OK, I know that most of you didn’t wake up this morning with wiper blades on your mind. I did, obviously, that’s why I am writing this article. I know you have more important things to do than think about ways to sell wiper blades and honestly, if that was all you were thinking about today and nothing else, well, I would be concerned about you, but humor me for a few minutes and let’s talk about wiper blades and how I believe they may be the most important customer retention tool you have.
Now, I don’t expect you to get too excited about wiper blades, nobody does, and I get it. You are busy, you have customers to handle, employees to manage and motivate, cars to move and parts and labor to sell. I’m pretty sure that selling wiper blades didn’t even make it on your second or third list of things to do and I get that too. Let’s face it, wiper blades aren’t sexy. They’re wiper blades, for god’s sake. They aren’t cool. They are a low dollar sale. You don’t make much profit on them and you can’t even charge labor to install them without pissing customers off. They are a distraction and your advisors and techs are too busy selling things that make you money, so why even bother to sell them? See I told ya, I get it, but I also get this, and you need to get it too. I said this before, but I am going to say it again. I believe that selling wiper blades could be one of the best ways to grow your business, increase service traffic and boost customer retention. That’s right, I said it. I know you think I must have lost my mind, but hear me out, ok?
Here’s what we know. Customers almost never come in and ask for wiper blades, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t want to buy them. They ask for an oil change and a tire rotation. Customers know what those two services are, they know when they need to have them done, and they know about what they are worth. So, if you are aggressive with pricing, stay consistent with your advertising and provide a good service by getting people in and out fast, you will do more oil changes and more tire rotations and you will also create more opportunities to sell other services, repairs and yes, even wiper blades.
So why am I so obsessed with selling wiper blades? Well, here’s why. Put yourself in a customer’s situation for a minute. He drives in to get an oil change and a tire rotation and the first thing your advisor or quick lube guy says is that we will do a multi-point inspection. Maybe he even shows him the inspection report. He makes a big deal out of it and so do you because you even advertise that you include a multi-point inspection on all of your ads and coupons. So, understandably, customers expect that to be done, but here is where the problem pops up. Even though you told your customers you would check their entire car over with your inspection, nobody ever “inspects” their wiper blades. It just isn’t done and if you don’t believe me, go ask your advisors, your quick lube guys and your techs, even master techs. Nobody does it and they can’t even give you a really good reason or excuse why.
I say this all the time. “Excuses only sound good to the person that’s making them” and I can prove it. Here is one excuse I heard for why we don’t check wiper blades and it’s funny. A service advisor and a tech actually told me that this is the reason they don’t check wipers, “It’s actually pretty hard to do. It’s difficult to duplicate road conditions and rain and anyway, you have to turn the car on, squirt washer fluid and then watch the wipers to see if they wipe or not. Then, if they don’t work well, you have to show the customer that they didn’t work and then you have to call the parts department to get a price, then you have to try to sell them the wiper blades, and then we have to install them and to top it all off, we don’t even make any money on them, so there is just no reason to do it.” Wow, the excuse train stopped and took a dump on that one, didn’t it? So, to cut to the chase, nobody does it and if you don’t believe me, go ask your parts department how many wiper blades you’ve sold each month and compare that to the opportunities you’ve had (that would be your repair order count.) And here is another thing that bugs me. You told your customers you would check their car over with your extensive multi-point inspection, but you didn’t really do it, did you? So, you essentially start the relationship with the customer by lying to them, and that just isn’t good in anybody’s book.
And here is another thing that is a little bit more long term. Imagine the customer coming in for the oil change and you selling him $350 worth of repairs and services, brakes, whatever as upsells. The customer pays his bill and leaves happy. Maybe you even washed his car and he appreciated that. But then, 2 days later at 10:00 at night, while he is driving down the dark road with 3 kids and a dog in the car, it starts to rain. He turns on his wipers, and well, you know what happens, they screech across the windshield like fingernails on a chalkboard.
He is pissed. All he can think of is that the car was just in for service, he spent $350 and you said you did a thorough inspection of his vehicle, but you didn’t replace his friggin’ wiper blades. He might not be mad enough to call you to complain, he might not give you a bad review online, he might not even send you an email about it, but he will most likely never come back. He has kissed you goodbye and you don’t even know why.
I call this the “Missed and Pissed and Kissed” equation. You missed the sale of wiper blades, you pissed the customer off at the same time and he has now kissed you goodbye. They are equal, missed = pissed, and pissed = kissed.
The solution: Ask every customer that comes in when the last time they had their wiper blades replaced, it’s that easy, really it is. But if you think your advisors might get lost in that complicated question, here is a script for them to use to make it easier, “When was the last time you had your wiper blades replaced?” Gees, ya think that is easy enough?
Think about it, the customer is either going to tell you that he can’t remember when he had them replaced or that he had them replaced not too long ago. If he says he can’t remember, that means it’s time to replace them and that you have them on sale (they are on sale, you sell them every day). If he says he had them replaced not too long ago either at your store or somewhere else, ask him if he has noticed any “streaking or squeaking.” Those are very technical terms, but he will understand them. If he says yes, he has “streaking or squeaking,” tell him that means it’s time to replace them and once again, you have them on sale. If he says they are working great, tell him that next time he comes in for service you will replace them and give him the sale price. That way, you build confidence, show you care, and you also save him a trip to the parts store. All of those answers are good answers – even if he says he isn’t having a problem with the wipers right now, at least he knows that you cared enough to ask.
Come on guys, this isn’t rocket science, it’s simple. When you go to the doctor complaining of whatever, they always start by checking your pulse and your blood pressure and asking you a few simple questions about your health. It doesn’t matter what you go in for and I just think that when it comes to your car your tires and wipers are the vital signs that need to be checked or at least asked about, don’t you agree? They are safety related items and if you really care about your customers, if you really care about growing your business and if you really care about boosting sales and customer retention, sell some wiper blades. How easy is that?
So, here is the hard part. Service Managers have to take the lead. You have to make sure your advisors know that asking about wiper blades is not an option, it is a condition of employment. Doctors expect nurses to check your vital signs, they can’t just decide to not do it. Get your wiper blade sales count every day, post it and compare it to your repair order count to see how you are doing on maximizing opportunities. Explain the stories I shared and make sure they understand the long-term effect on customer retention that can be improved just by selling wiper blades.