The Three Cs of Service Writing

Maintain a consistent, customer service oriented, clear relationship with customers

About 10 years ago I sold my Aprilia RS250 to buy my wife her engagement ring. My dad took some time to educate me about the three Cs of buying diamonds. The concept was catchy, and it helped me steer clear of some of the lesser products in the marketplace. I will always remember the three Cs and how it helped me communicate with the sales representative.


When consulting with service writers, I am always trying to come up with ways to help them communicate with the consumer — much like how I was trying to communicate to the jewelry sales representatives.  They knew more about diamonds than I did, and knowing the three Cs kept me from going into the wrong place and buying a lump of coal. Sometimes we take for granted the knowledge that we have about how to fix units. Many of our customers just want to ride and have fun. They are not skilled mechanics and many do not know the difference between an intake valve and a valve stem. 


After watching many difficult conversations, I came up with the three C’s for service writers. I figured if I was smart enough to remember them for buying my wife a ring, I should be able to remember them for what I do every day.

Quote the same job at the same price every time. Last summer, I got a phone call from a Harley dealer in South Carolina after the service department had created a domestic dispute between a husband and wife. The couple had been in on a Saturday, and they bought identical motorcycles. He went out of town on Monday, so she took advantage of her free time to ride back to the dealership to accessorize her bike. When the husband returned home on Thursday, he liked what she did so much that he went back to the dealer on Friday afternoon to get the identical accessories installed on his bike. When they met at a restaurant for dinner, they compared bills and his labor charge was an extra $150 for the same accessories. The husband was confused by this and was wondering why his wife got such a big discount on the labor install.


Quoting a job consistently starts with managing a standard jobs list. Place most of your standard jobs in your DMS, so when the service writer works with a customer they can pull the data in from what is on file. If there is no place to store this data in your DMS, make an Excel spreadsheet and keep it on file. If you are a franchise dealer, look at OEM warranty labor times to get a feel for how long it should take to perform a specific task. There are also labor guides in the industry that can help your service writers stay on track.

Customer Service:
Keep your customers informed on what you are doing to their unit and when you are doing it. This means calling them back when you discover there might be a few more things wrong once you open the engine cases. It is also important to keep in mind that for many customers their unit is equivalent to a diamond ring. So when they call you two days early to ask how things are going, it is because they have been trained by other shops in the area that the squeaky wheel gets the bike back. One of the best ways I find to keep in touch with the customer is to develop a call list. This can be as complicated as an Excel spreadsheet or as simple as a notepad. I have seen many dealers use a special bin to keep the repair orders that are waiting for customer authorization or have issues that need to be resolved. There are also contact management programs in our industry, and many of the DMS providers are storing customers’ e-mail information.  With the increase in smart phones, many customers can be contacted more quickly by text or e-mail. It takes less time to write up a message and send it over to a customer than it does to play 1980s phone tag.

Just like in the diamond world, this is probably the hardest part to get right. Communicating a technical issue with a non-technical customer can be very difficult. Take your time with the customer and make some simple analogies. Many times customers will spend hundreds of dollars on a service, and they cannot see what was done. Educating them on how long it takes to perform a task will make them feel like they got a good value for their money. A good example of this is a shim under bucket engine. Try taking a few minutes and explain to the customer that on certain models you need to tilt the engine forward to remove the cams and then you can adjust the valves. Tilting an engine forward and removing the cams sounds like a whole different process than just turning an adjustment screw.

Keep the three Cs in mind this summer. They will help your department build revenue by maintaining a consistent, customer service-orientated, clear relationship with your customers. 

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