Tag Archives: Customer Management

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)


“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

What do you pay attention to?

English: A business ideally is continually see...

Image via Wikipedia

What do you pay attention to?

In case you are new to Fixed Ops, we are “results driven.”

There is nothing that we do that is not measured, quantified, compared, sifted through, arm chaired, discussed, metered, broken down, dissected, eyeballed or  run up the flagpole.

Everything we do is subject to verification. Professionally run Fixed Operation Departments know, live, love  this.

And what they pay the most attention to  is “The Customer.”

None of what you do or measure really matters except to the person it matters to the most… and that is the person whose name is at the bottom of the check… I give you “Mr. and Ms. Customer.”

If your results don’t agree with “The Customer,” they’ll tell you.

By leaving and never coming back.

And some of you will say “Look, I’ve got the numbers up, what more do you want?” and “Good riddance, they were bad Customers anyways” or even “It’s about time.”

In our “in your face” society this might seem ok. You can survive a few defections, a few “bad apples” finding a new Dealership to get their Service work done elsewhere, right?

And I say, “If that is your attitude, I suggest you start looking for a new line of work my friend, because you don’t fire the Customer, they fire YOU!”

The “results” we seek are paying Customers coming into our Service Department to have Maintenance and Service work completed on their vehicle and then PAYING US for said Service!

Here are ten questions we need to continually ask ourselves to see if we are paying attention to the right results.

Am I getting repeat business from past Customers?

For you Service Advisors, Am I  getting repeat business from Customers who ask for me by name?

Am I getting referrals from my Customers without asking for them?

Am I providing solutions to problems or am I a problem?

Am I focused on helping my Customers?

Am I giving the Customer everything they asked for… and a little bit more?

Am I taking action or being acted upon?

Am I keeping the Best Interests of the Customer in mind?

Is my Service Department a place I would like to do business with?

For Service Advisors, Am I a person I would like to do business with?

Am I giving all I can each and every day?

Am I able to look in the mirror and say “I did my best today”?

Did you answer all of these with a “Yes” answer? If not, what results are you paying attention to?

More importantly, what are your Customers saying to you?

Pay attention to the results that matter most. Your Customer will tell you.

Exceeding the Expectations

What would a Service Professional do?

A Professional understands their Customers Expectations.

Now this has got to be the easiest “no brainer” post you
have read in years! You would think that every person who works in the Dealership has heard of Customer Service (here’s a little hint: WE ALL DO) and would take the time to understand their Customer expectations. And then try to EXCEED them!

You would think.

And every day in the field at a Dealership there is a couple of moments where  there is the “I have no idea” look on people’s faces when asked about what their Customer came in for, what was the reason for their visit, why are they
here, how are we helping them, what’s the story etc….it’s like a mystery novel.

The reason is they have become order takers. This new
breed of Service Advisor has been trained by corporate America all of their lives with “instantology”,  which  translated means “Those who use technology to communicate by using the smallest amount of brain activity required to actually have meaningful interactions with their Customers.”

This in turn has led us to a new Training term called “youdon’treallyneedtoknowhow” in which Customers are regularly greeted and serviced by non-communicators who cannot distinguish between a request for service or a statement of concern unless it’s printed on the touch screen menu in front of them.

This collection of “Service (aacckkkk, cough cough)
Professionals” are then left to founder and fumble with your Dealership Customers (you know, the “lifeblood of the Dealership,  our main focus, why we are open”…etc…you’ve heard all of that before, right?) with more skills in “instantology” than in COMMUNICATION and CRITICAL THINKING!

This has reduced our once world renown model of Service Excellence we
called the “American Way of Doing Business” to a misdirected application called “Someone told me to stand here and talk to you.” In turn, this has increased our Customers chances of having to do business with
someone who has little desire and are completely clueless how to deliver Exceptional Customer Service because it does not come with
instructions on the box.

And because we choose to do business this way we find ourselves in constant need of reminding our Service “Professionals” what they are supposed to do and why they are supposed to do it.

The true Professional Service Advisor not only knows what his or her
Customers expectations are, they EXCEED them. They are anticipatory because
they have taken the time to study their product and their Customer. And they truly understand Service. More importantly, they understand how the Customer could EXPECT to use their vehicle in their daily lives. Lastly, they understand their Customers EXPECTATIONS when they come in for Service.

How do they know these “magical things?”

The true Professional Service Advisor has taken the time to become an
excellent COMMUNICATOR and only relies on “instantology” for storage and
processing of the Customers information as a means of assistance and not as a
means of conveyance.

Basically folks, no matter how good you are at “instantology”you can’t get the computer to pull out its wallet no matter how hard you try.

When you have taken the time to really understand and
anticipate your Customers Expectations by asking if they have been met one on one and by becoming a true Communicator through study and application will you become a True Service Professional.

Be Professional.

Be A Model Leader In 2011

The personnel in your Dealership are looking to you for direction. They are in need of someone to emulate and follow.

This is part 2 of a series on Leadership for 2011.

In the first post I told you about a training visit and seminar I conducted and how I found a Leadership module hanging on the wall that I thought was one the best I have seen.

The second concept that was written on that poster was…

 “Model The Way.”

What it means is that as a Leader, if you want your personnel to behave in a certain manner or respond in a certain way to daily work situations then you must behave and demonstrate what that looks like to all of your personnel.

I’ll give you an example.

I was a Service Advisor in a Dealership and one of our Customers had a problem with the car jack. It seems that she had a flat tire and had pulled over in an area that caused the car to be slightly off angle.

They put the car jack under the car and due to the circumstances of the car being on an angle and the Customer not properly using or understanding the procedure or… who knows what happened, one thing led to another, and during the tire changing process, the jack became damaged. Into the Dealership she comes and of course “Sorry ma’am, not covered” and poof…we need to have someone from the factory look at the failed component and determine if they will pay for a new jack.

