An alignment bay, lift and the sensors/computer are a considerable investment that can set a shop apart from other shops, but this equipment is only as effective as the people communicating the information.
This means both engaging the customer about an alignment and communicating with the person performing the alignment. Here are some rules a service writer should follow to improve alignment satisfaction and sales.
Never give a technician a repair order that only states “customer requests alignment” or “perform alignment.”
Giving a technician a repair order that only has two words, and one of them is alignment, is a guaranteed comeback. The repair order should give a reason why the vehicle needs an alignment. These include:
• Vehicle pulls;
• Customer noticed tire wear;
• Steering wheel is off center;
• Parts replaced;
• As part of a maintenance schedule; or
• Customer hit a _________.
You may have a customer that assumes an alignment is like an old school tune-up, but it almost never works that way. You need to find out why they think they need an alignment. Every relevant detail on the repair order is important to the technician.
Shut up and listen.
The customer will always tell you what is wrong with their car; you just have to listen.
Sometimes silence is the best sales aid to get them talking. A nervous person will always want to fill gaps in the conversation.
But questions always help. Questions are like crowbars that can get customers talking and pry out important details. The most vague questions can often yield the best answer to an alignment problem.
• What are you noticing? This question is open and forces them to tell you why they think they need an alignment. It does not steer them toward any alignment-related condition.
• What does it feel like? This is also a neutral question that doesn’t force them in any direction, but can reveal the true complaint.
From this information, you can find out what they expect and need from you, which might be an alignment.
Answer questions. Don’t crush them with your vast knowledge.
If you have done your job and found out what the customer is experiencing and what they expect, you can now tell them how you can help.
When you answer a customer’s question about an alignment, put the information in a context they can understand. You should be able to answer the questions:
• What does it do for the vehicle and customer?
• What will the technician do?
• What is the value?
Sometimes too much information can intimidate the customer and cause you to lose a sale. Giving a 10-minute monologue on how caster is the most important angle, and then going into a rant about “net build” vehicles, is not very productive and does not build trust.
What builds trust is understanding the problem and offering a way to fix it.
The value of the alignment must be greater than the price of the alignment.
The greater the value relative to the price of the alignment, the more likely people are to buy an alignment and repairs. The value of an alignment comes in the form of improved tire longevity, vehicle stability and fuel economy. People can justify the price of an alignment if it means they will get more back in return.
Take a pre-alignment test drive.
If you need to go for a test drive before or after an alignment, you should have a clear objective and methodical plan for inspecting the vehicle and replicating the customer complaint. A good test driver will be able to observe conditions or problems with the vehicle that have developed so slowly the owner is unaware of them – like degraded shocks and struts. One of the keys to becoming a good test driver is finding a driving “loop” or route that has a variety of road conditions. Using a predetermined loop can help to build consistency that will help you spot small problems.
Never prejudge an alignment.
Many difficult alignment customers are people just like you. Most just feel they have been taken advantage of in the past, so they are legitimately overanxious. If they have their reservation of the value of an alignment, try to find out why and answer their questions. Win them over, and they can become your biggest songbirds.
It is about a relationship not price.
Matching alignment prices of the shops around you can be a losing battle. Being competitive is relative. To price shoppers, a properly priced alignment is not competitive. If the customer wants to build a solid relationship with a company that values people and has the right ethics, the right morals and offers benefits they can’t get anywhere else; then YES, a properly priced alignment is competitive.
Recommend today, sell tomorrow
Every alignment should start with a basic inspection of the suspension. Even if the customer does not buy today, the inspection form sales approach and pitch will likely stick with the consumer longer than the generic “recommend new shocks and struts.” This means that they might come back and your efforts will not be in vain.
Courtesy Brake & Front End.