Category Archives: Communications

7 Strategies for Your Fixed Operations “Space Race”

I was thinking this morning about how rockets and Fixed Operations Customer Management are related. With all the news about the different companies striving to become the next NASA, it reminded me that we are all in a “Space Race” even though I know that the two subjects seem completely unrelated and are not even in the same Encyclopedia volume.

And I submit for your consideration that driving a rocket into space and good Customer Service Management is exactly the same. Let me explain why.

Your Fixed Operations Service Business is your rocket ship. In this ship is everything you need to survive when venturing into the hostile environment that is the Customer Service space. In your ship (Service Department) you will find all of your life support systems, everything you need like electrical power, data bases, computer systems and communications.

You communicate with your Customers using phones, text, email and even person to person interaction to get them the information you need so they can give back to you course direction. Things like “Yes, go ahead and repair my brakes and rotate my tires” are course corrections for your Advisor and Techs.

Communications and course corrections are just as critical in your business as they are in the space business. You can’t go anywhere unless you know which direction you are going.

Pretty cool, huh. You were driving a rocket ship the whole time and you just thought you were at work.

There is one other element to consider that is the same in space flight as well as your Customer Service Department. It’s the people flying your rocket ship and what they do every day. So, I’d like to tell a little story about the space travel business (and Fixed Operations) and how monkeys become astronauts.

As the space race was starting, it became apparent that eventually someone was going to have to strap in, flip the switch and ride a burst of hot flaming gasses from earth into space and achieve orbit.nasarocket

In the beginning, there was a lot of concern regarding the effects of flying what is essentially a roman candle, into space. Not wanting to risk human life unnecessarily, the idea was floated to teach a monkey to ride in the rocket, thereby getting the data necessary to facilitate safe human flight. (Can you imagine the conversation around that conference table? “We’ve just spent a gazillion dollars on these rockets and we need someone to test fly them.” From the back of the room a tiny voice shouts out “We can get a monkey to do it!”)

So the call went out, find a monkey to go to space. Now we have continents full of monkeys, however, it’s doubtful any of them had seen a rocket much less flown one or even had any idea they were going to learn how to fly. They are monkeys after all.monkeysinspace

As the search started, it became apparent that we would need to set a few standards in place. We had to find acceptable monkeys. We had to train them. They had to be able to complete some simple tasks, pull a few levers, push a few buttons and survive the trip back to earth.

We found acceptable monkeys, trained them and then sent them. It was a Success…except for one thing. We couldn’t get the monkeys to tell us how the ride was, what they experienced and most importantly, what did they learn.

Why go to space if you can’t learn?

After all of the experiments were over, and we had all of the data, we went out and found the best pilots and asked them if they wanted to become astronauts. We had a very stringent selection process that filtered out those that would not make it in the harsh environment of space. We instituted a long intensive training program to make sure that the astronauts could fly rocket ships and respond appropriately in case of an emergency. We then edified the position to attract even more talented pilots who wished to become astronauts. (Who didn’t want to be an astronaut growing up?) We didn’t recruit or train any more monkeys. We found that we had all that we needed.

Nice story. What does that have to do with Fixed Operations Customer Service Management?

Well, I have a few questions to answer your question, Customer Service Professional.

Did the monkey actually “fly” the rocket or just ride around in it and complete a few tasks?

In your business, are your people flying your rocket, or just riding around pulling a few levers and pushing a few buttons?

Are you searching the continent for monkeys or astronauts? Are you training monkeys or astronauts in your store?

Take a look at the list of seven strategies for your space adventure next year. 311-hey-you

1. Key people in key positions need to be fully trained in the operation of your rocket ship.

2. Astronauts make better pilots than monkeys. Hire the right people.

3. Pulling levers and pushing buttons does not make a monkey a pilot. If they are a monkey, give them monkey duties. If they are a pilot, let them fly the ship.

4. You can train a monkey to only do so much. Then you need an astronaut.

5. Astronauts need to have a destination to fly to. (Set Goals)

6. If you keep flying the ship, no one else learns to be a pilot. They become monkeys.

7. Everyone likes a monkey until there is a crisis. Then they don’t want them.

For the new year is your course set? Do you have astronauts or monkeys?