The meeting is set, in comes the Customer, here comes the factory and the conversation went something like this.

Customer “I would like to have my jack replaced at no charge because it failed on me and I could not use it to change my flat tire. I had to call a tow truck and it cost me money not to mention the down time. I just want my jack replaced. I think that’s fair.”

Factory “No.”

Customer “Why not? I just explained the circumstances and although we certainly had something to do with it, the jack did not work properly. It failed and I had to call a tow truck.”

Factory “No.”

Customer “I have been a loyal Customer and I really think that consideration should be given to the circumstances we were in. We could not move the car to a better location. The jack did not do what it was supposed to do.”

Facory “No. You did not follow proper procedure and the jack failed because of your negligence. I will not pay for a jack.”

Customer “I would like to ask someone else.”

Factory “No. What do you want me to do? Pay for it out of my pocket?” At this point he took out his money clip and threw it across the counter at her. “Why don’t you just take that money? Right? You won’t acknowledge that this is not a factory defect and I guess you just want my money now, is that it?”

Luckily, another factory rep broke into the exchange and pulled his guy from the counter (grabbing the money clip) and moved away. The Customer was in shock (as I was). During the exchange she never raised her voice or spoke in a derogatory manner. She really believed that there was some sort of design or manufacturing defect.

It gets better. This same factory rep later chastised the Dealership personnel for “not taking care of the Customer.”

As a Service Advisor, what behavior was just Modeled for me? Can I assume that it is ok to be uncooperative with a Customer merely because I am in a position of authority? Is it ok to be confrontational with a Customer? What about the judicious use of discretionary spending? What did I just learn about taking care of the Customer?

When you are the Leader and you are on point, everything you do is looked at by everyone below you and is constantly being examined, dissected, analyzed and ultimately judged by the standards and values the people you Lead have.

These standards and values come not only from their own life experiences but also from the learned behaviors and habits they have from working in the industry, their previous mentors and Leaders and the current policies and standards of the Dealership they are employed at now.

If you as a Leader want your personnel to behave in a certain way then you must Model The Way for them to behave.

You can’t ask someone to do something completely contrary to what you just did and expect them to do follow through. They will either say “Ok” and do nothing or say “Ok, but what about you? I just watched you blow up Mrs. Jones there and now you want me to take care of the Customer, but not the way you did? What are you smokin’ there bud?”

Make a committment to yourself that as a Leader in 2011 you will Model The Way and behave towards everyone exactly as you expect them to behave and watch what happens.

Your personnel are watching. Do the right thing.

Model The Way.

“The Cheapest Oil Change In Town”

In every market and at every dealer there is the perception in Fixed Operations that cheap oil changes will add profit.

While it is true that cheap oil changes will bring Customers to your door, it is up to you to do something with them when they arrive.

Here are 3 Ways you can maximize the 1st Time or Long Time Customers  oil change visit.

  • Be “Over The Top” with your Customer Service. Be clean and neat, be accommodating, be prompt, be courteous and be Thankful. Think of the Customer as someone who is test driving your Dealership to see if they like the ride. Give them the best ride possible.
  • Do a Complete and Thorough Inspection of the vehicle. Instead of a “27 Point” how about a “Driveability Check” or a “Winter Safety Check” or a “Brake, Light and Fluid Check” in addition to your usual 27 Point Inspection. The object is to give the Customer something that they were not expecting when they came in for “just an oil change.”
  • Give them a Reason to Complete Service Work with You. Hey, you advertise, you plan for, you spend money and you lose money on the oil change and then…you don’t give your Customer a compelling reason to have service work completed at your Dealership? What are you thinking?

Making money in Fixed Operations is difficult when you don’t plan for the 1st time Oil Change Customer and your regular Oil Change Customer. It is impossible if you do not maximize the Customers visit.

What does it mean to have Commitment in Fixed Operations?

Commitment is a word being thrown about these days from everyone and anyone, especially if they are asking for yours.

Politicians are currently asking for your vote and to be committed to their party and the party platform.

Governments are asking for your patience as they implement the newest strategy and your commitment to the vision of the “future.” (Whatever that may be)

Financial institutions are asking for a renewed commitment to paying your bills on time.

Couples are looking at each other and asking for a new commitment to the relationship even as they endure tough times.

Commitment, commitment, commitment.

 Everywhere you go these days, people are testing you, probing, waiting for any sign that you are not committed to whatever it is that they think you should be.

In Fixed Operations, commitment is a daily exercise. You have to be committed to the Customer, the Processes, the Advisors, the Technician, the Parts Department, the Sales Department and the Dealer in order to make each and everyday a successful one.

If you are not committed to a vision or a culture or goal then the end result is that you do not have Customers. Take a look around.

Service Advisors not committed to Processes? That means every Customer comes in and gets different experience. Do that enough times and you don’t have any Customers because Customers are People.

And People like Processes, Stability, Uniformity and Steadiness because it gives them a sense of Security. They want to feel like they can count on your Department, the Advisors and the Technicians.  If they know that every time they come into your Service Department they will get exactly the same experience as last time (and they liked it), they will keep coming back. And tell their friends.

Technicians not committed to completing a Multi-point Inspection? That means Customers are coming into your Service Department and leaving with a potentially unsafe vehicle.

Not to mention leaving with unsold Repairs.

Parts Department not committed to the Ordering and Followup Process? That means that not only do you have inventory on the shelf, you have inventory that can be sold immediately on the shelf! Walk back and look at the Special Order Bin. Do you see thousands of dollars of unsold Parts?

If your Fixed Operations is experiencing any of the aforementioned scenarios, perhaps you had better re-examine the Commitment Level in your Dealership.