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Is It Okay To Steal From Customers?

I think I’m in the best shape of my life. I’m having more fun than ever. The only thing going wrong is that I’ll be 50 in a couple years, and 50’s kind of the beginning of the end… assuming I don’t live to be 100. So I wouldn’t exactly call it a mid-life, but I’d like to do something big for that birthday party. Like having a band. Something big and fun, but not too crazy.

What would be crazy would be stealing from customers, which is what we’re talking about today. Is it okay to steal from customers? I always say, if you wouldn’t sell it to your mom… 

We’re going to be using a little logic and it’s a deeper discussion than the silliness of the question makes it sound, because it’s very important. People do think that in order to sell more and succeed, you have to over-recommend and oversell. And a lot of what we do, people have assumed because of the numbers our clients put up that we’re stealing!

That’s extremely inaccurate. We would not condone or want to be part of anything of the sort. That’s not our MO. We deeply believe that if you wouldn’t sell it to your mom, don’t sell it. There’s so much stuff that you can sell that you don’t need that kind of short cut. 

But first, let’s go to the questions. Remember, we have a phone number for you to call and leave your question as a voicemail at 833-3ASK-SDR. If your question makes it on the air, we’ll send you some swag; like an SDR hat, T-shirt, and coffee mug. You’re going to look good, you’re going to feel good, and people are going to walk up to you and go, “Man, where did you get that shirt?!” 

“Hey, Chris. Love the podcast. Can you address the issue of techs recommending repairs that aren’t really needed? The customers get hit with a laundry list and go somewhere else, then find out they don’t need some of it. Thanks so much.”

It’s very important to address the customer’s original concern first. So in our service advisor training, we have two lanes: we have the ‘doctor recommends’ and the ‘super size me’ technique. In either technique, it’s very important that if the customer has a diagnostic concern that we plant seeds for what might be recommended, but you don’t want to put $2000 on an RO and send it in the shop when that could be all the money the customer has. It leaves people with a bad feeling, like we’re just trying to sell them something. 

So if the customer has a diagnostic concern, I would plant seeds for other things they would need, but I’ present it all at one time because the best thing for a customer to make an educated decision is knowing all the facts. We don’t want to ask a customer to make a decision about how to maintain or repair their vehicle without giving them all the facts upfront. 

“Yeah, hi, I’m a service advisor at a Toyota store in Georgia. We’re often told by the service manager that we need to be selling as much as the top person in the drive, and that there shouldn’t be any reason for the gross gap between us to be too large. However, the top advisor is criminal with what they do. They sell work that’s recently been done. Our shop recommends brake fluid and filters and fuel injection and inductions and all that every 30,000 miles. And the top advisor will sell that work at 30,000 and then again at 40,000. So my question is how can I increase my hours per RO without having to do that? I’d never sell that to my mother, as you say. My CSI is constantly good, and I have good relationships with the customers, but I can’t seem to raise my hours per RO. So any advice? Thanks.”

That was a lot, but I like the question. Thank you for that.

The first thing that I want to say is maybe step back a little bit for a second and let’s talk about this logically. So I know the way I was convinced to do induction or fuel service but not injectors was the foreman took apart the top of the engine, took pictures, and showed me. So even if you had to pay out of your own pocket to bribe a technician on the side, if you let some of these cars go longer than a year, the induction service is just taking off a layer. 

So I would say 30,000 miles on some cars is too long, and I would sell it to my mom, gladly. She will notice. My little brother, when he used to write service, would tell people that if they did an induction service and didn’t notice a difference in the performance, he’d give them their money back. Now, I would never recommend doing that, but he never gave anybody their money back. Their induction service was Mach2. BG’s is also good. They really work.

The tone that the question comes from gives me the feeling that you’re not really trying to learn, you just have a very strong opinion. I know you don’t want to hear that. You’re probably a fan of the show and now you’re like, “Oh, Chris, you’re a jerk!” but I’m telling you the truth. With some brands and some models, you should do induction services every year; 30,000 miles is too long!

The second thing I would say is to stop watching the guy next to you and just maximize what’s in front of you. Just do that. 

Now, we should just get into our subject of: is it okay to steal from the customers? Because let’s just say you’re working at a Toyota dealership. So Toyotas come in twice a year, and let’s say you write up 12 cars a day (which you’re probably writing more because most Toyota stores are burning their advisors out and the Toyotas don’t break as much). If they come in twice a day, how many of those cars are due for an alignment?

