Branding the service department is profitable


Service department branding means putting processes in place to support the brand. And that means the walkaround, says customer service trainer Jeff Cowan.

“When the customer comes in, you (the service advisor) meet them at the car, greet them there whenever possible and keep them there,” Cowan explains. “Thank them for coming and ask why they came.”

Should the customer mention a concern, the service advisor follows up with diagnostic questions.

“When you know what they are concerned about, then reassure the costumer that your technicians can fix it. Convince them.”

Then comes the “critical step.”

“Walk around the car looking for possible repairs. Pop the hood, etc. Point out the problem and consequences and offer a solution and ask them what they intend to do.”

He insists the walkaround is crucial. It can mean a 70 per cent close ratio in the service department because the customers see for themselves what the problem is.

He urges dealers not to buy into the argument that the walkaround is not necessary. Showing the customer what needs doing gets upsells. Not having a drive-thru is no excuse.

“Some of our biggest success stories come from dealer who do this in the parking lot, rain or shine, even if it’s freezing outside. You don’t cancel the hockey game because the ice is cold.”

He says that all dealers have to do is look around. If their dealership does not have a drive-thru, it is likely most of the stores in their area will not have one.

He urges dealers not to listen when their service manager pores cold water on the idea of switching to a walkaround. Most dealers go along with the service manager because dealers are usually from the sales not the service side and life may be easier going along with the service manager – easier, but not profitable.

There is no reason that the closing ratio in the service department cannot be 75 per cent if the dealer goes with the Cowan method, he insists.

Cowan is the founder of PRO TALK, Inc. He has nearly 30 years experience in sales and customer service training. He says that he and his staff have spent “countless hours” standing on service drives training service employees as they work with “real customers in live situations.”

As for his Canadian experience, his resume includes recent workshops with Toyota and Lexus dealers.

“Thirty to 40 per cent of my business comes from Canada.”

He bemoans the fact that Canadian dealers are slow to accept his recipe for service department success.

He says sometimes that if a dealer owns, say, four stores, Cowan has to sell the walkaround store by store even though its value is easy to measure.

There is often no central control to mandate it, he complains. The common reason or excuse he runs up against is that the tactic may work with one brand, but the other brand’s customer is different. What this really means is that the service department manager in that other dealership will not buy it.

Yet branding demands consistency.

“Why do people keep going to the Keg Steakhouse? Because they know when they walk in the door what they are going to get. That’s what they do in the front end. Why not do it in the back end?” he argues.

For more information, contact Jeff Cowan at 714-907-1802 or visit