How to Master the Customer Intake Dialogue

What happens when you have an intake dialogue with a customer, send the work order to the shop, they complete what was on the work order, you call the customer to say the car is done and they ask: “What did you find out about the noise I was hearing?” You can now hear a pin drop! You must now figure out what to do and say and lose face with the customer.

It is far too easy to hear “oil change, alignment, brakes,” start writing the customer’s work order, and not hear what comes after the list of services they came in for. You, the sales associate, can get so excited that you have “a great work order” for the shop that the brain shuts down, you stop listening and questioning, and, at times, negative behaviors occur while the customer is continuing to share their needs for their vehicle visit. Amazing how the thrill of having a ticket with an ARO of over $450.00 can get you so tingly inside that you stop completing a proper intake for the customer’s vehicle visit.

The Challenge

It is normal to feel excited when you have a customer walk in and ask for work to be done. The difficulty happens when you say to yourself silently, “Wow, good one! Now I just need 5 more like this and we hit our goal for the day!” and stop performing a proper intake dialogue. Now you may have missed important information from the customer; all the shop can do is what you put on the work order. You won’t find out something is missing until you talk with the customer.  When that happens, you can lose their trust. They will feel like you did not listen to them. You can cause anger, disappointment, and delays for them to get their vehicle returned. All because you did not take the time to actively listen, question, verify, and avoid negative behaviors.

Well, you can do something about it.

Ideas to grow your businessNon-ATI members: Learn how to be an active listener and master the intake dialogue. It will help your customers feel like royalty — building trust and loyalty with your shop. Start with ATI’s Proper Intake Dialogue Questions.

The Fix

All associates that complete an intake dialogue with a customer – beware – do not allow yourself to make assumptions, pass judgment, or become impatient or irritated. Make sure you are actively listening and questioning. Not actively listening and questioning, and displaying negative behaviors, will prevent you from performing a proper intake dialogue that is complete and accurate. It will prevent you from making sure that all the customer’s needs will be met during their visit.

Proper intake dialoguing is actively listening – being present in the moment, participating in open-ended questioning, and reflecting on the information you are given for verification. Have the patience to write up the work order properly and accurately so the customer will feel confident when they give you their keys for service.

The Behaviors

Here are four behaviors you want to master when having an intake dialogue with a customer:

1. Active listening and questioning

Ask open-ended questions so they can describe the reason for their visit completely. Reflect on what the customer shared with you. Take good notes; be sure to verify the information with the customer to make sure nothing falls between the cracks for their visit. Verify all work to be done and charges that will apply – no surprises from the start – so they know what is going to happen with their vehicle.  Leave the door open for the courtesy check or diagnostic work: “Ms. Customer, you will get a call with the results of the technician’s examination of the vehicle.”

2. Don’t Make Assumptions

Never decide you know what is going on during the intake dialogue – never counter-diagnose. Allow the technicians in the shop to do their work and then discuss what was found with the customer. The job during the intake dialogue is to actively listen to the customer; ask questions that assist them in describing what their needs are for the vehicle.

3. Don’t Pass Judgment

You know more about the auto repair business than the customer usually does.  When they share information or ask questions of you, that means they do not know the answers. Never pass judgment on what they are sharing or asking. The customer, from their point of view, is sharing and asking what they feel they need to know to get their vehicle taken care of by you.  You must keep that in mind and answer accordingly without passing judgment about what they are asking or sharing with you.

4. Don’t Get Impatient / Irritated

You hear the same questions 20 times a day but each individual customer is asking only one time per visit. Remind yourself that each customer is a clean slate; one that you start with from scratch by performing a proper intake dialogue each time they present their vehicle for work. Treat them all as if they know nothing about the business, about their vehicle, or what you do as a repair shop.

Make each person feel important when they are giving you their vehicle for service by practicing active listening and questioning and being patient when you have an intake dialogue with them.

Non-ATI Members: Check out this list of useful open-ended questions to ask when a customer is bringing in their vehicle for service. Download and share the contents with all your customer intake dialoguing personnel, practice the questions, and make your customers feel like royalty.