It’s been 20 years or so since I worked at Tom’s Automotive. It was a small independent shop and a great place to start an automotive career. Every day was a chance to get a few hard knocks and learn some valuable lessons from veteran auto pros.   

One of those lessons was the power of “Show and Tell.”

Showing customers worn parts and actual vehicle issues isn’t a new thing brought about by newfangled technology. It’s been around for as long as technicians have been trying to explain the value of the repair they’re suggesting, which probably goes back to the Ford Model T. Back at Tom’s, we had a bin for every RO we worked on, and any parts we replaced on a car would go into that bin. When the customer came to pick up their vehicle, we could bring out the bin and show the customer the worn parts. Simple, right? This was a good strategy because it was at times difficult to explain a service over the phone, or even in person unless you could show that part. It’s a visual thing and most people believe what they see, especially when they don’t understand something.  

People Buy with their Eyes – Not Their Ears

The same is true today. If anything, digital information overload has caused people to become more confused and less trusting. People’s general feeling of being overloaded, combined with busier lives, makes time-consuming explanations less than ideal and Show and Tell more important. Old Tom would be happy about that because he believed in visual selling – something today’s technology is extremely good at doing.

Think about how you use the approach today. Many repair shops have realized that as valuable as “Show and Tell” is at the end of the repair, you can increase sales upfront with a “Show and Sell” strategy. However, chances are, this technique is reserved for dirty cabin air filters, engine air filters, fluids exchange and more maintenance-oriented upsells. These are geared towards customers who are waiting in the dealership lounge. It’s effective, but it also has some limitations. For example, it’s hard to bring some parts out to the service drive: worn brake pads, leaking coolant components and worn wheel bearings. Today, some younger technicians are being inadvertently trained to only recommend items they can physically show, to only those customers who have decided to park it at the shop. As a result, customers who have gone back to work or anywhere that’s not the lounge are missing the valuable visual explanation and you’re missing an opportunity to easily increase the average $ per/RO.  

I can hear old Tom grumbling about that right now. Indeed, if I worked at his shop today, Tom would probably require the use of technology to drive Show and Tell. Here’s why:

  • Sending videos and photos expands the opportunity to connect and show the value of a service or repair no matter where the customer sits. Remember, it’s a customer service economy driven by right time/right place demands. So don’t assume that the guy or gal who came in for an inspection is sitting patiently and waiting. Chances are she or he is back at work or running errands. Yet getting in touch is as simple as if they were right there as long as you use the correct platform. In this case, a text message is most effective, it’s increasingly evident that voicemail is one of the least effective means of communication. In fact, eMarketing Sherpas found that the average voicemail call back takes over one hour but a response to a business text takes just 15 minutes.  If the customer is in the lounge, they are most likely looking at their phone while they are waiting. Use that opportunity to your advantage!

  • Using mobile technology to share the technician’s findings with the customer saves time and keeps the technician working on cars instead of running back and forth with worn parts. Wouldn’t we prefer to keep him at his workstation producing revenue and use the Digital “Show and Sell” method to present findings to the customers?

Using mobile technology is a transparent and friendly way to build customer relationships.

  • The advisors can spend a lot of time physically chasing down customers and may be shying away from presenting issues that they can’t physically show.  I am often in stores training advisors or technicians, and if I had a car at the shop, I might not be available for a phone call, but if I received a text or email with pictures and a clear recommendation, it would be easy to respond back and approve those repairs. I’m not alone: According to a recent study by MobileSQUARED, more than 90% of people read a text message within the first three minutes of receiving. It’s a strong indication that text or email gets through when voice communication gets blocked.

  • Showcasing all manner of issues is easier via digital images or videos. I recently watched a car wobble down the freeway; clearly, it had a worn rear wheel bearing. It was so bad that it made me want to capture video of the wheel and show it to the driver. If they could only see what I saw! Point is, noticing an issue and sending a video to drive home the urgency of the repair is a great way to turn “Show and Tell” into “Show and Sell”. Utilizing only the physical method limits our techs or advisors and may cause us to miss out on larger opportunities.

  • Using mobile technology to communicate needed service is a transparent and friendly way to build customer relationships. It gives the customers greater peace of mind. With digital images or video, they can show the part or issue to knowledgeable friends and quickly get a second opinion. One that will almost always agree with your assessment. It puts the power of knowledge into the customer’s hands. This leads to improved customer retention and stronger profitability.

  • Encourage your customers to download a service app, so they can save images and paperwork throughout the life of the vehicle. Most automakers offer an app for vehicle owners to use that will sync the vehicle’s VIN with its recommended service intervals and allow for added content such as receipts and images or videos. There are also third-party apps that offer many of the same features.

With all this technology, it seems as though digital Show and Tell is a guarantee to “yes.” But what happens if they say no? For most stores, that’s the last time the recommendation is brought up. Sometimes the next technician to inspect the car doesn’t even mention it again, a mistake that hurts sales and credibility. With electronic inspections, information is captured, and there are tools available that help you re-market back to that customer, reminding them of the services or repairs needed to keep their vehicle in top running condition. Also, when the customer comes in for the next visit, those deferred recommendations can be reviewed when making the appointment, during the check-in and again by the technician when performing the new inspection. That allows advisors or managers to take advantage of opportunities which helps to build credibility with the customer.

Digital Show and Tell is Really Show and Sell

Using digital images and video to show needed service is just the start of what technology can do in terms of showing a customer the true and urgent service needs of their vehicle. Today, software is available that accesses data from the VIN, dealership management system and automaker database. These all present the customer with a true picture of maintenance needs and status, from service history to recalls and maintenance intervals. In addition, many of today’s modern shops have tire scanners at the entrance of the drive or handheld units, which analyze tread and alignment before the customer even gets out of their vehicle. It may all seem like science fiction, but in fact, it’s what customers today demand: a complete picture, driven by data and delivered via mobile technology. It takes Show and Tell to a whole new level – one based on data.

Tom, my first service boss, might shake his head at the thought of such technology, but he’d surely have it installed once he saw the fundamental benefits of showing based on data, which increases credibility, trust…and increases the dollars per RO.

Ultimately, it’s all about leveraging the tools of the trade to create a better and more profitable experience. By showing the customer visual evidence of needed repair, no matter what the customer is doing, or where they are, you’re creating an accurate, credible and transparent story. That’s simply the best way to turn the old Show and Tell scenario into a more powerful “Show and Sell.”  

Ridge McCoy| Regional Performance Manager
Dealer-FX Group, Inc. More from Ridge

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