The golden egg: selling preventive maintenance

Jan. 1, 2020
Preventive maintenance can be the vehicle to capture loyal clients and sustained profitability in the repair industry. According to Charlie Polston, customer retention and profitability consultant and senior instructor at BG University, a division of

Preventive maintenance can be the vehicle to capture loyal clients and sustained profitability in the repair industry. According to Charlie Polston, customer retention and profitability consultant and senior instructor at BG University, a division of BG Products Inc., being a professional in the service industry is dependent on the approach: clients, not customers; a practice, not a shop or business; and employing service advisors who not only have expertise in products and services, but who are trained in effective communication with clients. Keeping these best practices in mind, distributors can use a variety of methods to help their professional customers succeed in selling preventive maintenance.

Polston says current statistics show there are 50,000 fewer service bays today, yet 40 million more cars on the roads. Moreover, there are more than 100 million vehicles out of warranty today and more coming. Polston adds that, according to numerous consumer surveys, customers rate service quality and convenience factors over price when choosing a service provider.

Selling is a profession

Changes in vehicle technology, such as the emergence of more diesel and hybrid powertrains and the rollout of ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) in fuel stations, bode well for independent service providers. Selling is a profession Developing and training a sales team capable of capitalizing on today's and tomorrow's market conditions requires both awareness and commitment. Advise your shop customers to establish a cohesive team, composed of a service "sales" manager, service "sales" advisors and maintenance awareness consultants. Effective selling skills and the implementation of effective relationship programs and processes really deliver, says Polston, who adds that each position should have a clear job description.

In addition, creating a preventive maintenance menu of services provided with a brief description explaining the benefits for vehicle owners and posting it where it is readily seen can improve awareness and even create business or questions that initiate education. Assisting your customers with this task can help them eliminate the "I didn't know you did that, too," perception from vehicle owners.

Asking for the order

Remind shop owners that seeking permission from a vehicle owner to take samples of all fluids creates several preventive maintenance catalysts. Rather than just doing a multipoint vehicle inspection, the aforementioned tip creates an opportunity to educate consumers.

"No vehicle should ever leave a shop without the service advisor ensuring the client is advised of repairs affected and needed, and the scheduling of an appointment to do so," says Polston.

Likewise, rotating tires means checking brake wear and tire tread depth — just two of a host of opportunities that can lead to increased trust and loyalty.

Speaking in the client's language rather than technical jargon is also essential, Polston asserts, and is something technicians and service advisors should keep in mind.

Knock three times

Polston says there are three outstanding preventive maintenance opportunities today that you should encourage your independent customers to act on: checking fluids for service needs, fuel induction systems clean-up service and diesel injection service.

Fluids analysis can point to serious breakdown potential, or even certainty. For example, a brake fluid check can identify a risk of ABS malfunction. Alternately, a power steering fluid flush can correct hard, erratic steering or "morning sickness," where a vehicle delivers a stiff response when the system is cold.

All gasoline is not equal. Fuel induction system service — a cleaning of the entire fuel delivery system — can increase overall performance and power, as well as improve fuel economy.

Finally, the advent of ULSD and complaints of poor weather performance using biodiesel can combine to create service opportunities as well. For example, wax particles can pass through cold filter pumps, says Polston, and agglomerate and gum up the filter matrix.

Here are additional suggestions to help your professional customers obtain their share of the maintenance work:

  • Help repair shops differentiate themselves from the competition: They need to give vehicle owners reasons to do business with them and to come back.
  • Advise them to look clients and prospects in the eye: Professionals need confidence and a commitment to being more than average. Above-average shops will let vehicle owners know that preventive maintenance is just like preventive health care — it's the key to longer vehicle life and performance.

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