How not to spook your customers with a long repair list

How not to spook your customers with a long repair list

How do you explain a long list of repair recommendations to a customer without looking like you’re being greedy? Try this proven method.

It’s a familiar story: a customer comes in for a service but, when you check over the vehicle, you discover a long list of jobs that need doing.

How do you explain this to the customer without looking like you’re just trying to empty their wallet into your bank account?

Below are our six tried and tested tips to help you communicate a long list of repairs to a customer without spooking them. You might already be using some of these tactics; others might be new ideas that will help you (or your team members) improve your approach.

Get this right and not only can you avoid spooking the customer, you can even build trust and loyalty and create a customer for life.

Here are our tips:

1. Seek the customer’s permission from the start

Breaking the news to a customer that they’re going to need to spend a lot more money to make their car safe or prevent future problems can be a delicate situation, so you have to approach it the right way.

Try saying something like: “The service went well and your car is in pretty good nick, but our detailed safety inspection revealed some important items that we need to bring to your attention…”

This way, the customer is made aware of everything that needs repairing. And by getting the customer to share some of the responsibility for maintaining a safe vehicle, you are creating a trust that may well keep that customer on your books for life.

2. Prioritise the service and repair list

Next, prioritise the repair list ­– but remember to keep the customer in the decision-making driving seat.

Try saying: “Can I work through these with you, and then we can prioritise them to suit your time and your budget?”

With this approach the customer still feels in control of the situation. Their defences are down, and the atmosphere is conducive to working together through the list of future repairs.

3. Work with the customer’s budget

At all costs you want to avoid the customer thinking you’re just trying to line your own pockets by recommending unnecessary work. Mentioning the magic word “budget” in the question above leaves the customer with the impression you’re not motivated by greed.

4. Always prioritise safety

In the prioritising process, safety must always take precedence over other (preventive) service work. This isn’t just an obligation on your part, it also convinces the customer you really are on their side.

Having said that, you must continue to stress that preventive maintenance is always the best policy.

5. Take time to explain the necessary repairs

Take the time to explain what each repair item does, why you are recommending it and what the benefit will be to the customer.

There are three key reasons why customers will authorise repairs or maintenance on their vehicle. Use one of these reasons for each recommended repair:

  • Safety ­– If not carried out, the safety of the individual and their family is at risk
  • Future cost ­– If not carried out, further damage may result, costing more money in the long run
  • Reliability – If not carried out, the reliability of the vehicle is compromised.

6. Discuss a time line for the work to be done

If the customer is on a strict budget and opts for certain items to be put off, you should still discuss a time line for them to return with the car.

If you merely accept the declined work without giving any thought to getting the customer back, you have just told the customer that what you recommended was nothing more than a suggestion, and not that important. 

What to do next

By following the method above you create trust with the customer and increase the likelihood they’ll give you permission to go ahead with everything you’ve recommended.

Even if you’re comfortable you’re presenting long repair lists well, don’t forget to train any staff who interact with customers about repair lists to do the same.

Taking some time now to look at how you’re doing your service calls, and looking for ways to deliver the message to customers more effectively, is a relatively small investment for what could be a lifetime of customer loyalty.

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This article was published 20/07/2020 and the content is current as at the date of publication.