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Estimates, quotes, and the CARE method.

Service advisor answering phone
Article Highlights:

  • Customer expectations for estimates are shaped by daily transactions
  • 4 strategies to deliver value and outshine competitors when pricing service

Your customers are comparing their dealership experiences to those with Amazon and every other simplified, digital purchasing experience they have. That’s the reality as we approach the end of 2019.

Dealerships are starting to understand the consequences of failing to meet rising customer expectations. Digitization and personalization throughout the car-buying process are trends on the rise, but there’s one area that I still see as a sticking point on the road to a seamless customer experience: the service estimate process.

Too often, customers calling in for an estimate deal with long waits, multiple transfers, and estimates that don’t end up matching the price on the invoice. Compare this with the one-click checkout of Amazon, the ease of using Apple pay, or the estimate process at the local Midas, and you can see why this crucial part of the service process impacts CSI.

Granted, you don’t need to offer a better experience than Amazon – your customer probably won’t ever need a quote for a new set of headphones.  At the end of the day, you need to be the best option among your direct competitors – like Jiffy Lube, Pep Boys, Midas, independent shops, and other dealerships. When customers call for estimates, they often call multiple businesses. That means if you can’t provide an exceptionally simple, accurate, and quick experience, you’re likely to lose their business.

So how do you get there? Use the CARE method to evaluate and improve your current process:

  1. Complete a competitive analysis

How can you beat the competition if you don’t know what they’re doing? One of the best ways to perform this analysis is through mystery-shopping. Call up a competitor as a customer looking to get your car serviced. Time the process, take notes on how many times you have to repeat information, and count the number of times you get transferred. Call back again and speak with a different service advisor. See if you’re given the same estimate each time.

  1. Ask for the business

Frequently, I call in to service departments to get a quote on a repair; and I’m shocked that once they deliver a price, they let me hang up without asking to schedule my appointment to get the service done. If you’re not asking for the business, you won’t get it. If you offer a presumptive close for the appointment, you’ll increase your business immediately. (“When would you like to come in for that alternator, Mr. Smith?”)

  1. Run live tests

One great way to check your own process is to call in and see for yourself what it looks like in action. Just like mystery-shopping a competitor, calling into your own dealership and going through the estimate process will give you a glimpse of what your customers are experiencing. Are your people professional? Is the estimate process quick? Are there any transfers? Did they ask for the sale? It’s important to know how your current process deviates from your ideal process so you can pinpoint areas to improve on.

  1. Evaluate your tools

If during your tests, you find out there are multiple transfers, the customer is waiting more than a few moments to get a quote, or the estimated price doesn’t match the invoice, it’s time to look at the pricing tools you’re using. Can your tool compile parts, labor, fluids, hardware, taxes, and any other costs into the quote a customer receives to ensure the quote matches the invoice? Can it pull that information in seconds to get the customer a number quickly and eliminate transfers (like your competition)? If not, it’s time to move on to one that can.

That’s it. The CARE method. Four simple steps to ensure you’re offering customers quick, accurate quotes on services they will get performed at your dealership rather than timely, incomplete estimates. If you can make the quality of your process a switching cost for your customers, you’ll drive retention and boost CSI.

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Product Planning, Reynolds and Reynolds

Cory Coler is a member of the fixed operations product planning team at Reynolds and Reynolds. He began his career in the automotive industry in 2001 at a Toyota retailer, becoming an ASE Certified Advisor and Toyota Certified Assistant Service Manager. In 2005, he joined Reynolds’ Service Price Guides (SPG) department in Tampa, Florida and quickly became a subject matter expert for the product. In 2014, he transitioned to his current role in Product Planning where he is responsible for the enhancement and design of several fixed operations applications.

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