Servicing for success – the benefits of upselling in the service and maintenance market
The annual or six-month service is the gold standard for customer touchpoints with the aftermarket. They offer the perfect opportunity for workshops to upsell for increased revenue. At the most basic level, upselling can involve offering items like wipers, filters, and headlight bulbs in a service. These relatively small items can have a big impact if competently sold. However, even though it may be in their best interest to purchase, customers can be adverse to upselling. Here we look at tactics workshops can use to increase their chances of landing a sale.
Have a Real Conversation
Often, technicians approach the upsell as a box to check at the end of the initial conversation, an approach that rarely imparts enthusiasm to the customer around the item or repair being presented. This method is very likely to elicit a refusal, as customers are often predisposed to say no to upsells even before entering the workshop. Also, at this point in the conversation customers are ready to end the transaction and seek to get out of a conversation they believed was finished.
To avoid this pitfall, technicians can come into the transaction armed with knowledge of what the customer needs, then present the upsell as part of the natural flow of the discussion over what service is likely to take place. This method relies on access to accurate customer, vehicle, and repair data, and in some cases requires a technician or front-of-house person who can pick up on when a customer is most open to additional sales.
In some cases, workshops are making use of email and text to pre-prime customers for upsell – which is increasingly being offered by garage management software solutions like Audatex PlanManager. Alerting customers to the value of additional work — such as AC (air conditioning) service — and suggesting that they raise it themselves at their next scheduled service increases the possibility of on-spec work presenting itself. It also makes the customer feel more confident about adding it to their service when a technician raises the point as they will have already heard about the item.
Don’t Sell Unnecessary Items or Repairs
Upselling can be a valid way for workshops to protect themselves should an older part involved in a repair fail later. Pointing out to a customer that a related part may be approaching end of life and suggesting it be replaced at the same time, reduces the chance the customer will return later complaining that a part failed after (or due to) the repair. For example – when carrying out repair work on a timing belt, it’s often worthwhile to suggest to the customer that the water pump be replaced at the same time, together with any guide pulleys outside of the belt kit.
However, avoid misrepresenting unnecessary repairs as necessary, or suggesting that a more expensive or extensive repair is needed. In some cases, larger workshops will have dedicated service advisors who are commissioned on upsell. This can lead to temptations to straddle the line — even though in some countries this type of upselling is unlawful.
The best practice is always to be transparent and clear to the customer when suggested services or advisory items are likely to be needed – or to lay out the benefits of a more extensive job where you recommend it. Avoid exaggerating the urgency of additional service items unless the vehicle is likely to become unsafe.
Potentially unlawful upsell:
“I’ve given your vehicle a pass, but I shouldn’t really have done it because the suspension bushes are really close to expiring. Why don’t we get these replaced today? It would cost an extra €200 on your repair, but it’s peace of mind for you.”
“Your vehicle passed the road safety test, but I just want to mention the suspension bushes, which are getting worn. These are safe to drive on, but I would recommend these be changed within the next 10,000 miles. If you’re planning to return here for your next service, I can make a note and offer a discount to have this carried out in six months.”
Ensure your vehicle-repair data is up to date
Each of the tips above rely on up-to-date vehicle data. Yet, the European Automobile Manufacturer’s Association (ACEA) reports that the average age of passenger cars in the EU is now 11.5 years, indicating customers are keeping their cars for longer. The Autodata workshop application — used by more than 85,000 workshops across the world — reflects this as well, having seen an increase in the average age of vehicles being repaired in workshops. In the last twelve months, the most frequently serviced model years were 2012 and 2015, with 2017 and 2010 the newest and oldest model years represented in the top ten. Weighted by pageviews, the average serviced vehicle in workshops utilising Autodata in the last year was over 11 years old.
As cars on the road today age, wear and tear often doesn’t fall where manufacturers originally expected. As manufacturers update their service guidance to reflect this, the information in the original service manual is no longer up to date. In some cases, the customers may not be aware that a particular service is now recommended by the manufacturer.
Workshops that don’t have an up-to-date source for service data could be missing valuable income as well as putting their customers at risk. It’s helpful to have an authoritative source to refer to, so Autodata sources technical information from 142 manufacturers and in 2020 we introduced a new module, Service Advisor.
Whether searching by vehicle registration or by model, the Autodata Service Advisor module brings together service data for a vehicle from throughout the Autodata product in an at-a-glance checklist that offers to the workshop an instant preview of recent and upcoming service items recommended for the vehicle. And workshops are seeing real value from the module. When comparing its first six months to the most recent six months, we’ve seen traffic to Service Advisor increase 15%, with a total monthly average now of over 200,000 views.
For a long time, the industry has seen upselling as a bit of a dirty word – technicians can feel uncomfortable when they’re thrust into the role of a salesman, and customers are predisposed to be wary. However, there’s mutual benefit in alerting customers to upcoming service items, and offering an added item or repair in good faith will help retain customers by building trust.