By Glen Beanard
Uncovering missed service can bring an instant profit, while at the same time resulting in customer gratification. Unfortunately, some services are often overlooked in our daily routine. It’s easy to gain tunnel vision in this business, only fixing what the car came in for, while ignoring the rest of the vehicle. Whether it’s because of time constraints, or some other reason, some services just get forgotten about.
A SLIPPERY SITUATION
Though a customer may not mention it, quieting up that noisy door hinge is always appreciated. The “creeeeeak POP!” of dry hinges and door struts is an annoyance to any motorist. However, if upon leaving your shop, they find that the noise they have suffered with for months is magically gone. Imagine the feeling of appreciation a customer may have at that moment.
Quieting a noisy door hinge is an excellent way to make the customer actually feel delighted about getting their vehicle serviced at your facility. This is especially so when they have already been to several shops in the past, and none of them volunteered to remedy the situation for them. A simple squirt of penetrating oil on the hinges is even more effective at pleasing the customer, when they neither asked for it nor expected it.For example, if a vehicle comes in for a brake service and the noisy door hinges are lubed without being told to, the surprise factor adds to the appreciation. It is sometimes expected with an oil change (you know, the old oil, filter, lube), but not a brake service (or some other service).
Obviously, you aren’t going to make any direct money lubing door hinges, but indirectly your return will be made. The customer will be reminded of your extra care every time they open that door. With time, the noise may return as the lubricant wears off. The return of the noise will likely remind the customer again of your shop and how pleased they were with you. One of the first thoughts the customer may have might be something to the effect of “Well, time to take it to “Joe’s Auto Service.”
That is the best advertisement you can possibly have. It’s kind of funny when you think about it. Millions of dollars in advertisement costs from your competitors could be beaten by a penny’s worth of spray lube.
LIGHT UP THEIR LIFE
A customer loves a light, at least, one that is supposed to be on. The inspection and recommendation of a burned out light bulb, is something I like to call a “safe sale.” I call it a safe sale because replacement is usually straightforward, warranty claims are nearly non-existent, and if the bulb is blown, no one can (intelligibly) argue with you on the matter. Also, the customer is often appreciative that your “man in uniform” pointed out the problem instead of the government’s “man in uniform.”
Profit and the customer’s appreciation can both be earned from the sale of a single blown tail light bulb. With that said, the inspection of all lights should be performed on every vehicle that enters the shop, regardless of the service request.
MORE BRIGHT IDEAS
Some light bulb manufactures have come out with a relatively new line of light bulbs. The manufacturers of these bulbs don’t claim them to be brighter so much as they claim them to be whiter. As a normal halogen bulb illuminates, it casts a yellow hue. That yellow hue affects the color of objects as their images are reflected back. The whiter light cast from the headlights produces a truer color reflection of objects back to the driver. As a result of the truer colors, the ability of the driver to distinguish objects at night is increased.
What good is it to the repair shop? The repair facility can offer these lights to their customers as an upgrade. The best thing about this is that this is a sale that you are better off letting the customer sell to themselves. In other words, just set up a display in the lobby for them. The customers that want them will let you know without you trying to “sell” anything at all. At most, your “selling” will consist of a customer asking you something to the effect of “what makes these bulbs better?” You now have the opportunity to explain the concept a little. The best part for your bottom line is they need be installed in pairs, or even sets of four. A sale of two or four headlight bulbs at the same time can sure boost that oil change ticket’s gross and profit into a very respectable dollar figure.
Plastic headlight lenses have become the industry standard over the last decade and a half. Over the years, they lose their clean and clear appearance. This is not only unattractive, but can also reduce the light bulb’s effectiveness. In most cases, that discoloration is actually a series of dirty scratches. The scratches are caused by the sand-blasting action of debris impacting them at high speeds.
You can remove these scratches and restore the lens to a nearly new appearance by buffing them with a polishing agent for plastic. The scratches can be removed in seconds with an orbital polisher. Yes, it is possible to buff the lens by hand, but trust me when I say that you don’t want to do that. It is a major workout by hand, but effortless with a polisher. The polishing agent is very similar in consistency to a liquid wax, and about the same price.
With very little time or financial investment in this service, a repair shop can use this as an extra way of saying “Thank you for your business.” It could be used to compliment new headlight bulbs. Or, it could be offered as a stand-alone service for a fee. Whatever you choose, the customer is sure to appreciate the improved appearance of the automobile and the improved performance of the headlights.
THE FORGOTTEN FLUID
Let’s see, we changed the engine oil, transmission fluid, engine coolant, and differential fluid, did we miss anything? We may have. What about the power steering fluid? The power steering fluid is like the transmission fluid in the respect that it pulls double duty. It serves as the media to transfer energy, and at the same time, it serves to lubricate the components in the power steering system that it contacts.
Power steering fluid is a type of petroleum-based oil very similar to automatic transmission fluid. It can break down and become contaminated as well. So, if we replace the transmission fluid from time to time to help the transmission last longer, why not change the power steering fluid occasionally to help the pump, variable assist valves, and rack & pinion (steering gear) possibly last longer? After all, at least automatic transmissions faithfully have filters of some sort. A lot of power steering systems have no filtration method at all. In those systems, any and all debris that is produced by the wearing of the pump and steering gear is free to circulate with the fluid.
Some systems utilize a filtration method. However, those filters are typically nothing but a screen in the bottom of the reservoir or in the line. They leave something to be desired in their ability to trap particles. Though they are better than no filter at all, they can still pass contaminates. That condition can make the fluid abrasive, further accelerating wear in the pump and gear, and also possibly causing a variable assist valve or a spool valve to stick.