By Leonard Buchholz

(The original article was posted here: http://EzineArticles.com/416202 and written by me)

Processes Save Lives

Processes save lives. It’s true. It is especially true when you are lying in a hospital bed with a doctor and a nurse talking to you about how their processes will save your life…which was where I found myself in the not too distant past.

Saving a customer's life begins with processes.

Saving a customer’s life begins with processes.

Actually, I found it rather odd that I was being talked to about processes. Usually, I was the one explaining why a process, when properly implemented, would save a customer’s life. (Not to mention the dealership’s life.)

So, there I lay. “We are going to check your vitals every 2 hours until you have made some progress.” That seemed reasonable to me. I might have needed a little extra monitoring to get well. It made total sense.

In our business, whether it is called checking the vitals or touching base, it is a necessary function of the Service Department. It doesn’t matter if the customer is in the waiting room or at home/work, you need to put them on a regular schedule of checking their “vitals”.

Let me ask you this. If you were to check on your customers in the waiting room on a similar schedule, would that save your CSI score? What about saving the customer all of those feelings they get when they are waiting…like “What’s taking so long?” and “Why hasn’t someone come to talk to me?”

More importantly, how would frequent status checks impact your Sales per Repair Order? I think a customer that feels like they are being paid attention to would be more receptive to hearing about what you have to say about their vehicle.

One thing about getting a consult in the ER or a hospital room is the consideration for your privacy. As you may know (once you are admitted) you get to wear a hospital gown that leaves you feeling vulnerable and exposed to the world.

Additionally, because everything is separated by curtains, most people walking by can listen to everything being said. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need my treatment plan broadcast for every person walking by to hear.

How about your customers in the waiting room? Do you just charge in there and start talking to your customer in front of everybody else who is waiting? Don’t you think they feel a little vulnerable and exposed? Why not move them to a little more private area of the service department or take them out of the waiting room to discuss their repairs? It makes total sense when you think of it and the customer will appreciate you taking that extra step to make them feel comfortable.

Better yet, take them to their vehicle! Show them what needs to get done.

Another thing about processes in the hospital… Everybody follows the process. There is no allowance for any personnel to make a change to the process. All of the hospital staff knows that they’ll be held accountable for their actions.  One of the biggest takeaways is …everything is charted.

One of my very first lessons in the service department as an Advisor came from my manager. This lesson was courtesy of some very poor Repair Order documentation on my part. Believe it or not, customers often call or ask questions when you are not around.

In this case, the customer called and due to my lack of documentation (and the technician being at lunch as well), the Manager could not tell my customer anything other than “We are checking it out and as soon as I have some additional news, I will have Leonard call you.”

I can tell you from that day forward that I added notes in detail. The rule was “If someone else other than you picked up the RO they could follow the notes and take action on your behalf.” They do the same thing in the hospital.

What about your store? Do you add enough information to the RO that anyone could pick it up, read it and then take action on your behalf? Are processes followed by everybody? Do you hold people accountable for their actions?

The absolute truth about a process is that it requires action to be accomplished. It cannot act on its own.

This means that when someone does not follow the process, it is because they did not complete an action step. This makes it incredibly easy to diagnose and repair. Let me give you an example.

“Hey Sally, did you complete a walk-a-round and menu presentation on Grandma Jones when she came in this morning?” That is how easy it is to measure whether a process has been done or not.

“No boss. She was just in 2 weeks ago.” Now you have something to talk to Silly Sally about. Why didn’t she follow the process? And, who gives the Advisor/Technician/Parts Counterperson permission necessary to skip a process? Can they just decide themselves which process is necessary and which one is not? Can they decide not to follow a process on their own in your store?

“Well Sally, she just came and asked for the service manager (that would be me) because she can’t understand why two weeks ago you recommend a service (which she declined then) and today, when you talked to her during the write-up, you did not mention it. What do you think I should tell her?”

At this point Sally knows she needs to follow the process every time with every customer.

