Monthly Archives: May 2012

People say the darnedest things, don’t they.

We hear many things in Service.

Many people, many messages.

Stand on any Service Drive on any given day and you will hear Customers describe all kinds of noises related their vehicles. The variety of sounds people make describing their vehicle and situation is utterly amazing at times.

And no doubt you will hear conversations between Service Department personnel as they conduct their daily business.  Everything from “When will that part be here?” to discussions about lunch and everything else in between. In Service more words are exchanged on an hourly basis than nearly anyplace else on earth.

But there are things that you will never hear in the Service Department or even in the Dealership.  Here are a few of them.

  1. “Don’t take care of the Customer.” Is there ever a situation when you would not take care of your Customer? Maybe…I can’t think of one.  The chances are that 99.9% of the time you will be doing something.  Whether that is driving to their home to deliver a car to making sure that the waiting room coffee pot is full. The first word in your Department’s name is “Service.”
  2. “You are doing way too much maintenance work.” We recommend Service and Maintenance because that’s what we are supposed to do. The person doing that job is called the “Service Advisor” not the “Service Guy” or “Service Man/Service Lady” or even “Service Writer.”  The Service Advisor needs to be the most Professionally Trained and Knowledgeable person in the Dealership.  You can’t talk to a Customer intelligently about the vehicle and the maintenance required to keep it functioning as it is designed if all you know how to do is punch letters on a keyboard and say “Have a seat in our waiting room.”
  3. “You don’t need to be profitable this month/this year.” Just not going to happen. The Service Department is the heartbeat of the Dealership. Have you ever been to a Dealership where the Service Department was on its last wheezing gasps? That’s a Dealership in trouble because just like a human, you can’t live without a heart.
  4. “You can close early every day this week.” Nope, not going to happen either. Service stays open because vehicles break and more importantly Customers need us at to be open. For some people the family car is the one and only thing they have to get them around. For others it is the difference between making it to the doctor’s appointment or not. Service stays open because there isn’t a crystal ball made that can predict when it can be closed.
  5. “You don’t need to Train anymore.” There is not one single Successful business, military branch, professional sport, popular band or orchestra that does not Train on a regular and continuous basis. Not one. It’s impossible to put a marketable product, military presence, winning team or great sounding band into the world’s eye without it. Training is the beginning of Profit and the basis of Professionalism. You can’t have one without the other.

Take a listen the next time you walk through the Service Department. You will hear many things. Some of them might even be humorous. But chances are, you won’t hear these 5 things anytime soon.


What’s that noise in your service drive?

Have you ever blown up a balloon and then just let it go and listen to the sound it makes? If you have children or a crazy Uncle Lenny, chances are you’ve heard this noise before. It is so distinctive that once you’ve heard it, you are not likely to forget it the rest of your life.

I’ve heard this same noise in my head many times in the service drive right after an Advisor says something he or she shouldn’t have. In our business there are many things that must happen to make sure that the Customer has a great experience.

And it all starts with a person to person interaction. This “point of no return “occurs when the Advisor opens his/her mouth and says…______________.

In the past few years I have heard some things come out of the Advisors mouth that were, quite frankly, ridiculous, stupid and condescending. Here are a few that sounded bad (think balloon noise) when I heard them and still sound bad along with a list of alternatives that you might consider using.

  • “We can’t take you today/tomorrow/etc.” or “You’ll have to make an appointment.”
  • “Can you come back tomorrow, I’m afraid we’ve overbooked.”
  • “We don’t offer __________.”
  • “We don’t do____________.”
  • “We don’t take those coupons” or “Those are too old for me to use.”
  • “What’s your name (Bud, Chief, Boss, Miss)?” or “Wow. That’s a strange way of spelling your name.”
  • “Is that your mug shot?” referring to a Customers  driver’s license
  • “Don’t stand there. You are blocking my light/view etc.”
  • “Can I help you?”
  • “Do you have an appointment?”
  • “Man, your car looks bad. What’dja do…run it into a ditch?”
  • “No.”

I can’t make these up folks. I have heard this and many more on the service drive from Advisors who thought they were being cute, funny, friendly…whatever. In some cases, doesn’t it sound like they just didn’t care? Yeah, it sounded like that to me too.

Let me ask you this. When you say these things out loud, how do they sound to you?

When you hear them in your own voice, does it make you want to stay and do business or does it make you want to reach over the counter, grab that silly Advisor by both ears and ask them “Hey, are these broken? Because what you just said to me, your Customer, did not sound so good just now. Let me say it back to you and you tell me what you think.”

