a repair shop to stay in business, the estimator must make the sale.
“The sale begins when the customer says yes.” ~Harvey MacKay
What This Chapter Covers:
This chapter covers how to create an environment that the customer will feel comfortable in and wants to do business with you, how to sell the job to the customer, and how to provide good customer service.
Why This Is Important:
An estimator must know how to sell the job to the customer to produce revenue for the repair shop and technicians. Once you have a customer, the estimator needs to know how to provide excellent customer service to keep the customer for their future body and paint needs.
Topics Covered In This Chapter Include:
• Making A Good First Impression
• What Customers Want
• Don’t Sell The Wrong Benefits
• Dealing With Angry Customers
• Good Communication
• Methods Of Communication
• Dressing The Part
• Explaining The Process To The Customer
• Don’t Judge Your Customers and Miss Sales
This chapter has been aligned with the following 2013 NATEF/ASE tasks:
•D:1 Acknowledge and/or greet customer/client. HP-I
•D:2 Listen to customer/client; collect information and identify customers/client’s concerns, needs and expectations. HP-I
•D:3 Establish cooperative attitude with customer/client. HP-I
•D:4 Identify yourself to customer/client; offer assistance. HP-I
•D:5 Deal with angry customer/client HP-I
•D:6 Identify customer/client preferred communication method; follow up to keep customer/client informed about parts and the repair process. HP-G
•D:7 Recognize basic claims handling procedures; explain to customer/client. HP-G
•D:8 Project positive attitude and professional appearance. HP-I
•D:9 Provide and review warranty information. HP-I
•D:10 Provide and review technical and consumer protection information. HP-G
•D:11 Estimate and explain duration of out-of-service time. HP-G
•D:12 Apply negotiation skills to obtain a mutual agreement. HP-G
•D:13 Interpret and explain manual or computer-assisted estimate to customer/client. HP-I
As an estimator, you represent the shop. The estimator is usually the first and main person the customer talks with and deals with during the repair process.
What the customer thinks about the repair shop (good or bad) will highly reflect the way they were greeted by the estimator. People form opinions quickly, so the estimator may only have a brief time to create a positive first impression.
When greeting the customer, introduce yourself and let them know it’s your job to help them during the repair process. The estimator may be accustomed to the repair process and forget that many customers are not familiar with it. This may be their first accident and first time being in this situation. Don’t assume they already know the minor details.
What Do Your Customers Want?
The estimator needs to sell the customer on the benefits, but don’t assume every customer will see the same things as a benefit. For example, we wash the car. That may be a selling point for one customer, but perhaps another customer already knows this service is provided at other body shops. Therefore, they don’t really see that as a benefit that sets your shop apart from the others.
How will you know what motivates your customer? It’s simple. You ask them . . . or sometimes just listen. Many times the customer will want to explain their situation to you. The absolute worst thing you can do is cut them off. Estimators may hear the same stories over and over, but if you will listen closely, the customer may say little things, which are their hot spot. For example, the customer may be quite concerned with how they are going to get to work while their vehicle is being repaired. If you have loaner cars, sell them on providing them with a car. Or they may wonder how you are going to contact the insurance company and rental company for them so they will not have to worry about it. But don’t make this your one and only sales pitch for every customer. Perhaps the customer has four other cars to drive. In that case, a rental car is not going to be a hot spot. So work on selling the benefit to your customers, but if you find a hot spot, make that your focus.
Don’t Sell The Wrong Benefits
I remember one time I wanted to purchase a new computer. I had already done the research and knew exactly what I wanted. I walked into the store with every intention to buy a new Mac computer. A salesman greeted me and asked if he could help. I told him I was interested in a Mac computer. The guy was nice and tried to be helpful and explained how Macs were much more expensive than many of their other computers they had in stock. He explained everything wrong with a Mac and kept suggesting different computers. What he didn’t know, though, is that I was already sold on the MovieMaker program Mac offers, and that was the main reason I wanted the computer.
He did not know because he did not ask. He was trying hard to make a sale, but I had to politely tell him that I was still thinking about it. I left the store a little confused . . . do I want a Mac or not? I thought about it for several days and decided to go ahead and purchase what I had originally intended. Fearing that this salesman may try to sell me something economical, I went to another store to make the purchase. I am sure the salesman sincerely believed that every customer’s biggest concern is the price. While price is important to me, my biggest concern was something else . . . that only a Mac offered.
The key is to ask customers questions and listen carefully. Let them know that you are sincerely concerned about their needs.
Make The Sale Early and Often, But Know When To Stop
Have you ever seen an auto estimator spend a lot of time generating a repair estimate, you know, going through all of these steps. Then when the estimator has it completed, he or she hands it to the customer and says, “If you would like me to schedule this, let me know so that we can order parts.”
I know I’ve seen that, and I’ve done that before. Don’t give them the opportunity to get away. Some repair estimates can consume a lot of time. Try to close the deal. You don’t have to wait until the estimate is completed to ask for the job. In fact, the estimator can ask the customer if they would like to sign the estimate to authorize repairs before inspecting a car. If your repair shop has loaner cars, ask the customer if they would like for you to get them set up with a loaner car or ask the customer if you can contact the insurance company to determine if their policy comes with car rental. There are many creative ways to ask for the job throughout the estimating process.
