Part 1 in this series looked at ways to improve the early stages of the check-in process. Let’s look at other ways to build efficiencies and improve customer experience throughout the entire workflow.

Asking the Right Questions

The final part of writing up the work order is where you ask the customer to share why they want you to service or repair their equipment. From the service department’s position, this is what will help them give the customer the level of professional service we are working to achieve at the dealership. Keep in mind that your customer, in most cases, won’t have a clear understanding of what the issue may be, but they will try to explain how the equipment is operating or maybe the sound it makes. They hope you have some magical powers to understand what they are trying to convey to you.

During this state, try thinking of yourself as a doctor. The customer is your patient and they come to you because they are not feeling well. They don’t know what is wrong and they just want to feel better. You don’t say, “So what do you think you’ve got?” That would make you sound like a quack. If the customer knew, they wouldn’t be in front of you. What a doctor does is begin by asking you a series of simple questions. How long have you had the problem? Do you have any pain associated with it? Is it sharp pain or a dull pain? Does it hurt here? Each question they ask eliminates potential illness and will help them pinpoint a potential cure. You are going to do the same thing as you begin to work with your service customers. The questions you ask will help the techs uncover the issue with the equipment and expedite the repair which leads to happy, satisfied customers

Make yourself the “doctor” of the check-in process. After you have done the basic “look over” with the oil and the air filter, the next step is asking the customer to explain what they would like done or what is happening with the equipment that is causing them a problem or a concern. If the customer says, “It’s just not running right,” that doesn’t tell the service department anything. That would be like a patient telling a doctor, “I just don’t feel good.”

You need to ask a question like, “Do you mean it’s not mowing right, trimming right or blowing snow right?” depending on the equipment type they have. If they say, “No, the engine runs for a while and then stops,” then you should dig a little deeper. Ask “About how long does it run before it stops?” If they say, “About 20 minutes and then after it cools off I can restart it.” That tells me a lot in the shop. If they say it will only run for a couple of seconds, I know it’s most likely a fuel issue and again we can do a better job in communicating with the customer and making sure they have that exceptional service experience that your dealership wants them to have.

Standardizing the Process

Your goal as a part of your check-in process is to create a series of questions and writedown the answers so that anyone who checks the equipment can refer to them. This is part of standardizing the process. Think about each type of equipment you service. If you have a lot of a certain type of mower come in, then determine what issues might come up and the questions to ask to drill down and uncover issues for your techs. Start with something basic like a customer who says their mower won’t run. Your next question should be, “When was the last time it did run?” If the customer says it’s been a couple of years since they used the machine, that tells the service department that most likely the carburetor will need to be cleaned or replaced along with theoil. If they say it was running fine until they hit a stump, that indicates the engine has most likely sustained damage.

Your goal is to think about why the customer came in and what they’re likely to say.Then, build a series of questions to clarify what the customer is saying. This gives your technicians the ability to give the customer a positive experience.

 The ultimategoal in the check-in process is to ask good questions, listen to the customers’ responses and then continue asking questions that help the customer tell the technicians as much as possible about the issue. The better you get at asking questions, the better the information you’ll give to the service department and, ultimately, the better experience your customers will have with your dealership and the products you represent.