Here are the alternatives.

  • “Mr./Ms. Customer, I can work your vehicle into the repair rotation and give you a report late today or possibly tomorrow. Would that work with your schedule?”
  • “Mr./Ms. Customer, I can work your vehicle into the repair rotation and get it back to you tomorrow. Does that work with your schedule?
  • “Mr./Ms. Customer, here is a list of services we provide to all of our Customers. In order for me to take care of _______, I would need to send it to another specialty repair facility that handles these types of repairs. Would you like for me to take care of it or is this something you would like to do?”
  • “Mr./Ms. Customer, this is one of the very few services we don’t provide, however, I have made a list of someone locally that does this type of service, and I’ve taken the liberty of calling them and advising them that you will be in contact soon.”
  • “Mr./Ms. Customer, these coupons are from a previous campaign and they have expired. What I can do is____________.”
  • “Hello, my name is __________, and yours is?”
  • “Thanks for providing a license for me to copy the information from. It makes things easier.”
  • “It’s going to take me a minute to complete the paperwork. Would you like a cup of coffee or a seat while you are waiting?”
  • “Hello, my name is ________ and I can help you.”
  • “What brings you into the Dealership today?”
  • “We can take a look at your vehicle. Let’s get started on the paperwork.”
  • “Yes” or “Let me see what I can do.”

It’s not that hard. It’s just common sense and common courtesy. Just take a second and think before you open your mouth to say something. That extra second or two is the difference between sounding Professional and sounding  ridiculous, stupid or condescending. Don’t make balloon noises.

Professionals know that effective verbal communication is the key to high CSI and repeat business.

Are your advertising dollars well spent?


Coupons (Photo credit: ralphhogaboom)

In fixed ops we constantly worry whether or not we are getting a return on every one of our ad dollars. Every manufacturer tracks it. Every ad vendor tracks it. And when we spend the money and don’t get an immediate return, we start to fret.

Here is the rub.

Customers don’t make a connection with an ad. Customers don’t make a connection with an offering or a  “service reminder”, they make a connection with a person. Your Advisor.

Bed, Bath and Beyond sends a coupon every week. I don’t need to go there every week. When I do go there, I go with a coupon. If I were the marketing manager for their organization it would be easy to determine the value of advertising.

Advertising keeps your name name in front of the Customer, namely me.
But, when I do go to BB&B, I want to be treated like a person, not a number, not an ad campaign respondent.

That’s where the effectiveness of marketing becomes a reality.

If you can get them in and you can’t take care of them when they get there, no amount of advertising dollars will be enough.

When I need to have service, sure, I’ll pull the coupons out of the glove box, look through the paper and read my home mailer to see if there is a deal worth investigating. And when I show up, you can bet the advertising dollar you spent to get me in your service drive was worth it…I’m ready to buy!

But treat me like I’m not important, greet me with “Do you have an appointment” instead of a smile and a handshake, ignore my request for personal service, interrogate me instead of asking questions, keep me in the dark while waiting for an update, make me call you for information instead of the other way around, talk to me in a condescending manner, don’t tell me about what other service(s) might be important to maintain my vehicle, fail to go over my repair with me when I pick up my vehicle, give me grunts and one word answers instead of explanations and recommendations, and frown at me instead of smiling, and see how much your advertising dollar is worth.

Not much.

The Truth of Discipline

The dictionary tells us that discipline is ” a system of rules or training that develops self control.”

What it does not tell us is that there is a reward for having discipline and the ability to start something and see it through.

There are physical results we can see all around us. Examples include the Great Wall in China, the Pyramids and the Mayan Civilization. And there are examples of what humans can do for themselves and their fellow man/woman as well. Great people who became greater through discipline.

Great Wall of China near Jinshanling Polski: W...

Great Wall of China near Jinshanling Polski: Wielki Mur Chiński w okolicy Jinshanling (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You might even have one or two of those people in your life, past or present. I can tell you who one of mine is right now and it’s been 20 years since I’ve seen him last. My instructor at the SNCO academy, Gysgt. Thunder.

The point is that each of these great accomplishments and the great people you meet are the result of a simple formula.

Directed thought followed by planned action applied over time.

It is the heart of discipline. It is doing something until its finished or can’t be done any more. This is essentially the formula for a great life as well as accomplishing great things.