They’re due for an alignment every 12; 12 months, 12,000 miles. AAA says that. So half the cars you write up every day are due for an alignment. You could sell it to your mom and feel good about it. Are you selling six alignments a day? I doubt it by the way you’re asking the question.

Opportunity is everywhere. Tire rotations, cabin filters, if you just concentrate on the stuff that customers really need and stop paying attention to everybody else around you, you’ll connect better with customers and work more on your closing skills. Work on customer’s trusting you and creating key throwers. You’ll forget about the other advisors and what they’re doing wrong.

The service industry’s no exception to karma being one of those things that comes back to get you. Two things: one is don’t assume that being unethical is the only way to increase your RO because that’s almost how your question made it sound; that the only way to grow is to do what the other person’s doing. Do the opposite of what they’re doing because, in five years, people figure it out and everybody will come to you instead. 

The other thing is the amount of time you’d be spending. If you’re figuring out that somebody’s selling an induction service at 40 that was just sold at 30, how much time are you spending looking at histories of somebody else’s stuff?

Ask your customer a question. Talk to them and get to know something about them instead of getting to know the RO written by somebody else. The way to increase the value of your repair orders is to build trust with your clients. And if you build trust with your clients, they’re going to believe in what you’re telling them. If you watch the induction service being done and you’re presenting that to the customer from the first person like,” I saw this, and here’s what happened when I saw the service being done,” how much more convincing are you?

My brother was actually kind of skeptical about the whole, “if you don’t notice a difference, I’ll give you your money back,” approach but he worked for a manager that did that. They took a used car and had the foreman pop the top off. They looked at it, put it back, and then the next day in the advisor meeting, they showed them and compared pictures. The proof is in the pudding. I’m not one to believe in snake oil and my brother was more skeptical than me, so I was mortified when he said he told people he’d give them their money back. I was like, “Oh my gosh, that’s crazy!”

But it worked, and I’d do it every year on any car I have that’s a turbo, without question. Everybody I’ve had this conversation with, no matter the car line, is now a believer. I just think the whole ethical, standing on a soap box thing is not attractive. Get into it and really try to learn and concentrate on the opportunity that you have. 

Like, let’s say you go into a service department and they want to talk about the advisors overselling coolant or whatever. Let’s say it’s a Ford dealership and coolant is lifetime, so it’s going to be 100,000 miles, and they say, “Oh, they’re overselling at 40,000 miles.” If I go through 30 ROs, how many of them do you think I’ll find that are due for coolant but it wasn’t recommended?

There would be a couple of them, but what are we sitting around talking about? Focus on the opportunity that’s in front you. Trust me, you’re missing stuff all day long and your head’s a little sideways because you’re not a technician. You don’t know, you’re judging. Concentrate on being the best you and make everybody else around you better. Lead by example!

I always hate it when Orange County Christians preach religion like, “Oh, you’re going to Hell.” It’s like, you’re out drinking, you’re having pre-marital sex, you’re cheating, and you want to tell me about going to church? Why don’t you lead by example? Why don’t you create a lifestyle that makes me come to you and go, “What is it you’re doing that you’re so much happier and more productive, and you have a zest for life that I want?” instead of just trying to make me feel guilty…

It’s not hard to be the #1 advisor in selling tires and alignments in any service drive just by consistently turning the tires, measuring them, showing the customers, and recommending alignments when they’re due. If you just did those two things, then you could do the whole thing with giving money back if you recommend an alignment after a year or 12,000 miles and it’s not out of alignment. It’ll be rare, like 1 in 200.

So it’s not okay to steal from customers, and most of the time anybody who wants to have that conversation is not getting at the opportunity that’s right under their nose because they’re not doing it the right way! You’ve got to start asking a different question. Stop asking about what everybody else is doing and ask, “How can I get better?”

Build trust. Spend time working on yourself and how you can endear customers to you. Pay attention to customers’ body language, what they’re telling you, how they feel. Ask for feedback.

The thing with our industry is that clients perceive that we oversell, and the only way to get them to understand that we don’t is to educate them.

But yeah, that was good stuff. I know it was a little hard on you, but it comes from a palace of love so thank you so much for the question. Think about it, sleep on it, and you’ll feel different tomorrow, but there’s tons of opportunity in front of you!

Everybody have a great week, and we’ll see you next time on Service Drive Revolution!


Is it okay to steal from your customers? The answer might surprise you. Find out, only on Service Drive Revolution. Now streaming! Got a question? Call the hotline! 1-833-327-5737 JOIN THE SERVICE REVOLUTION --

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