Many business owners focus on their profit when something feels off, asking themselves how their automotive business can sell more. While this is a valid question, many often forget the impact that their everyday actions and procedures have on their sales and overall success.
Making more sales revolves around a few basic things. To quote Marcus Lemonis, it is all about people, processes, and products. Processes (and SOPs) are the way to ensure that what we know to be the right way happens. Once we derive a procedure for how to do something efficiently and train our people to follow the procedure, our team can’t be stopped, and those sales goals will be easier to meet.
What kind of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) should we have in the shop? There could be thousands of SOPs in your shop. Below are some of the highest leverage essential SOPs you need to have for sales success:
Quality Check-in Procedure
Quality Inspection Process
Quality Sales Process
Quality Repair & Verification Process
Quality Check-out Procedure
Today, we’re going to highlight the Quality Check-in Procedure and how it can help your automotive business sell more.
A Quality Check-in Procedure is a dual focus. It requires us to focus on the customer experience while also focusing on information gathering. Our customers, especially new customers, have less trust in us than we think. It is our job to help them to see that they can trust us during the check-in procedure.
First, we must understand the customer’s state of mind and understand what it is that they need. It is our job to provide an experience that is conducive to trust and proper exchange of value. Most customers come to us in a state of panic, fear, anger, frustration, irritation, or some combination of these. Their vehicle is in for maintenance or service, and it is inconvenient. Seeing you is just another chore to complete.
Sometimes people panic because they have had a poor experience in the past at your shop or another and they associate that same fear, anger, or irritation with the experience of coming to your shop. That whole dynamic is only amplified if they have some issue that they know needs correction. Now your customer must rely on or trust someone else to do something they do not know much about, did not prepare for financially, and could probably find better ways to spend their hard-earned money on.
To get the process started, we must use active listening techniques to quickly gauge how much the customer trusts us, and what we need to do to earn more. Active listening (or authentic listening) is paying attention to our customers when they speak so we may understand their point of view better. Take notes, so your customer does not have to repeat themselves. Be engaged in understanding what the customer says, do not be afraid to get clear if you do not fully understand what they meant. Repeat things back to the customer so they know you are listening to them. Steven Covey put it best to “seek to understand”. Our whole job here is to understand what the customer needs, where they are coming from, how they are feeling, why they are feeling like they are.
Part of the quality check-in procedure needs to focus on asking certain questions to better understand the customer’s frame of mind. Questions like: “What about this is important to you?” “How can I help to solve the issue?” These questions are calibrated questions. Calibrated questions are open-ended questions that primarily use WHAT and HOW. We also use information-gathering questions that focus on WHY and WHERE and are still open-ended. Open-ended questions are important for your procedure as they force someone to think about their answer and supply a unique response. This unique response is what we are after: information. Now it is time to use authentic listening strategies to build a rapport or connection with our client. Sales success depends on trust, and trust depends on relationships.
Body language, the cadence of speech, vocal tone, and pitch all play a huge part in trust. This is all what I call unspoken communication. This is where things you do, how you come across, and how you say things matter more than what you actually say. We must constantly be aware of our appearance to others and how they perceive us. Look people in the eyes when we are engaged in conversation. Stand with your shoulders square to your customer. Roll your shoulders back to open your diaphragm. Stand with good posture. Do not fiddle with your pen. Do not talk to the computer screen, talk to the person. Lean into the conversation. Eyebrows up, nod your head. Body language is an ever-changing language and is one of the strongest opportunities for people to connect.
Creating a quality check-in procedure for your shop should also include “starting with why.” If you are asking for information, first explain why you need it. This takes the confusion out of the conversation and eases the customer’s stress. So many of our customers have the question of “why did they ask that?” in their head, but never actually ask. By providing our why first, we control the narrative, and the customer will not make inferences as to what you really meant, or what you were really doing.
Towards the end of your auto shop’s check-in procedure, you should have asked all the open-ended questions, given the customer the reasons for those questions, attained their name and used it, and used good unspoken communication with the customer. Then, it’s time to verify that you have all the right information. This is good practice since you are only as good as your information, and it puts the customer’s mind at ease. They know that you have the right information and understand where they’re coming from.
When creating your check-in procedure, you should end it with close-ended, or tie-down, questions. These are questions that typically start with ‘can,’ ‘is,’ ‘are,’ ‘do,’ or ‘does’. “Do you see what I’m saying?” “Does that make sense?” “Is this the right information?” “Can you think of anything else we should add?” These questions all require a yes or no response and are specifically designed to solidify the information.
And that’s it, the most important parts of creating an SOP for a quality check-in procedure that will help your auto shop make more sells while building trust and value for your clients. Since SOPs do differ for every business, you can add or make changes to this process to fit your shop. Just remember that these are the key parts of a check-in procedure to build that foundation of trust that keeps clients coming back.
In my next article, I will highlight more of the essential Standard Operating Procedures that will help your automotive business win every time. See you then!
Director of Advisor Training