Creating Awareness Through the Service Walk
Creating Awareness Through the Service Walk

Throughout your tenure as an agent, you have probably exposed your F&I managers to many tips, tactics and techniques, as well as different viewpoints on how to present vehicle service contracts and gain commitment from their customers. You most likely have shared virtually every “how to” for overcoming the customer’s telling F&I managers, “I don’t need it,” as well as the ever popular, “my friend’s a mechanic.”

Those worthwhile ideas have come to you through books, recordings, seminars, workshops and articles similar to this one. Looking back at each source of knowledge, you may recall each had expressed a specific determining factor that when captured would have a profound effect on your F&I manager's ability to gain a customer’s commitment to purchase a VSC.

The “determining factor” I am referring to is awareness.

Simply put, it is not until your F&I managers create an awareness or a need that their customers will commit to purchase. There are many ways to orally create need awareness such as the ‘99.9% Reliable,’ ‘One Day in the Shop,’ or ‘Why Do You Think the Manufacturer Gave You a 3/36 Warranty’ rebuttals, just to name a few.

However, seeing is believing, and the most effective way to create that all-important awareness is to show them…to make them see it with their own eyes. So follow me as I take you on a quick tour into the “How To’s” you can share with your F&I managers that will create a receptive mindset for their customers.

There are two times when a customer needs to be offered a VSC: first, when they purchase their vehicle, and then each time they visit the dealership for service if they chose not to subscribe to the VSC initially. Keep in mind that the most significant component in gaining a commitment from your customers to purchase VSCs is creating awareness that they may need one. Creating awareness can often be a bit more difficult, especially with a brand spanking new vehicle.

Certainly as time goes on and customers get closer to the end of their manufacturer's warranty, the odds begin to tilt more in the F&I manager's favor. In an effort to visually create a need for a VSC, I suggest you train your F&I managers to insist customers be taken on a service walk when the vehicle is purchased.

I am not suggesting that the F&I manager take the customer on a service walk. That needs to be done by the sales consultant. I do recommend the service walk take place after the F&I manager has been introduced to the customer, has done a pre-presentation interview, then instructs the sales consultant to take the tour while he/she is entering all of the information into the computer and is getting the paperwork ready to complete the delivery.

Creating Awareness

The service walk is believed to be one of the most influential steps during the “Road to the Sale,” given that it adds so much value to the sales presentation by providing a few more good reasons for customers to purchase vehicles at a particular dealership.

Unfortunately, far too many sales consultants are unaware, or unwilling to take that step. So you may be asking yourself right about now, what does the service walk have to do with selling VSCs? The answer lies in realizing what could become apparent through the images and information exchange the customer will experience during the service walk and how those images and information influence their way of thinking about vehicle breakdowns and repairs.

As the customer is taken on a tour of the service department, they are witness to vehicles up on the lifts being serviced or repaired. The dealership has invested thousands of dollars to train, retrain and certify the service and repair mechanics. Mechanics who have invested upwards of $15,000 in basic, as well as specialty, tools they keep safe in those giant tool boxes next to the expensive diagnostic equipment.

While the customer walks past the parts counter they are told of the over $250,000 in parts and supplies the dealership stocks each month to accommodate the steady demand of vehicles needing repairs. In total, each month there is roughly $500,000 worth of tools, parts and supplies associated with our service department.

Just think about that. It’s quite an investment and clearly armed for more than just oil changes and tire rotations. While the service walk is the prefect instrument in creating awareness, it is up to the F&I manager to extract that awareness.

Digging Out Awareness

Stop relying solely on the word tracks and point-of-sale material you provided to your F&I managers. Train them to create the ‘Feel, Felt, Found’ environment through the service walk. Share with them the following: Initiate a service walk as part of the F&I interview and ask the customer whether the sales consultant has shown them the service department.

Have your F&I managers begin the practice of showing the service and parts departments by instructing the sales consultant to perform the service walk and set up the first oil change in front of the customer as the set up to complete the paperwork.

Service Walk Opening Word Tracks

F&I Manager: “Has the sales consultant shown you our award winning service department?” Customer: “No” F&I Manager: “While I’m getting the paperwork ready, I will have your sales consultant introduce you to one of our service managers and they will set you up for your first oil change.”

The sales consultant is now performing the service walk and setting up the first oil change (a great lead-in for pre-paid maintenance) while the F&I manager tends to the paperwork. When completed in the detail mentioned earlier, the service walk allows for the F&I manager to create an advantage during his/her attempt to gain a commitment from their customers to purchase VSCs.

The advantage is in the F&I manager's ability to alert their customers as to the reasons the dealership has a service and parts department and why it is so important that these departments and their resources are kept up to date.

Pre-paid Maintenance Word Track

F&I Manager: “Now that you’re set up for first oil change you have an opportunity to take advantage of our pre-paid maintenance program. May I share the benefits with you?” Customer: “Sure”

Vehicle Service Contract Closing Word Track

Customer: “I won’t need that.” F&I Manager: “I understand. I don’t expect you to enroll in the vehicle service contract if you didn’t see any value in it. To see if it would be beneficial to you, do you mind if I share something with you?” Customer: “Sure, go ahead” F&I Manager: “When you took a tour of our service and parts department did you happen to see all those large tool boxes and the diagnostic equipment along with vehicles being serviced on the lifts?” Customer: “Yep” F&I Manager: “Each one of our certified technicians keeps nearly $15,000 worth of tools in their boxes and our parts department stocks an average of $250,000 a month in parts inventory. That’s quite an investment and clearly more than just oil and filters. So, while vehicles today are more dependable than ever before, the fact remains that they are machines that will suffer costly breakdowns.” F&I Manager: “Have you thought about it in that way or do you have other concerns with the program?”

While there are many positive approaches to selling VSCs, if you want to increase your F&I manager's chances and place the odds in their favor, consider the service walk as the essential ingredient to creating customer awareness.