Sometimes you need more tests to diagnose what exactly is going on. In my case, they needed to complete an additional diagnostic procedure to give them more information.

Not only did the doctor explain the process, but I had at least two more visits from the nurse on call and the nurse assisting the doctor. Each time they asked me if I understood what was going to happen and did I need additional information or another explanation.

Do you take the time to explain the diagnostics involved in diagnosing your customers vehicle? Not only is it the right thing to do, you will find yourself becoming more of an expert on the vehicle. Especially when it comes to recalls and campaigns. If a customer brings their vehicle in and it is chugging like a steam engine, their expectation is that it will take a little time and knowledge to diagnose the vehicle.

But they still want to know what you are going to do! So, tell them. Ask them if they understand what is going to take place. Offer to show them on their vehicle what you will be doing.

Lastly, in your process, do you follow-up? I can tell you that since I’ve been home that I have received 2 calls from the hospital asking me how I was doing and did I need anything else? What a feeling of confidence that gave me.

Do you follow-up with your customers? Many dealerships say they do. Many dealerships think they do. But, the reality is, many of the customers that come in don’t get a follow-up.

Lifesavers are every where if you know where to look for them.

Lifesavers are everywhere if you know where to look for them.

In fact, many of your customers don’t even get a proper send off at the cashier window. Many of them leave without talking to an Advisor or a Manager. Even worse, they don’t even get a Thank You. Or an invitation to come back!

Quite frankly, I did not want an invitation to go back to the hospital. In fact, I would be very happy not see the inside of one for the rest of my life.

Here is your reality. Your customer may or may not see you again too. It depends on how well you and your Service Team followed your process.

Processes save lives.

By Leonard Buchholz

 

How to make a banana into a bbq pork sandwich…with chips and a drink.

One of the best things about traveling is experiencing how other people run their businesses.  It also allows you to have many different Sales presentations from many different people. This story is about how one motivated, knowledgeable and especially friendly Salesperson made a banana into a bbq pork sandwich.Banana

I was training at a dealership in Ohio and one of my favorite things to do is to ask the people who live there “Where is the best place to eat?” I have had many memorable meals in great places from asking this simple question.

On this particular day I asked an even simpler question “Where is the closest place I can buy a little fresh fruit like a banana for lunch?” The service manager and parts manager said nearly instantaneously that there was a little shop just across the freeway in town (the dealership is located in a very rural area of Ohio). They also mentioned that there was a little deli/sandwich shop inside and that many locals went there for lunch.

I thanked them for their referral and headed for the rental car.

Less than 5 minutes later I opened the door to a fantastic and friendly  Sales experience. May I remind you that I started this quest in search of a banana?

First, the store smelled great. For me, smells are important; as it is for many of you I’m sure. Ever walked into one of the major hotel bands and smelled the cookies? Or walked into the showroom and smelled “the new car” smell? How a place smells can set the expectations of every person who walks in.

There is dealership that I trained in located in central California that I hated to walk into the showroom because the smell was not inviting, but sterile and astringent (even irritating). I mentioned this to the Dealer Principal who was not willing to discuss it or change it. I’ll never know if it had something to do with him selling the point later due to lack of sales.  But if I had to guess…

So, this placed smelled great. Have you smelled your store lately? Better yet, have someone like a relative stop by and smell your work area. You might be surprised at what they say about your Service Department or the Showroom. (By the way, this is one of the easiest fixes ever!)

To continue…I walked in and was instantly greeted. I mentioned Friendliness a few short paragraphs ago but I don’t think I can overstate this enough. Hire Friendly People. You can train skill sets, you can train processes, you can train policies and procedures…but you cannot train friendliness.

You can tell people you hire to “fake it until you make it” in regards to friendliness. Sometimes it works…but in most cases it does not. And everyone who walks into your dealership knows it. It’s impossible to hide.

People want to do business with friendly people. So here is a little test you can do. For just one day do these three things.

