Tag Archives: advisor

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


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.

Original or Commodity-part 2

Most consumers have lumped “service”, whether you are a dealer or an independent repair facility, as a commodity. Which means you compete in a market with everyone else even though the market is not a level playing field.

Customer relationship

Customer relationship (Photo credit: Claudio Cicali)

How do you distinguish yourself from everyone else? How do you stand above the rest?

By providing an experience that the customer can’t stop talking about.

While advertising, facility, market position, location, etc. all have a role in the overall service business development and retention strategy, when the customer comes into the service drive, they still need to talk to someone.

And that “someone” in your dealership is the experience.

When your customer needs to have service on their car they think back and remember what happened the last time they took the vehicle in for service and they form an opinion and make a decision.

So the question is, are your personnel providing the level of service that a customer would remember? Would your customer form a favorable opinion of your service department and their experience? Would they make a decision to come to your service drive? Are you the service department they can’t stop talking about?

When you compete as a commodity, you never see the customer because they pass 6 other repair facilities on the way over to your dealership. In their mind they can get the same level of service there as they could anywhere else.

Distinguish yourself from the rest by having the most professional personnel trained to provide the highest level of service and you will be above the commodity crowd.

Your EOY is a CTA

By now you have a completed December 2011 Financial. (If you don’t, all I can say is WOW)

Look in the box that says “Profit/Loss”. Are you happy with what you see? Would you say that 2011 was a good year an   average year or a “I’m gonna have a stroke!” year? Whatever your results your EOY(End of the Year) statement is a CTA (Call To Action) for 2012. Here are 3 Calls To Action you might want to look at if you a looking to KSA in 2012. (You can figure that one out) Take a look at your overall Repair Order Count for the entire year.  Are you increasing, decreasing or maintaining?

If you are decreasing or just maintaining, then you need to Take Action Now! Answer this simple question. What can I (my Dealership) do RIGHT NOW to start increasing my Traffic? Pick one thing and DO IT!

There is an old saying in Leadership and it goes like this. “Get moving in any direction if you are having problems. Even going in the wrong direction for a little bit is better than standing around doing nothing. At least everyone is moving and you can always make adjustments.”

If you are increasing, then the goal is to increase the results (get more Repair Orders). Take a look at all of your service marketing campaigns. Is it on a regular schedule? Are you targeting lost souls, new car customers…what?

Think of it as firing on a range at a target. Would you fire an arrow randomly into the air hoping to hit something? What…you think your name is Robin Hood or something?

If you want to hit something you gotta go big! It would be better to get a big  Ol’ Cannon (your marketing campaign) then load it with the biggest rounds available (your marketing materials) and then fire it a bazillion times in a row while aiming at a fixed target 5 feet away (target your database).

Do you think that you might get a result if you did something like that?

Your RO count is not stationary. You have to keep adjusting your aim to keep increasing the amount of Customers coming in the door.

If you are on a decline in RO count then you have to find the Customer who is not coming into your Dealership. Everybody assumes that they know who is coming in.


You know who is coming into your Service Drive?

Let me ask you this. If you write 500 ROs a month, how many of those cars coming in have between 25 and 50 thousand miles? Not sure? Want to aim a marketing campaign and not know who or whom is your target audience? That does not sound very reasonable, does it?

Get your marketing plan on line and in line with what you want to accomplish this year.

The second CTA has to do with your Margins. Take a look and see if you are above, same or below guidelines. Correcting Margins starts with the Advisors.

It’s as simple as saying “NO MORE DISCOUNTS!” And of course look at costs vs sales, dollar cost per hour sold, etc. Get those Margins back in the Profit Zone!

Lastly, look at your Training Plan. If you just said to yourself “What Training Plan?” then your are in the right place my friend.

Look, everyone wants Training and no one wants to Pay for Training.  It’s one of those “We should already be doing it” and “That’s what I have a Manager for” kindathings that every Dealership goes through.

Ok. I got it. You don’t need Training.

So why do your numbers suck?

Check this out. Not one single Successful Organization, Business, Sports Team, Sales Force, Orchestra, Army, Navy, Air Force or Marine Corps (Semper Fi) and any other  gathering of humans you can name formed in and for one single focused endeavor, quest or  goal get to the top and become the Top Dog, Numero Uno, The One, King or Queen of the Hill… WITHOUT TRAINING!

It just does not happen. Thinking that Sustained Success happens that way is like buying a lotto ticket as a retirement plan. It might make you feel good when you do it but it does not really lead to anything you can live on.

Success is not an accident!

If last year did not meet your expectations, you gotta do something different.

So, take a look at your RO Count and Marketing Plan, get your Margins in line and Get a Training Plan!

Use your EOY as your CTA!

The word every Service Department needs.

What would be the one word to describe what a Service Department needs these days to compete?

There are so many to choose from. However, the one word that keeps coming up when I visit Dealerships across the country is adaptability.

The Dealerships that are doing well, adapt to changing market conditions and Customer demands.

Even if this is your first day in a Dealership, you know that the ability to adapt is the key to Exceeding Expectations.