You are the result of the very same thought process that brought about the previous examples. You are the living result of directed thought followed by planned action applied over time. This is the “life formula” that got you where you are today and for making anything you want.

Now some of you are a little skeptical. You might even be saying something like “Hey, I didn’t plan this, I didn’t plan anything and that’s the way I roll. You can’t plan everything anyways. Life just happens.”

I get it, no problem. Just realize that the formula is still in effect. Let me break it down for you.

Your statement is a direct thought (“I won’t plan anything and play the cards as they lay”) followed by planned action (“I won’t take any action at all”)  applied over time (“I’ll get around to getting on with my life as soon as I feel like it”). Mix it all together and you have a result.

It is…well…the key to your universe. You cannot beat the formula. Whether or not you do something or not, that thought applied over a period of time will get a result. That’s the nature of discipline.

Just so you know, there is another thing you can do. You can use this formula over and over again to bring anything you want to you. Directed thought followed by planned action applied over time.

And there are some variables which you can control.

1st. You choose the thought which you would like to direct. So, choose the best ones.
2nd. You choose the plan. Which means you’ll want to learn to plan for the best results.
3rd. You choose how long you want to take to complete it. It can be sooner or later.

And lastly, you can choose to put a sign on your door to results that says “do not disturb.” Just understand that the formula is still in play. Your non-use of this formula results in unplanned actions followed by somebody else’s discipline applied against you over time.

The good news. You can do what you set out to do with directed thought, planned actions and time.

Want to have a big day today? Get a checkup.

“When our research tracked 20,000 new hires, 46% of them failed within 18 months. But even more surprising than the failure rate, was that when new hires failed, 89% of the time it was for attitudinal reasons and only 11% of the time for a lack of skill. The attitudinal deficits that doomed these failed hires included a lack of coachability, low levels of emotional intelligence, motivation and temperament.”  Mark Murphy, Hiring for Attitude, Forbes

In the car business , it’s all attitude.

This quote struck me like a bolt of lightning this morning.  Didja ever have that happen to you? You go into work or pick up the paper or see or hear something and BAM it’s in your head and everything seems different even if it’s only for a little while.

Anyways, I think I have probably heard “do a checkup from the neck up” at least a million times in my career. It is as pure an attitude adjustment technique today as it was when first uttered. I picture a Roman general saying to his troops just before battle “Hey, get in the war man. Do a checkup from the neck up before we rush over that moat” or something like that.  That’s how old it is.

And just like everything else that’s been around awhile there is a reason it’s still being used today.  Because it works.

Here are 5 ways you can do a little Attitude Adjustment before you start talking to customers today.

  1. Find a reason to smile. And if you don’t have a reason to smile, just start smiling. Even if you are by yourself. It sounds weird, but it works. Smiling produces a physical and mental change in our body and creates a positive energy that will carry you through the day. Don’t believe me? Try frowning and scowling all day. Go ask your significant other to do something for you while scowling at them and see what happens.
  2. Make a quick checklist of 10 things you are grateful for. Then put that checklist on your desk or carry it around in your pocket and look at it a couple of times a day. You could do one now and then another one at the end of the day and compare. In fact, if you post it somewhere other people can read it (hint: customers) you might find yourself making a few more sales.
  3. Make it your mission today to infect someone else with your attitude. Try it. The next customer that comes in don’t say this to yourself “Here comes a mooch, bet they don’t buy squat.” Instead say this to yourself “Hey, that’s great! A customer is here to see me! Fantastic! I can’t wait to tell them about _______” put a big smile on your mug and get to work. The same thing applies in service.
  4. Become solution focused and not problem focused. Hey, Mr./Ms. Salesperson/Service Advisor, every deal is not a deal until it is a deal. Which means even if they need a new car or need new brakes, it can go sideways. You have to stay solution focused until the deal is done. Centered on the solution, not the problem. If you are always thinking about ways of solving problems, you will solve them. If all you think about is “Why did this happen to me” get ready for more unfortunate “happenings.”
  5.  Start using positive language on yourself. Positive words instead of negative words. Don’t say “This sucks” every time something does not go your way. Say this instead. “I’ll find a way” or “I’ll make it happen” and start doing something different. Here is a simple rule you can apply. E + R = O. Event plus Response equals an Outcome. If you are not having enough good Outcomes, you need to change your Response. It starts with positive language and carries over to positive Action.

I should be writing a big closing statement here and itemizing all of the important points. But I won’t.

Want to have a big day today??? Then do those things that lead to Success. Start by Changing your Attitude.