  1. Don’t greet anyone who walks into your Dealership. Allow them to stand there silently wondering if there is someone who is going to help them while they contemplate all their fears and reasons why they should not be in your dealership in the first place.
  2. Answer all of their questions with a combination of grunts, one word responses, mechanical jargon, mutterings under your breath while maintaining little eye contact and staring at your computer screen. Also, make your customer feel rushed and don’t allow them to ask questions.
  3. Don’t smile. Instead, frown and sigh whenever a customer asks a question. Don’t forget to talk over them, interrupt them and make sure they understand that you are smarter than they are because you are behind the counter.

Now this might sound crazy…but do you know how many dealerships I have been in and personally observed this style of communication?

Back to the lunch…smells great, friendly greeting. I said hello and just casually walked past the deli counter and on a little shelf I spied that banana I was seeking. As I was reaching for that banana I was asked a closing question by the woman behind the counter.

“Can I make you a bbq pork sandwich? They are really good. It comes in a Kaiser roll.” And… she said it with enthusiasm and a smile. I am in Sales. Most of you reading this are in Sales. If you work in a Car Dealership YOU ARE IN SALES! And there is nothing like getting closed by a professional closer.

Can you guess what I did? I dropped the banana and said “Sure!” Instantly she upsold me with “The lunch special comes with chips and a drink. You can find something you like to drink in the display case and pick out a bag of chips from the rack over there.”

Now I am getting a lunch special.

If you are an Advisor, and have difficulty making menu sales, remember this. Enthusiasm, friendliness and confidence will overcome any lack of knowledge or skills because your customer will believe in what you are saying because you believe in what you are saying.

This woman not only understood that, she also had the advantage of knowledge. She knew her product, knew it was good, knew what she could sell it for and delivered it with an assumptive close.  I wanted to hire her for the dealership I was working with that week.

As I approached the register, banana-less, I noticed there was a brand of chips hanging on the rack I was not familiar with. The other woman who was ringing me up (who was just as friendly and knowledgeable) asked me about my chip choice.

“I noticed that bag there. I have never seen that brand before.”

Her instant response…”Oh…you are gonna love them. They are made locally and are absolutely delicious. Hey, you are not from around here, are you?” I said that I was working in town with a local dealership for the week.

Again…another friendly response. “Great! Well you come back here anytime. We run daily specials and all of our sandwiches are made tight here with local ingredients. Listen, I know you are going to like these chips…A LOT…so I am going to put one extra bag in here so you don’t have to make another trip back here to get another bag.”

Now I have the lunch special and two bags of chips. And a drink. BBQ pulled pork sandwich with pickles and potato chips

Folks, that is a real lesson right here. Always look out for the customer’s best interest. She knew I would like those chips. And she also knew that I might not have time to get back over to her store…so she upsold me using the best technique on the planet. Exert friendliness, apply your knowledge and assume the Sale!

It was a damn good bbq pork sandwich and yes…I would go back there again. What about your customers? Are they coming back?

By Leonard Buchholz

Where does Repair Order Count attrition start? On the Telephone of course!

With the emphasis on increasing RO count through the manufacturer’s initiatives in regards to Quick Lube, Express Service, Fast Oil Change or whatever you call the 30 minute oil change in your Dealership, you would think that RO counts would be going up.

In some instances, yes they are. There is no doubt that these programs have resulted in more traffic into some stores in some cases.

But, in many stores, even with the advent of the “30 Minute Oil Change” marketing push and Free Maintenance, RO counts are going down.

Why?

Because Mr. and Ms. Advisor still answer the phone that same way they did last year…and the year before that… and the year before that.

Advisor “Hello, this is ABC Motors, can I help ya?”

Customer “I’m having a problem with my ’07 wagonmaster. It makes a funny noise when I start it up in the morning.”

Advisor “Yep, I’ve heard that one before. It’s probably the flutenator valve.”

Customer “Flutenator valve, huh. It sounds expensive. How much to repair it?”

Advisor “It’s depends on what type your wagonmaster had originally installed. Sometimes the whole rocket box assembly has to be replaced as well. Basically, if you don’t need it re-chromium plated, it’ll run ya about $395.00 installed.”