The dictionary tells us that it means to “adjust to new circumstances.” Boy, if that is not the definition or guiding principle of the Service Department these days, I don’t know what is.

If you think about it, the Service Department is the only “gray” area in the Dealership. Everything else is black and white.

We have the part in stock or we don’t. We have the car on the lot or we don’t. We can fund you or we can’t. We are open extended hours or we are not.

In the Service Department, they don’t have those hard and fast rules because Customers and the situations that Service Advisors deal with are seldom written in stone. It’s more like an “etchasketch.”

This requires a person that is adaptable, flexible and understanding with the backing of an organization that is adaptable, flexible and understanding. Having either without the other won’t work.

And if you have Service Advisors who do not understand this concept or cannot adapt to a Customers Expectations, you will have problems.

When you have staff that are rigid and inflexible, you end up with Customers getting service that they would describe one of several ways. They say things  like  “Functional, yet cold” or “They helped me but they were somewhat  unfriendly” or “I had to yell at them to get them to listen to me” and lastly  “What the %$&^ is wrong with you guys?”

On the flip side, if you have personnel that are really trying to work within your Dealership system and are not “Empowered with Authority”  you end up with comments like “I have used you guys in the past and I’ll continue, but not as much as I used to” or “I don’t know if I’ll come back, even though your Advisors are great” and “They were ok, but if I find someone else that is closer or cheaper, I’m going to go with them” and lastly “What the *&^% is wrong with you guys? Don’t you want my business?”

The Service Department that has “Empowered with Authority” all of their Advisors will consistently outperform and outsell any other Dealer that has not taken that step.

This means Advisors are Trained to be adaptable and flexible and they do what is in the Best Interests of the Customer.

This leads to a Customer experience that can only be described as  “Exceptional at Exceeding Expectations”  and “spontaneously helpful.” And of course results in unsolicited referrals and an increase in business.

Learn to adapt, be flexible, change as needed and Empower with Authority and your Customers will respond with feverish repurchase loyalty and unsolicited testimonials.

Not sayin’ this is happening in your Dealership…

In many Dealerships lack of Profitability in Fixed Operations starts with just 3 processes that are not getting done with every Customer that comes in the door.

Everything starts with building a relationship. It sounds easy, we say it all the time and there is not one Sales book, cd, mp3…course…whatever that does not have some chapter on building relationships.

The Service Department is no different. Studies show that Customers who do not feel taken care of find a reason to do business elsewhere.

Not sayin’ this is happening in your Dealership…

Customers are coming into the service drive and not getting a walk around. It’s true.  Just go stand unobtrusively and watch the service drive for a couple of mornings.

How many Customers are coming in and not being greeted and not getting a thorough walk around? Let’s say for arguments sake that 50% of your Customers come in the door and are properly greeted and get a walk around.

How many ROs does your Service Department write per day?

In front end language, what if 50% of the “ups” that come in were not greeted or presented with an opportunity to purchase a vehicle?

How long would before that Sales Manager was kicked to the curb?

So, if 50% of your Customers do not get an opportunity to have their vehicle thoroughly inspected and to have repairs completed while in your Service Department, what is this doing to your Sales per Repair order?

How many Sales organizations can stay in business with 50% of the Sales opportunity taken away before they even present a product or service to sell?

Hey, maybe in your Dealership it’s only 30%! Great News!

So after not getting a walk around the vehicle does not get a multipoint inspection. Why? In some stores (not sayin’ this is happening in your store) Service Advisors and Technicians have circumvented the process or stopped doing it altogether.

And the Service Advisors and Technicians in those stores can justify why.

Here are the Top 10 reasons “we don’t do it.”.

“They were just in.”

“He/She never buys anything. They are just a mooch.”

“There are too many cars in here today.”

“I didn’t have time.”

“The Customer told me not to do it.”

“I ran out of inspection forms.”

“They are a waiter.”

“It’s too (fill in the weather blank).”

“It takes too long.”

“The Advisor can’t sell it anyways, why bother.”

So the one person your Dealership has been trying to attract comes in (your Customer) and does not get a multipoint inspection because an employee decided not to do one?

Whose name is on the side of the building?

And probably the number one area that Profitability is lost is on the phones. (not  sayin’ this is happening in your Dealership)

People are calling to come in and not being handled properly. You can hear it for yourself. Just go stand by the Advisors workstation and listen.

Call after call coming in and appointments not getting made. It’s not because they don’t want the appointment, it’s because in our industry, everyone assumes that basic phone handling skills are a pre-requisite for becoming an Advisor.

And everyone has a different level of skill. Some do it right, some do it sometimes and some not at all.

Probably the single biggest impact we (DealerPro) have in a store right away is getting everyone answering the phones properly. Even in our “technosociety” people still call before they come in. And if the person answering the phone is not trained to do it properly, why would they come in?

If you are looking for ways to get more in the bank from your Fixed Operations then you might want to take a look at these 3 processes.

Not sayin’ that these are not being  done in your store…

See us at the NADA! Booth #2772. Stop by and register for the $200,000 Training Giveaway!