Your service department can win you repeat business when they extend the life of a machine, but a repair job done wrong can cost you customers. Here's one example. An equipment owner brought in a tractor part for repair. The service tech quoted a price and said he would call when it was done. The repair was done on time, but the final service fee was four times the original quote.

The service manager did all the right follow-on actions. He apologized and explained about the extra costs, which were justified. However, his after-the-fact explanation did little to soften the blow of the much higher bill. At the very least, the dealership seemed untrustworthy.

Your dealership team works too hard to let incidents like this hurt your reputation. What policies do you have in place for quoting repair jobs? Mistakes happen regardless of how experienced your service department is. Parts are overlooked and hours are underestimated. It may be good practice to have another person confirm the estimate. It may not be cost-effective to do this on every repair, but seems worth it for the larger jobs.

Also, do you have someone who is tracking the lifecycle of the repair to see how the quote is matching the original estimate? If it changes, do you call the customer to give them the option of not proceeding with the repair?

For Jeff's Small Engine in Milltown, Wis., parts and service are a significant contributor to the dealership's success. Andy Kruse, son of the owner, Jeff Kruse, says this about the service business: "One of our biggest struggles is the cost of labor and parts vs. buying a new machine. It's a throwaway world.

"It comes down to our experience to tell them if the equipment is worth fixing or if we feel it's not worth it. Ultimately, it's the customer's decision, but we want to be honest and not seem as if we're trying to push new equipment," Andy says. (You can read more about Jeff's Small Engine in our feature "Create Your Niche to Increase Parts Sales" in our spring issue.)

Andy's points are dead-on regarding service. Fixing a machine earns a customer for today and a possible new equipment sale tomorrow. However, a customer needs to know that the service department has their back. They need to trust that the dealership is being honest and recommending the best path, whether it's squeezing out a few more months of life for an old machine or recommending a new machine.

This level of trust is even more important for those rural lifestyle customers who have no perspective regarding hourly labor charges for technicians and the parts necessary to do a repair right.

Treat every service job as a chance to win over a customer because it's all too easy to lose them.

Thanks for reading and be sure to check out the new digital version of our magazine, online now at It's an interactive complement to our print issue with search capabilities as well as links to videos and manufacturers and exclusive "online only" content. Take a look and let me know what you think in the comment section below. 

Lynn Woolf,
Managing Editor
Rural Lifestyle Dealer