Category Archives: Dealership

3 Key Components of Outstanding Service Departments

When examining the best service departments across the country, you often find that they all share common best practices that create additional service sales and gross profits for their dealerships.

These best practices combined with daily monitoring, observation and coaching results in professional sales organizations that can sustain a dealer during times of slow sales or downturns in the economy.

One of the most overlooked skill sets in dealers that struggle with decreasing repair order count is service phone sales skills. While you would be hard pressed to find people who do not have the ability to be courteous and project a good image on the phone, it is easy to find personnel who have not been trained to sell service appointments.

One phone survey company* found that service advisors do not offer appointments or attempt to sell an appointment on 57% of the calls they field even though the opportunity sell an appointment presented itself.

If this is happening in your dealership and your service team fields an average of 100 information calls a day, it means there are 57 missed opportunities, every single day. A properly trained Advisor can be expected to convert 30% of those calls (or more) into service appointments.

So the question is, what would your service drive look like with an additional 17 service appointments every day?

Once you’ve trained and coached on phone sales skills you can then begin to train on Advisor communications skills. This is another area that the most successful dealerships continually monitor and coach their employees to near perfection.

Communications skills are not only important to Customer Satisfaction Index scores, they are critical in Customer retention. Advisors that have weak listening skills and a complete lack of follow through on promises, become the source of nearly every Customer complaint registered at your dealership.5waystoincrease

One Advisor will interact with an average of 10-15 Customers per day. Based on that number, one untrained Advisor can impact 44 Customers a month in such a way as they could possibly decide not to come back.

If your store sells 150 cars a month, and your retention is in the mid-range of 40-50%, you can expect a net gain of 31 new car Customers a month from your 150 sales in the front end.

Does it make sense not to train your Advisor in communications skills when so much is dependent on him/her being a professional in every sense of the word? Of course not.

Lastly, those dealers that are doing it right have a complete marketing plan in place. They make a decision to budget funds for service marketing based on repair order count while taking into consideration recalls, campaigns and industry trends.

Recently there has been a flood of recalls that have not left any manufacturer on the sidelines. Many dealerships took advantage of those recalls by highlighting their ability to service their Customers while attracting new business through strategic traditional marketing as well as social marketing.

And they have “hit it out of the park.”

Not only did they service their own Customers, they were able to attract new business with the goal of converting then to regular service Customers. Take an average dealer writing 45 repair orders a day, factor in about a 30% warranty repair order write-up rate, adjust for “just recall” warranty repairs of about 30-40% from that warranty rate, and your team has the chance to make 3 or 4 recall Customers into regular service Customers every day.

So the question is, did you want to allocate funds for marketing, train for opportunities and coach for results…or did you just want to keep doing what you’ve always done and keep getting what you’ve always got?

Make a commitment to your service team and follow through with sales training, communication skills training and a marketing budget in line with your stated Goals and watch your Profits soar!

by Leonard Buchholz


Is this a “Training Issue”…?

Nearly every week we spend training in a Dealership, we try to identify and help correct deficiencies in production, CSI and dealership employee performance. The rub is that every dealership has different issues and problems.

Sometimes it’s the training, sometimes it’s the employee and sometimes it’s the management.Is this a "Training Issue?"

And 100% of the time when there is little progress in performance or profit improvement, the dealership employees and management say “It’s a TRAINING ISSUE!” Of course, it must be a training issue because there is no way on this green earth that is could be the dealerships employees or management team.

So, let’s tackle the myth of the “Training Issue.”

Inconsistent application of processes is not a Training Issue. Once a process has been introduced, trained on and implemented, it can’t be un-introduced, un-trained and un-implemented. It can be ignored. It can be discarded. It can be disregarded.

Processes are systematic steps completed in a specific order to achieve a desired result. Once personnel have been trained on them, practiced them, implemented them and used them, training is complete.

When they are not being followed, it’s because a human being decided that they were not going to follow that process. This means, it’s not a “Training Issue. “

Lack of follow through on promises made to the Customer is not a Training Issue. As an Advisor, when I made a promise to the Customer to call them by 2:00pm with an update on their vehicle, if that did not happen, it most definitely was not because I had not been “trained.”

There may be any number of reasons (excuses) that I missed my call back time. What’s not important is the reason, what is important is the implication, not only to the Customer, but to the Service Team.

If I as a Service Advisor, do not follow through on my promise to the Customer to call them back, take care of an inquiry, make sure a part got ordered…etc., why would that Customer trust me or the Service Department to take care of their needs in the future?