Customer “$395.00…I’ll have to think about it. I wasn’t expecting it to be so much.”

Advisor “Well, I’m not supposed to do this…but we have a coupon for 15% off right now for any repair. I have an extra one in my desk if you want it. Please don’t tell my boss that I gave it to you. Just come in and ask for me, Dumbass Dan.”

Customer “Ok, I’ll think about it.”

Advisor “Ok. Thanks for calling.”

I conduct in dealership live phone calls all the time. It’s part of our process when we are doing an evaluation. In the past 4 years, I can count on one hand how many times an Advisor came close to what would be considered a “professional telephone call” (by any standard you choose to use)  in which the Advisor guides the call and the customer to actually making an appointment.

Which, by the way, is the only reason for the Advisor to answer the phone… to make an appointment!

I have never met an Advisor whose last name is Google, but all day long they answer the phone and give out information and pricing and advice and coupons and everything else under the sun!!!!… without actually SELLING THE APPOINTMENT.

In addition to having poor to non-existing phone skills, the Service Departments themselves have a hard time dealing with an influx on customers who come in on the promise of a quick oil change by trained professionals and yet experience a long drawn out wait peppered with bad tv shows, loud pages over the intercom (yes, it still happens every day), and little to no information as to what their vehicle needs in order to maintain it in a safe and reliable condition.

“I have identified the enemy and it is us.”"I've identified the enemy..."

Want a better customer experience? Want more RO count? Want to capitalize on the marketing the manufacturer has pushed (not to mention your own efforts)? Then you need phone and communication skills to match your expectations.

Not training your Advisors is a choice.

by Leonard Buchholz

The Service Advisor’s “6 Steps to Happy Bank Deposits”

Here is a simple way to make more every month.
It’s called the “6 Steps to Happy Bank Deposits” and it goes like this.

1st, write down what you make per month right now.

Your position in life is determined by what you believe.

Your position in life is determined by what you believe.


2nd, write down what you want to make per month. (Be Realistic) This is a crucial first step because if you don’t make a personal commitment to make a change in how you think about your income then you can’t make the income you desire. 
3rd, determine your Sales per Transaction. If you write an average of 180 Customer Pay Repair Orders per month and you average $45,000.00 dollars a month in Customer Pay Sales, each Repair Order you write is worth $250.00.
4th, decide what amount of increase you would like on each Repair Order. Write it down and be Realistic. Post it where you can see it everyday. Think of it as building a staircase. You can’t jump to the top of the staircase…you have to take each step one at a time. Make a commitment to yourself to increase by a specific dollar amount…say $25.00 on each Repair Order. 
5th, increase your Sales per Transaction by using the Tools (Menu, Multi-point Inspection, Maintenance Recommendations) and Techniques (Feature/Benefit Sales Presentation, Professional Sales Skills) to Communicate Effectively to the Customer the Information they need to Maintain their Vehicle in a Safe and Reliable operating condition.
6th, Deposit New Income from following these steps.

Set Goals, Be Successful!

By Leonard Buchholz

Techno me, Train me or Tank me…which is it?

It is an age old diametrically opposed argument. On one side, we have technology. On the other side, we have personnel.

I can’t sell anything without a great Multipoint Inspection.
I can’t sell anything without a professional Sales Process.
I must have both in order to be effective.

In recent years there has been a migration to technology because we have come to expect that our Dealerships will be modern, fully equipped Service Centers that have the best tools and equipment because that’s the image that has been built through extended advertising.

It’s also why people have come to believe that going to the Dealer is always more expensive.

What has happened (IMHO) is that technology has become a crutch to be used instead of a professional Sales process and effective person to person communication skills. And becomes the scapegoat when the technology does not produce the Sale.

If I had to choose between the two, I’ll choose the professional Sales Process and Communication Skills because our business is still a person to person elbow rubbing “Hey, how are you doing?” smile on your face take care of the Customer business.

If you have a Service Department that is staffed with people and not extraterrestrial aliens or vampires, then they can be trained to present Multipoint Inspections using a Sales Process that produces consistent results.

