I spoke with a number of people lately who told me their fixed operations have been going great. Congratulations!

But it's not the time to allow any of your staff to start believing everything is so wonderful that we can't get better. We can really grow our business if we keep everyone focused on the mission at hand.

The mission is improved profitability built on a foundation of customer retention.

Many stores have purchased customer-relationship management software to improve their communications with clients.

One of the strongest tools incorporated into most of the CRM systems is a reminder/follow-up process for unsold work for something discovered during an inspection of the customer's vehicle.

A number of stores will set up operation codes in their dealership-management systems to generate a follow-up letter or post card sent to the customer as a reminder for reconsidering the dealership for the work.

This is a great opportunity for increased business. Too often, this work is forgotten. Let's discuss a few ways to improve the capturing of this work.

Follow-up: A showroom customer looks at a car but doesn't buy right away. Do you forget about them? No. You expect the salesperson to follow-up. The same expectation should apply to your service department.

Type of Work: Typically, potential work the dealership should follow up on relates to tires, batteries and brakes. Other work can be added, but these areas are some of the lower-hanging fruit.

Develop a Follow-up Report: This report should run daily to provide a tool to follow up with these customers. A reasonable time frame should be established for each call.

In all red-code situations (requiring immediate attention), the service manager should call the customer the next day.

It should be a call of concern: The dealership's recommended additional work was not purchased, and the manager is calling to see what assistance they can offer.

If the customer still doesn't buy, send a letter and then have someone call the customer again after the letter is sent.

Yellow-code operations (not requiring immediate attention) should be reviewed and a reasonable time frame developed.

For tires and brakes, call two weeks after the service visit. Send a letter one week after the visit. As an option, include the price for the work. If tires are recommended, provide the customer with a good, better and best level of tires.

If your dealership offers a price match guarantee, it should be mentioned in the call or letter.

Should You Discount the Job? I'm a big supporter of not discounting as part of the follow-up strategy. I don't think the first call should have any mention of a discount. Use this as a last resort only.

The commitment to making these calls is extremely important. This is work that the customer needs, and your staff knows it. You should make every effort to earn this work.

Too many dealerships are losing this work to other service providers without fighting for it. Get the gloves on and go after it.

Lee Harkins is president and CEO of M5 Management Services Inc. You can contact him at 205-747-8305 and leeharkins@m5ms.com.

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