That is the real consequence of lack of follow through. Customers stop coming back. And that hurts the entire dealership.  And it is most certainly not a Training Issue.

Absence of performance results is not a Training Issue.  Performance increases remain the end result of repeated application of processes. Stop applying the process, start deceasing performance. It does not matter if you are talking about a sports team; orchestra, business team or dealership team, the performance achieved is directly related to the consistent application of a process.

So, what is a “Training Issue?”

It’s when someone does not know how to do something. They require Training to understand the process, what steps need to be taken in what order, how to circumvent obstacles and how to implement what’s been taught.

As a young Advisor, I needed to be shown how to write a repair order. I needed Training to understand the steps necessary to make a piece of paper print on a printer so I could present it to the Customer for their signature. Someone had to Train me to do that.

If I did not follow the steps, a piece of paper did not print and I could not get a signature. It was not a matter of not being Trained and entirely a matter of not following the steps.

In the CarBiz, we all have processes in place to help us take care of the Customer whilst making a return on the investment of time we put into following that process. Anytime we deviate from that plan, we risk losing all that we put in plus we risk losing the Customer.The Truth

Make sure that what you believe is a Training Issue is really a Training Issue by asking the simple question “Do they know how to do what we are asking?”

Because most “Training Issues” are really “Leadership Issues.”

By Leonard Buchholz

Resignation Letter

Resignation Letter

Date: Effective Immediately

From: Fixed Operations Gross Profit

To: Dealer Principal

Dear Dealer Principal,

It is with great regret that I must submit this letter of resignation effective immediately.

Although we have worked together over the past few years I don’t feel I can contribute to your bottom line anymore. It has been a great experience and I wish you and all of your dealership team the best.

I am quite excited about the opportunity that is in front of me. The team I am moving to have a firm grasp on my potential and have made a commitment to increasing my role while taking care of their customers.

For example, the advisors understand the difference between taking an order and taking care of the customer. They take the time to explain to every customer the different maintenance requirements of their particular vehicle.

And they make sure every customer gets a maintenance schedule with recommendations on how the customer can best take of their vehicle for longer life and greater customer satisfaction.

They even set up a quick lane service that is as convenient as the “aftermarket guys.” Yessir, they have the customer’s best interest in mind at my new place of work.

Those are just a few things they have done to attract new Gross Profit like me. In fact, they made an offer so attractive, I just could not say no. The best part…they even have an advisor service drive write-up process that practically guarantees my continued employment there for as long as I like!

Believe me when I say I contemplated a long time before deciding to make a change. I considered all the benefits of staying here and there are a couple. I know that every month will be the same as last month and there is something to be said for continuity I guess.

Also, doing the exact same things day after day without making changes does have some benefits. At least I always knew that I would have some small role in the dealership’s success. I have to be honest with you when I say that sometimes it was hard watching the other dealerships with larger Gross Profits, but I got used to it.

Perhaps that is what has finally led to this. All in all, I think the best word to describe my time here is “underachievement.” And without any new processes or changes, I’ve made the decision to part company.

I really wish we could have done more together. Good Luck to you in your future endeavors.


Fixed Operations Gross Profit

“Things” do not a good Service Experience make…

Service is an “elbow to elbow” people business. As I (we) have traveled and observed so many Dealership Service Operations, there is still one overriding factor that every Customer Service Organization must understand and adhere to. This is people business.

Customer services

Customer services (Photo credit: gordon2208)

You can have perks, loyalty programs, free coffee, wifi, marble covered floors and chandeliers…and none of that makes a difference if you fail to take care of your most valuable asset…the Customer.

To be clear, I am not saying that Customers do not want perks. We all do. CRM companies sprang to life and have done very well since the industry recognized the need to stay in touch and recapture Lost Souls and Lost Sales.

Loyalty and Rewards programs have filled the gap between “have a seat and a cup of coffee” to “for every visit you’ll get_____ and _______.” Customers get it.

The reason we have seen a defection of Customers (even though there are Factory Sponsored Free Maintenance Programs) is the People they do Business with coupled with the Professionalism in How they Deliver said Service.

You can’t train Friendliness or Caring.

Here is the proof. When was the last time you went somewhere…say a local dry cleaners or a restaurant…and were treated poorly…maybe you weren’t greeted properly…or the clerk or waiter didn’t smile, answered all of your questions with grunts, one word answers and frowns…all the while staring at the computer screen or order pad…and then said to you “Come back and see us again. We have a rewards program…here is a brochure.”
That brochure hit the round file the second you had a chance to do so and for good reason. There is no way (EVER) you would go back there.
Things do not a good Service Experience make!
People do make the Service Experience!

