Category Archives: Service Advisor Sales Training

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
*PhonePops

How to “blow up” your Customer on the service drive 5 different ways

One of the many byproducts of training in so many dealerships is that you get to observe all the different ways people do things. Like how they answer the phone or talk to a customer in the service drive.

Over the years, I’ve made it a point to take note of some of the ways Advisors and Managers blow their customer up in the service drive and I thought I would share with you my observations and my Top 5.Your Customer

Number 5.

Assume the customer knows;

Why they need to maintain their vehicle. Nearly 90% of the customers in the service drive have never opened the owner’s manual. (What do you think that number is when applied to Service Advisors and Service Managers?)

  • When it is due for service. If they aren’t reading the owner’s manual, you can bet they don’t know when specific maintenance items are due for replacement.
  • What recalls are open and need to be done. The information age is not all it’s cracked up to be and the average consumer does not know what recalls are open and whether or not they apply to his or her vehicle. Recent news is an excellent case in point as there have been so many recalls issued, it’s difficult to keep track.
  • How much time the repair will take. Just because they have been in before for a LOF, does not mean the customer knows what is happening in your circus that day. They might not want to “hang around” around for a 3 hour oil change.
  • And the worst of all of the “Assumes”… assume the customer does not have the time or the money. Number one reason why service advisors and service departments do not make money. For those of you struggling to be profitable…do this…inform the customer about the needs of their vehicle…and see what happens.

Number 4.

Be a poor listener.

I can’t tell you how many times (a bazillion) I have observed an Advisor or Manager standing behind the counter, staring at the computer screen while the customer tells them exactly how they would like to spend their money. No acknowledgement, no restatement or concerns, no eye contact or head nods…just staring at the screen and typing away…like the screen is going to give you money.

Get your Listening Skills on track and start communicating with the customer.

Number 3.

Forget to put something on the repair order.

Hey, here is a neat idea. Just for comparison sake, I want you to go down to the zoo, find the bear exhibit, climb into the bear cage and then jump on the bear and go for a ride. Because failing to put something the customer said to you on the repair order is a lot like riding a bear. You can’t get off for fear of getting bit and the terror you feel as you buck around like a rag doll is real.

I personally have been guilty of this and I have to tell you, the claw marks from those encounters take a long time to heal, if ever.

If the customer says anything…anything…like “I was driving down the street on the second Tuesday of last week under a full moon going uphill with my foot on the brake and the front lights on…when I heard a noise from the left rear and it sounded like a blender full of ice being thrown off a cliff” and you don’t write it down on the repair order, then get out your chaps and boots, because you are going for a bear ride.

The first thing the customer will ask you when they come back for their vehicle is “Hey, didja find that noise?” and if your answer is “Huh?”, then you my friend, are about to meet Smokey the Bear’s cousin, “No Jokey.”  This bear is a man-eater and will absolutely tear you up one side and down the other. The best way to avoid “No Jokey” is to document, document, document.

Write it down. Get a tech to take a look. Who knows, there might be a blender full of ice stuck under the left rear wheel.

Number 2.

Fail to offer solutions.

It happens all the time. Advisors and Managers fall back on “It’s company policy” and “It’s not us, it’s the manufacturer” or “We are just swamped” excuse immediately, (it’s like watching a soccer player on the field whenever an opposing team player comes within a foot of them), rather than offering solutions for problems the customer didn’t create and are asking for help.

It requires a new way of thinking. Start with just one common request “Do you have a loaner car?”, and answer the real question “Can you get me where I need to go?” and you will be on the way to becoming a Solution Provider. (Hint: Do this with every common question you get in your dealership)      (BIG HINT: Teach every Customer Contact person how to answer these questions with the prepared answers you and your team have developed)

And lastly, Number 1.

Ask the customer “Do you have an appointment?”

This must be one of the all time worst questions to ask a customer…EVER!

Hey, they are in front of you, they need help and they have something called MONEY in their pocket and you want to know if they have an appointment? In the words of one famous politician “What difference does it make?”

It makes all the difference because asking that question puts the customer on the defensive. Let me ask you this. Is it easier to make a sale to a person who is not defensive or one that is thinking that you just made them feel like an outsider? Or is it easier to make a sale to a friend who just needs a little help?

So that’s my Top 5 ways to blow up your customer. (Go here for more Leonard)200K in 200 Days

I’m sure there are many more and some of you won’t agree with my list, but be that as it may be, there is no doubt that using these techniques and processes in your service drive will result in lost sales and lost customers.