When to change it? Well, there is currently no published industry standard that I have seen. However, it has been my experience that after sixty thousand miles, visual inspection may show contaminates present. Visual inspection may also show the fluid to have shifted to a dark brown or black color and will likely have a burned odor to it.
A “blotter test” can also be used. The “blotter test” is an old method of testing automatic transmission fluid. It’s where you place a drop of old fluid on a paper towel (also place a drop of new on the same paper towel for comparison). If the old fluid resists spreading out on the paper towel when compared to the new fluid, then it should be replaced. Also, all of the old fluid should be flushed out and replaced for new when replacing a failed component in the power steering system.
There are two points to think of when replacing a pump or rack when it comes to the fluid. For one, the failed component may release extra contaminates at the moment of its final efforts in service. Those contaminates will put the new part (and others in the system) at risk of an early failure.
As a second school of thought, think of this. Let’s pick a power steering pump for discussion. The original part lasted XX,XXX number of miles. Why did it make it as long as it did?
A major factor is that it started out in a clean environment. Half or more of that part’s service life was spent in a relatively clean environment. It wasn’t until toward the end of the pump’s life that the fluid became saturated in debris. How can anyone expect a new pump to last anywhere near the life of the original if they don’t give that new pump the same benefit that the original one had?
More and more power steering pumps and racks (steering gears) come with material in the box instructing the installer to flush the system and warning of possibly voiding the warranty if it is not done. The power steering system should be flushed when replacing any hydraulic component to give that new part the same benefit as the original and protect the replacement’s warranty.
BE SURE TO WIPE
Another “safe sale” is wipers. They are usually simple to change, usually indisputable when they are streaking, and if you use high-quality replacements, they almost never have to be warranted out. If they do require a warranty claim, it is no big deal.
Selling them is usually very straightforward as well, even in dry weather. If no rain, just push the “wash” button and look. Who knows, maybe you will also find some faulty washer pumps and busted washer reservoirs this way also a typically easy and appreciated fix.
When presenting them to the customer, simply appeal to their sense of sight, and sometimes sound as well. “It’s about time for some new wipers, which I’m sure you noticed last time it rained.” Pause for a second. They will usually chime in with words like “Oh, yes, I couldn’t see anything.” Respond to that with, “I’ve got some here for it. I can fix it up while it’s in here”. Simple as that, and not only did you make that little oil change ticket grow, the customer is usually glad you noticed it, especially the next time it rains.
A NUTTY SUGGESTION
For the most part, as long as a lug nut spins off OK, and can be found to put it back on, they are often taken for granted. Is there anything else to it beyond spinning on off and back on? Well, yeah, there is.
Just like anything else, they do eventually wear out, especially conical seat nuts. Every time the nuts are tightened, the cone shape of the mating surfaces of the nut and the rim have tendency to squeeze the inside opening of the nut closed. The closing of the nut’s opening causes the nut to grab onto the wheel stud, then bind and seize to the stud during the next removal. This is especially so when they are over tightened. Even though at your shop every tech may use a torque wrench on lug nuts, sadly, the same can’t be said for all shops everywhere, every time.
Also, don’t forget about the “DIYer” element. That is why the nuts should be closely inspected during removal. Make sure they spin freely and have no heavy distortion in the seat area.
Reinstalling a distorted lug nut can be a safety issue, as well as a chance to loose a customer if the next shop (or the customer) attempts removal of the nut and it jams on the stud. Even if your shop is not guilty of any wrong doing, you will be hard pressed to prove otherwise. However, if the potentially troublesome nuts are discovered and recommended for replacement, it is potentially a “win” situation for all sides involved.If the worn nuts are replaced, the customer wins because they may have dodged the roadside nightmare of having them seize and snap while changing a flat. The shop wins in more than one way.
First, they win financially. Look at the selling price of some of these lug nuts out there, and then multiply that by 20 or 24 for the average passenger vehicle. That can be a handsome little kick for that tire rotation job.
Secondly, you may have just dodged a future accusation, since the nuts are more likely to spin off as intended for the next guy. If the customer declines the recommendation for new lug nuts, you still win. If the nuts fail to properly come off for the next guy, you’ll have your recommendation on file to fall back on. I hate to see it come down to an “I told you so” situation. However, in the end, there is no reason you should be left holding the bag because you rotated the tires once in 100,000 miles.
Every shop in town has already had an impact on those lug nuts with the power adjusted to “kill” before you. Treat lug nuts as you would an oil drain plug that has stressed threads. Recommend it for replacement to protect yourself and your customer, and by all means, don’t forget to inspect the wheel stud conditions for all of the same reasons.
CLEAN UP YOUR ACT
After performing a brake service, especially when installing ceramic pads, try cleaning the wheels off. I don’t mean just wipe off the handprints with a clean rag. I mean actually use a soft, long bristled brush (preferably on a long handle) treated with a mild detergent to actually scrub and rinse off the old brake dust.
This is especially important for when you are replacing a metallic set of pads for ceramic. Not only will the customer usually take immediate notice to your extra efforts, but this will also give the customer the chance to appreciate the extra investment they have in the ceramic pads over the metallic ones in time.
This is particularly true for the customers who slack off a little when it comes to cleaning their vehicle. Just a word of caution here. Be sure to only use a mild detergent, preferably wheel cleaners that are formulated to work well with custom wheels that may have delicate finishes. Also, be sure to keep the brush clean of debris. The last thing you want is for a good deed to turn sour.