In fact, over the past 11 years, we have been dong this very same thing in Service Departments all across the country and have helped them produce dramatic and spectacular results…using the same technology (Electronic MPI, Electronic Menus, Electronic write up, On line Appointment Scheduling, CRM Software, you name it…)  that was already in place and did not generate the expected results because they are simply tools when it comes right down to it.

The perfect example of the difference between training and technology exists in our own collective history. Remember OBDII? What happened when “Software Download” and “Electronic Diagnostics” took over our industry? In the beginning, there was a period of time when the plug in connector was viewed as a precursor to volcanoes and the return of the dinosaurs. The end of the world!

We had to train all of our Technicians to use the new technology. When we completed that re-training, our success in diagnosing the vehicle and repairing it the first time increased dramatically. (Which coincidentally has lead to a considerable decrease in warranty repair work.)

But there was still the Customer.

Why didn’t all of this new technology which made concerns easier to diagnose, lead to a decrease in defects per sold unit and increase the reliability (to name a few of the benefits), lead to an automatic increase in CSI, increased retention and more maintenance visits at the Dealership?

Because you can’t train a computer to smile, ask how you are doing, make a friend, build a relationship, remember their preferences, make recommendations based on priorities, remember that they are always your Customer and not a problem to be dealt with and lastly, you can’t teach a computer or build a software application that has Pride and Professionalism.

That is why you still need a smiling, professional Service Advisor.

Hey, you can keep paying those monthly fees for “stuff that don’t work” or give us a call. It’s up to you.

3 Common Mistakes Salespeople Make

The 3 Most Common Mistakes Salespeople Make That Cost The Dealership Money!

The good news: They are all Preventable! Read below for the latest in how you can prevent Lost Sales!

#1-NO INTERVIEW!

An interview is the most important part of any sales process. There are several objectives for the interview. 

    • build a relationship with your customer
    • establish some common ground
    • build rapport
    • find out their needs and wants.

The interview must be conducted in a controlled area such as the sales office. Too often the salesperson will simply escort the customer to the inventory and start their sales process (if they have one).

When this occurs, the sales person has NO idea of what the customer’s needs might be, budget, credit worthiness, who is the buyer, who is the decision maker, who will make the payments, how many seat belts will they need and a variety of other information.

Additionally, many customers will gravitate towards units that DO NOT fit their needs, budget or other factors. Usually they will put themselves on something that is substantially outside their financial capabilities.

The salesperson must bring the customer to their desk/office, sit them down and start gathering information. A decent interview should last at least 15 minutes.

               Skip this process and it will result in LOST SALES.

#2-CUSTOMER CONTROL
Every time there is a face to face encounter a sale is made. Either the customer buys into the salespersons presentation or the salesperson buys into the customer’s presentation.

The sale is made by the person in control. NO CONTROL, NO SALE.

Control is determined by the person ASKING the questions. To maintain control you, the Salesperson, must ask the questions.

You will need to anticipate the direction of the conversation, mentally think ahead to possible answers and be ready for different responses.

This is called “Thinking on your feet”. Explore every angle. Never stop asking questions.

#3-TURN TO A MANAGER Never be the person to let your customer leave the dealership. ALWAYS turn your customer to a manager.

Get a second opinion. Two heads are better than one. We’ve all heard all the reasons, so why doesn’t this get done?

Studies show that turning customers to a manager will result in an additional 5% sold units.

Now this may not sound like much. Let’s do the math. If your store has 500 UPS a month, this one deal saving technique will result in an additional 25 sales.

At $2500 per unit that amounts to $62500 in ADDITIONAL GROSS, just for getting a second OPINION!

Here then are the 3 ways you can turn a lost sale into a SOLD CUSTOMER!
Conduct a real interview, maintain customer control and always turn to a manager! Do this consistently and your organization WILL Sell More Units!

by Dugan Anderson

Sales Training Manager DealerPro Training Solutions

Need help with Sales Training? Losing Sales and looking for answers? Give Dugan a call at 406-755-2910 or send an email to dugan.anderson@gmail.com