By Leonard Buchholz

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!


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.

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

4 Challenging Employees and What To Do About Them

Employees are the life of any organization. We spends hours recruiting, screening and interviewing them. After we have hired them, we spend more time training, coaching and monitoring them.

And when it’s all said and done, we like to think that we have contributed to the Dealership’s future and had a hand in weaving the very fabric of that Dealership.

And in every Dealership there are some employees we label as “The Challenges”.

These people make us wonder why we became managers.

Maybe you inherited them… maybe you hired them and maybe… you managed them into the underachievers they are.

Whatever the situation, you have got to find a way to transform them from the under performing underachievers into consistent contributors to your Team.

Here are 4 of the most Challenging individuals and some strategies in guiding them through their transformation into Performing Team Members.

Before we go too far, there is one rule you must be aware of.

You can’t fix their Attitude. They own it. It belongs to them. The only way it changes is through their thinking.

What is an Attitude? Let’s define it before we move on.
I like this definition, see if you don’t agree.

An Attitude is a thought process. It is a reflection of a person’s internal reaction to their external environment.

Attitudes are influenced by emotions, actions, reactions, events and people. They can be extremely fragile or incredibly strong. And they change constantly in some people.

If you spend your time trying to change the “Attitude” instead of focusing on the “Behavior” you will die a slow death in Leadership hell smashed against the rocks of “The Unchanged Cliffs” much like a beached ship washed upon a coral reef.

Here are the 4 most common underachievers.

The Axe Grinder. This person exists in every Dealership. They are the one person that had something happen to them in their employment and they believe the Dealership or the manager had a hand in it. They are the ultimate “conspiracy theorist” when it comes to changes within the Dealership. To them, everything that has happened to them was the result of “poor management” and if they ran things everything would be perfect.

Instead of focusing on a solution, they would rather focus on telling everyone how “messed up” the Dealership or you, the manager is. They prefer to carry around their sad tale regaling coworkers from time to time with their own private philosophy and “management style.” (This is the “What I would do if” scenario)

They can become quite bitter towards the Dealership and even other co-workers if they are allowed to continue with their Axe Grinding.

The Fix. It’s a 3 step process. 1st, identify the Grinders main problem or issue. This can be extremely difficult to get to because, as with most Grinders, they usually have a list of things that are wrong. You need to focus on the items on their list that are repairable and can be addressed. Get them to acknowledge that  there are  things that will never be fixed and to put them away for good.

2nd. Ask for their help in resolving the issue(s). This is the buy in. You can’t move to step 3 without getting the Grinder to say that the solution you both agree on will take care of the issue to their satisfaction.

3rd. Describe the course of action you will take and describe the behavior that you expect from the Grinder from this point forward. Notice I did not say anything about “changing their Attitude” or “shape up.” If you want them to stop talking to everyone about everything that has ever happened then tell them that it is part of the agreement. One final thought here is that they agree to bring to your attention other problems before they get out of hand and they have a solution they believe will solve the problem.

The Agenda Maker. These folks have something to prove. They are totally focused on getting something done for themselves, quite often, at other people’s or the Dealership’s expense. They are not team players and do not have anyone’s interests in mind but themselves. In order to get what they want, they have been known to undermine other coworkers or you.

Quite often they are brilliant in what they do. Many Dealership’s rely on their performance. The numbers they produce can make or break a month or even a quarter. For many managers it becomes a matter of managing the lesser of two evils.

Every Dealership needs performance, and yet every Dealership requires cooperation and harmony to excel. Your internal battle is “For performance and numbers, do I allow this person to run roughshod over my department? Treat other workers poorly? Maybe even become arrogant to the point of openly defying management?”

The Fix. This includes identifying the behavior and setting some boundaries for this individual. By letting them know that you do not nor will you allow them to set the pace or tone for your department, you are also setting the expectations for their continued employment.

Tell this person that you appreciate their efforts, and will continue to support them in the performance of their duties. At the same time, let them know that you require cooperation and that if they want to play their own tune they may have to find another band.

Ask them to help build the department or business. Ask them to help train and support other team members. In some cases they are actually looking for additional duties and would like to have a hand in developing the business.

If they are not willing to play by the rules, they leave.

