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When the Going Gets Slow…

Autosphere » Dealerships » When the Going Gets Slow…

Despite the post-holiday slowdown, there’s much you can do to stimulate business.

The lot is full of ice and snow, the showroom is dead, and so is your Service Department. What are you going to do? This is time for the proverbial “When the going gets slow… the slow had better get going.”

The prevailing wisdom says consumers don’t spend in January and February because they are too busy recovering from November and December. Experience should show us that this isn’t entirely true.

Those that can afford it take expensive vacations. Some go skiing, while others go where it is warm and sunny.

Smart shoppers know two things: necessary purchases have to be made and great bargains are hard to pass up.

The sharpest Service Managers know that these two bits of wisdom are where they need to concentrate during the slow season.

Let’s face it; if a vehicle’s brakes fail or make noise, repairs will be needed sooner rather than later. Owners are going to come in. Likewise, if there’s no heat in the car during winter. These are necessary purchases.

The opportunity lies in those areas not yet realized. No one wants to wake up on a cold morning to find their vehicle won’t heat up—or worse, won’t even start!

Promote prevention

It’s time to get proactive. If you haven’t been doing it during the fall season, you still have a chance. Remind your customers that proper preventive maintenance can avoid many of the risks that lie ahead.

Now is the time to advise and explain how spending a little money can save a lot. Trust me—your customers will appreciate it, especially your bargain hunters.

For instance, a simple AVR (starting/charging system) test can provide a pretty solid clue as to the future of the vehicle’s battery and alternator. It might prevent a cold surprise one morning!

Service Advisors should have a little more free time on their hands, now that the November/December tire season rush has subsided. It’s time for them to get on the phones—be proactive. Start calling your customers to invite them in for AVR checks or battery tests.

Sweeten the pot

Again, since wallets are zipped a little tighter, you will have to sweeten the pot.

Big box retailers have Boxing Day Sales after Christmas or “New Year New Deal” events. The front of your store is offering all sorts of incentives to get potential buyers into the showrooms. It’s time to show your creativity and market the heck out of your profit centre.

You may have customers who prefer to drive south for a little mid-winter warmth, which provides an opportunity for you. Help prepare your customers for longer winter drives. Check tires, heating and cooling systems, batteries, brakes and a host of other vehicle systems.

Package up these winter checks and create your in-store specials. These in-store specials will attract new customers into your store and you can upsell your products (or correct sell them), which leads to more profits.

Mix and match an oil change with a free battery inspection. Add a visual brake inspection to every oil change (if you aren’t doing so already). Get the rest of your store involved too.

It’s too easy to take a traditional view that Parts and Service Departments don’t make money in January and February. Now is the time to buck conventional wisdom.

In short, like the man says: “You have to spend money to make money.”

Put your heads together

For the most part, technicians are paid on a flat rate system—quite simply if they don’t produce work, they don’t get paid.

Talk to your technicians. Gather them together to make suggestions on how to encourage more work into the shop. Be careful not to let these productive sessions mutate into complaining sessions, but who knows, some excellent ideas may emerge.

For instance, your techs may be willing to bundle services together at a reduced rate that you can market. Instead of paying 1.7 hours for a full inspection maybe the techs offer their services for 1.5 hours and you offer customers a “20% Off” special. Everyone loses a little so that everyone can gain a lot.

Perhaps the Parts Department throws in a jug of windshield washer fluid with every winter inspection.

Now is also the time to make sure that every little detail gets checked. Windshield wipers may not sound like much of a sale, but the important thing is they get vehicles into the bays. Get the Parts Department to offer a special price, and your techs (or most likely the apprentices) to put them on for free. While the vehicle is in the shop, give it a quick wash and take a few moments to check to see if their maintenance services are up to date.

Worst case scenario? Services you recommend today get put off ‘til spring.

Against conventional wisdom, you can plant seeds in the winter and reap the benefits in the spring.

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