Connect with us

Business Operations

On the Front Lines: Service Managers Are Critical Weapons in Battle With Car Dealers


Car dealers are getting better at serving your clients. How? By delivering what your clients want: information and service.


They succeed through fear tactics, implying to new purchasers that warranty problems may arise if factory scheduled maintenance is performed by an independent service shop.

And, they speak with forked tongue. They promote OE-quality parts yet give us lousy discounts on purchases. They claim willingness to share OE information, but it will take an act of Congress to force them. The Internet has destroyed new-car sales margins, so their survival strategy is to prey on our customers in the tire and service business.

They are the enemy, and they are getting better at what they do.

We have all heard about the huge potential in underperformed vehicle maintenance – $62 billion at last count. The numbers keep climbing, yet few of us are capitalizing on the opportunity.


The reason is simple. People buy emotionally rather than logically. Relationship-based selling skills are required to motivate people emotionally to invest in maintenance. These skills are missing at most service counters.

Service managers have difficult jobs. They must be relationship experts, listening intently to customer requests, reviewing previously declined recommendations and teaching maintenance intervals – all without losing tire sales. The day of the order taker is over.

Today’s newer vehicles are not breaking, so we must look at maintenance to replace lost repair business. That’s where service managers can earn their keep.

Selling an Elective

Maintenance is like elective surgery – you don’t have to do it. In tough economic times, the motoring public will forgo maintenance. If you are not yet building your frontline relationship-based selling skills to offset this, let me suggest some easy strategies.


Today, women make 70% of all vehicle service decisions. We must do a better job of reaching our female customers.

Some proactive owners appoint goodwill ambassadors to teach women how to maintain their cars, and the customers like it. They speak to church groups, PTAs and women’s groups. They hold women’s car-care clinics, which are typically successful marketing tactics.

AAIA and the Car Care Council can offer you a kit that contains the ‘how tos’ as well as promotional handouts and signage ( Along with being great marketing strategy, car-care clinics are terrific ways to build relationships in your community.


Teach the men on your staff how to talk to your women customers. Women will listen because they want to learn. Teach them, and they’ll be on your side.

And, ask 10 women how they like being talked down to, then tell me if you can afford to lose that business.

Once women experience trust, reliability, security and convenience at a shop, they will keep going back. New-car dealers know this and are focused on teaching their frontline people how to build relationships and create comfortable, inviting customer environments.

Taking Action

To stop losing business to car dealers, we must change now. Here’s one easy thing you can do: Ask your techs and managers if they perform scheduled maintenance on their own cars. Most do not believe in it because self-performed repairs are cheap. Since most people cannot sell something they don’t believe in, make it easy for them to maintain their own cars. Overturn your service manager’s misguided belief that maintenance is not a cost-effective consumer option.


The new-car dealerships have already captured more maintenance business than you will ever see. With less profit available on the sales of new cars, they want even more of the service and parts market. With better marketing, up selling and telematics, new-car dealers are going after our customers.

Furthermore, new-car dealers are also one of the fastest-growing segments in the tire business and are positioned to offer the ultimate consumer advantage in today’s auto service industry – one-stop shopping.

Aren’t you alarmed? What can be done? Once you lose marketshare, it’s gone for a long time…maybe forever.

Grab your share of the $62 billion in underperformed maintenance before it is too late. It takes more than good looks, more than the right words, more than having the right equipment.


Active leadership demonstrates your commitment to the maintenance business. Knowledge alone is not power.

Sleeping giants, wake up.

Click to comment


Tire Review Magazine