Service writers do a lot of things.
They answer the phone and greet your customers. They master dealership technologies. They cross-sell and upsell. The list goes on and on.
But, of all the things they do, the most important is managing the relationships with your customers — and that’s not an easy job.
Communicating customer needs and complaints to technicians and delivering updates to customers, for example, can sometimes require heavy-duty translation skills. “My car is making a whirrrrr-thunk-thunk noise when I turn on the air conditioner” is probably not a checkbox on your intake form.
Yet they do it, and they do a great job of ensuring your customers’ service needs are properly looked after every day. The best of the best keep your service customers coming back, offering upsells, cross-sells, and more.
Service writers have a unique ability to handle these hard-to-measure parts of your business. But how do they do it?
Encouraging loyalty, ensuring comfort, and delivering convenience are skills that are hard to master — requiring spot-on interpersonal skills, communication, and action. All of which need to be supported by a team that pays attention, takes things seriously, follows up, and delivers.
When it comes to your service writers and your success, you want your customers to:
- Like them
- Trust them
- View them as experts
So, we’ve provided a few ideas to increase sales and satisfaction in your dealership service department with these tips for training top-notch service writers. Here’s how to get your customers to:
1. Like Them
Your service writer’s first sale should always be to sell themselves. Help them get their relationships started right with a friendly greeting.
Train them to smile, say hello, and introduce themselves to everyone who steps foot — or drives or calls — into your service department. Doing so will open the door for them to ask a question and start a conversation.
Common advice for breaking the ice includes:
Paying a compliment:
“I watched you drive up. Your smoked tail lights look really sharp.”
Asking an opinion:
“So, we got a new flavor of coffee last week. You’ll have to let me know what you think.”
“You seem a little lost. Can I help you find something or someone?”
Sparking up a conversation allows you to get on a first-name basis with the customer. “By the way, my name is Alex, and you are?” Now, the relationship is between “Alex and Jo” not “dealership and car owner,” which is a step that opens the door for a superior customer experience that starts to build trust.
Pro Tip: It’s never too early to start building relationships between your customers and your service department. Get our Sales-to-Service Handoff Checklist to master that all-important first intro with new buyers.
2. Trust Them
The best relationships are built on a foundation of trust. Break it, and everything falls apart.
Teaching your service writers how to gain the trust of your customers can take a little bit of work, especially if these habits don’t come naturally to them. The good news is, we’ve already covered the first step: a warm, welcoming greeting.
With that out of the way, here’s how to help your service writers get your customers to trust your front-line crew quickly:
- Teach them how to respond to questions and inquiries with genuine interest and compassion. This can mean consciously engaging and listening actively to what a customer is saying. It can help to repeat relevant information and answers back to them or ask questions for clarification.
- Taking notes is also important. Doing so will help to show your customers you care and encourage further relationship building.
- The final piece is to teach them how to handle objections and complaints with diplomacy. Nothing breaks trust faster than a non-response or combative attitude from a hot-headed, overconfident employee.
In our experience, reaching out in a personalized way — through the communication method your customers prefer (e.g. mail, email, mobile app, and/or text messages) — is a great way to reach customers exactly when they need you.
3. View Them as Experts
Despite not being the one turning wrenches, your service writers know a lot about the biz. Helping them present themselves as experts to your customers will convey that all of your staff are capable, knowledgeable experts.
The best thing you can teach them is how to control the conversation. They should begin by:
- Asking the right questions. Sometimes an open-ended question is the right way to go — like when you’re trying to understand a repair problem. Other times, a yes/no response will get you the information you need (without distraction).
- Focusing the conversation on the solution to the problem, not the price of the repair. Bringing price into the conversation too early can deter a customer from agreeing to the service that is needed or can cause them to seek out an alternative.
- Helping customers to ask the right questions. Often, customers don’t know what they don’t know. A skilled service writer will spot this and steer the customer — and the conversation — in the right direction. Thus, helping both you and your customer reach a solution faster.
The dealerships we work with put a lot of power in the hands of their team. For example, offering DriveSure’s vehicle maintenance benefits with every oil change shows customers that their team understands the inconveniences that can be associated with regular service and unplanned repairs.
Great service writers can drastically improve your dealership’s customer relations and profitability. After all, happy customers spend more with you and they tell their friends about their experience.
Setting your expectations during your training can get you most of the way. There are just two things to remember for getting it all right: be consistent and at the end of the day, let your service writers be themselves.
If you want to learn more about how you can help your service writers create lasting relationships with your customers, get in touch.