By Leonard Buchholz

Why small increases are important to your Dealership profits

Just what does a 10% increase (in any KPI you choose) really mean to your dealership?

Why small changes make big things happen.

Why small changes make big things happen.

 

Have you heard the old saying “Yard by yard it’s hard, but inch by inch is a cinch”?

If I were to go to any of your dealerships and walk into the GM’s office and say “Would you be interested in a 50% increase in Gross Profits?” what do you think he or she would say to me?

They would jump out of their chairs and yell out “Of course…how do I get it!”

And therein lies the problem with increasing performance or increasing profits 50% at a time. It is really hard to achieve that big of a jump all at once. It’s not that people are not capable or willing, it’s just that getting all of the components of a dealership focused and firing on all cylinders at the same time is a difficult proposition at best, and trying to get a 50% increase in any measurable KPI just becomes impossible.

Truthfully, whenever you have heard someone (DP, GM, New Manager, etc…especially the New Manager) say something like “I’m expecting big things this year and our goal is to increase (fill in the blank) by 50%”, would you say the “Dirty Diaper Alarm” trips in your head and you disregard everything that was said and develop a less than favorable opinion of said “Authority Figure” (or whomever was speaking)? Yep, me too.

But if I go into any dealership and ask any service advisor “Hey there Mr. /Ms. Advisor, do you think you could sell an extra $10-20 dollars on every repair order?” what do you think the answer is nearly 100% of the time?

“Of course I can.”

That is the power of a 10% increase.

So let’s look at John Q. Advisor and some of his numbers. At the average of 1.5 HPRO at $85.00 an hour, every repair order John writes is averaging about $229.00 a ticket. A 10% increase is only $22.90 and if John writes 220 repair orders a month, that equates to a $5 Grand a Month increase in Service Sales.

What does John get? At the end of a year, he gets an additional $60 grand in Commission-able Sales and if he is on an average pay plan, he just made another $5000.00 or so dollars for the year or $400.00 bucks a month.

Now go ask your Advisors, “Hey there Mr. /Ms. Advisor, want to make $400.00 more a month?” and what do you think their answer will be? (If they say something smarty pants or “No” or “Who do I have to kill?” just tell them you are going to write a letter to their spouse or significant other stating they turned down a $400.00 dollar a month raise)

Most organizations focus on trying to increase too much when they should focus on just making small but effective changes that yield results over time.

One more thing. Don’t forget the power of compounding.

Back to back increases of 10% in John Q’s example is big. How big? In the second year of a 10% increase, John’s average sales per repair order become $277.00 per copy or $48.00 more than year one, which equates to a $126,720.00 yearly increase in service sales…not too bad a result for a 10% increase.

Get focused on making small incremental changes that add up to big improvements! Help your team see the value and vision of a 10% increase in their service sales process and watch those profits (not to mention team morale) 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

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

 

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

Where does Service Sales failure start? In the Service Drive of course!

In every dealership that I visit that is struggling with increasing Sales per Repair Order, performing a walkaround  is the area that the Advisors do not do well, if at all.

Recently, I was observing a service drive when a customer pulled up in a car and the advisor looked up from the desk and and said “Oh, look…she is just sitting there.” And for the next 3-5 minutes, the advisor sat at her workstation and waited…until the customer got out of the car and made her way into the service reception area. The advisor did not get up and go outside to greet the customer, make them feel welcome or offer any assistance. Is there any wonder why this store is struggling with increasing service sales and declining RO count?

We have all been customers in dealerships, repair centers, restaurants, cleaners, hotels… you name it…and there is nothing like a customer service person who gets it…from the initial greeting all the way through the final payment. And like many of you…I spend more money when I am taken care of.

Treat me like a number…give me grunts in response to questions…don’t use common courtesy…be in a hurry to get rid of me…don’t explain the process and expect me to guess what is happening next…and make me feel like an interruption to your day…is there any wonder why some Advisors (and Dealerships) struggle? I wouldn’t spend any money there and neither would you.

A walkaround is the very first tool in every Advisors toolbox to start building the relationship and introducing the customer to the maintenance and repair process. Without it, the customer might as well be at the DMV or the TSA line at the airport or the checkout line in the supermarket. It’s all the same until the person delivering the service decides to do the right thing.

And that is the fundamental difference between the checkout line and the service drive… one caring professional human.

by Leonard Buchholz