When the sale has been made . . . stop! Do not think you have to continue to sell every benefit your company has to offer. They are sold, and now they want service. If the customer authorizes the repairs, take your salesman’s cap off and put your customer service cap on.
The Angry Customer
Yes, the estimator will occasionally have to deal with an angry customer. In a perfect world, everyone would look at everything from a positive point of view, but we live in the real world. Every customer you deal with is already upset that they had an accident and have the added stress of dealing with the insurance company and the repair shop. The customer is uncertain of the outcome. How wil they get to work? Is the vehicle going to be the same? Regardless of their attitude, the whole situation is an inconvenience to them.
Most customers will appreciate the stellar customer service you provide for them, but some are not going to be happy regardless of how smooth the process goes. Realize that some people are just that way. Strive to provide the best customer service to them, but don’t take it personally if someone is upset. More than likely, they are upset about the accident and the inconveniences that come with an auto accident. A vehicle represents many people’s second-biggest investment, and an auto accident is stressful.
Some customers just want to vent. They want to share their pain with you. Many times after they get everything out and can see the estimator is concerned about their problems, their attitude will change, and they’ll become much easier to work with.
It is crucial for auto estimators to have good communication skills. The estimator will need these to sell the job to the customer, provide good customer service, and keep the customer, insurance company, and shop manager updated on the repair process.
If you learn that the vehicle is not going to be repaired on the promised date, let the customer know immediately so that they can rearrange their schedule. They may get a little upset, but if they show up on delivery day and then you let them know . . . it’s not going to be pretty. The customer may have made plans to pick up their car and go on a trip or something else, and now they are scrambling to figure out what they are going to do.
Methods Of Communication
To communicate with someone years ago, we had to be face-to-face or call them on the phone. That is not the case today. Nowadays, we can call, text, email, and communicate in many other ways. Everyone has a preferred method to be contacted. Be certain to get the different ways to contact the customer and ask them what they want you to do. One customer may consider texting impersonal and prefer a call. Others may be busy and on the go all the time and prefer a text.
Once the customer tells you their referred method, use it to keep them updated.
Insurance Claims Handling Process
The focus of this chapter is on providing good customer service, but most accidents will include an insurance claim. The estimator needs to have a basic understanding of the claims handling process. Remember that this may be a new experience for the customer, and they may look to the estimator’s expertise for answers.
Dressing The Part
If you are sick and go to a doctor, you would expect to see him or her in a white lab coat. You would expect a police officer to be in uniform, and it seems that a banger should be wearing a suit. My point is that every professional has a specific look, and customers are going to have certain expectations of how estimators present themselves.
Some body shops may have a certain dress code or provide company uniforms. If not, don’t forget to dress like a professional.
Explaining The Process To The Customer
It is the estimator’s job to explain the body and paint warranty the shop offers to their customers, consumer protection information, how long the repairs are expected to take, and the repair estimate.
There are resources and examples of the claims handling process, warranties, and consumer rights on the website for this book. Visit the resource section to learn how to access these resources.
The estimator must have negotiation skills to negotiate with the customer to agree on a mutual agreement and have the customer authorize and sign the estimate or repair order. The estimator may also need to apply negotiating skills when working with an insurance company or adjuster to ensure that the shop is getting paid for all of the necessary operations performed to the vehicle to repair it back to its pre-accident condition.
Don’t Judge Your Customers and Miss Sales
I think we have all been guilty of doing this, but we need to work on it. For instance, we may think a customer is getting an estimate for the insurance company so that they can pocket the money or go to a competitor. We may take a look at the vehicle and determine they will not want to spend the money or don’t have the money to have the repairs performed. For whatever reason, estimators may jump to conclusions at times and believe that this customer is a waste of their time. I am not saying that the estimator should try to capture every job, as some jobs may not align with your repair shop. For instance, your body shop may not perform restoration. The best thing to do in a situation like this is help them find a shop that will perform the work for them.
This reminds me of a story I heard from a man named David Dykes. One morning in 1956 a rough-looking guy walked into a Cadillac dealership in Tennessee. He was poorly dressed in dirty overalls, muddy boots, and was wearing an old hunting cap with his hair sticking out the sides. He walked around the dealership for awhile, but no one came to help him. In the meantime, the salesmen were just standing around watching him. They were waiting for him to leave.
He continued to look at the cars, though, so the manager finally told the newest salesman to ask the bum to leave. Instead, the salesman went over and asked if he could help him. The man asked a few questions about the cars, and the new salesman politely answered the questions. Then he asked, “Do you take cash or checks?” The salesman almost laughed but politely said that they accepted either one.
The fellow said fine. I will take a Cadillac in every color you have in stock. He was Elvis Presley, and the new salesman sold six Cadillacs that day. So, the salesman’s kindness paid off. And perhaps your kindness may pay off too. You may not accidentally sell a repair job to a celebrity as in this story, but you may make a sale. Perhaps the customer was planning to take the car somewhere else to have the repairs made, but with your sales ability, the customer decided to trust you and leave their car with you.