Mad Bombers. These are the quiet people. They never say much. (In public) They can be aloof to the point of unfriendliness (sometimes).

Now, some of you are saying, so what? Hey, at least they are being quiet, and doing their job… what more do you want?

This is the problem with these employees. One day, they come into your office and say “I want to file a complaint” or “I’ve taken another position” or “This is a hostile work environment” or any number of other bomb drops.

Because they feel they are not involved in the Success and Daily Dealership Business they never tell you what is going on and they have little loyalty. The bombs they drop often are the result of years of feeling “stepped on” or “I’m not appreciated.”

The Fix. Identify them and ask them for their input regularly. Get them involved and talking about what they are involved in. These folks will require a little more MBWA time and will open up if they feel you are genuinely interested in them. Here is a hint. You can learn at lot about your Dealership by talking to the quiet folks rather than the noisy folks. They are generally great observers.

Help them become better participators by involving them in more daily activities. You might consider starting a Toastmasters or speaking club in your Dealership, as these folks will benefit from speaking in public.
Make sure you involve them in making decisions and policy by openly asking for their input and suggestions.

Paychecker. These folks are here for the money. They perform their duties as well as anyone else; however, they will not perform above the call of duty.

They never volunteer for anything, yet are first in line for the food at the annual Dealership picnic. You can count on their coming to work, and not much else. They do not have much loyalty, and can become job hoppers.

They are also the “first” complainers. Every time something new comes about or requires a little more effort than before, they complain. Then they put their hand out.

In some cases, they can become the “malicious obedience” or “selective obedience” employees. They never doing anything outright that would get them fired for say malfeasance or performance, but they just tip toe the line right on the edge.

The Fix. This is a 3 step process.

1st. Let the Paychecker know that they are performing at an “average” level. Help them see that meeting minimum levels only guarantees that they will have minimum paychecks and that continued performance at average will mean that they get replaced first should the need arise.

2nd. Identify goals that can be met and achieved by the Paychecker that will lead to increased levels of production and pay. Help them see a new vision of them that will happen if  they commit to an increased level of performance.

3rd. Plan to review with them monthly for the first 90 days and see what progress they have made on their goals. Once they see that you are really interested in their achievements, they will begin to come around.
If they persist in maintaining minimum levels, give them duties and tasks that reflect those levels. If they wish to always remain a “Paychecker”, chances are you will not have them in your employ too much longer, as they are always looking for the BBD. (Bigger, Better Deal)

One final thought.
There is not a “one all fixes all” solution for these underachievers.

It requires some serious thought on your part, designed implementation and regular follow-up. (Persistence) You can’t have one meeting with any of them  and expect that all will be perfect from this day forward. It doesn’t work that way.

Take the time to identify the underachiever, make a plan that gives you and your Dealership an opportunity to help someone make a change for the better and follow through.

Make Your Next Coaching Session Memorable and Powerful

Every Coaching session can be effective if you follow certain steps to improve your chances of a Successful outcome.Be Specific and Get Results!

There is one word that is critical in determining the outcomes. That word is “Specific.” There is an old saying that goes like this. “The more specific you are the better your results” and it applies to everything.

Want to improve your Communications? Be Specific.

Want to have greater Results in everything you do? Be Specific.

Want to achieve more Goals and be more Productive? Be Specific.

When conducting Coaching sessions, the same rule applies.  Here are three tips you can use to make your Coaching sessions memorable and powerful.

1st, Be Specific. Which means you Mr./Ms. Coach need to be an excellent observer and note taker long before a Coaching session begins. You will want to write down Specific Actions and Behaviors you observe the person you are Coaching so that you can describe them accurately in your Coaching session.

Coaching sessions that do not start out with Specific Actions and Behaviors soon turn into cry fests, pity parties and he said/she said “No I did not” unproductive meetings that do nothing to encourage or correct Actions and Behaviors.

2nd, you will need to have a Specific Goal for the Coaching session’s outcome. If you want Sally Service Advisor to improve her phone answering skills and increase the number of appointments she makes on a daily basis, then that is the basis for a Coaching session Goal. You will need to fill in the Specifics to complete the picture.

And lastly, no Coaching session is complete without a firm follow-up date to go over results and progress. If you fail to follow-up the message you send to the person you are Coaching is “Coaching sessions are not that important.” Everybody likes to feel that the Coach is interested in their progress and they want to tell you of their accomplishments. Set a firm date to let that happen.

Coaching sessions can be powerful tools to increase performance and build team synergy. Be Specific, Be Specific, Be Specific.