Tag Archives: customer service

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)

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now I am getting a lunch special.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Leonard Buchholz

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

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

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

Your position in life is determined by what you believe.

Your position in life is determined by what you believe.


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

Set Goals, Be Successful!

By Leonard Buchholz

The Right Way and The Wrong Way

During the analysis and evaluation we conduct prior to starting a training program the question of ethics and standard business practices we train on usually requires some explanation. In other words, Dealer Principals and General Managers want to hear from us that we conduct our training programs ethically and professionally.

If I were to stand in a room full of Dealer Principals and ask “Who in here believes that the best way to take care of a customer is to sell extra or un-needed services?” I would venture to say that not one hand would be raised.

This misconception is a holdover from an original misrepresentation/misconception of our industry from the early beginnings. It is far past the time that we begin the process of changing the perception that people who work in the car business are only interested in taking as much money as they can using unethical business practices that prey on the public at large.

In 99% of the situations I have personally investigated where something went awry and the customer felt that they were “wronged”, I have found that almost every one of these situations was an error (and not a conscious decision) and 100% of the time it was resolved in the customers favor with little cost to the dealership.

In every dealership and within our industry we have a small percentage of people that just don’t get it, no matter what the culture, training and daily business practices that you reinforce at your dealership and it is those people we must remove permanently from our industry.

Customers are nothing more than the person standing in the mirror every morning, they are you. From Dr.Tony Alessandra “Treat other people as they want to be treated.”

All this means is dig into what the customer wants, separate those wants into needs and then identify the must haves from the needs. Communicate those must haves to the customer in a way they can understand you and do that ethically and with passion.

By Leonard Buchholz

businessethics

 

Are your Advisors “Helpful” or “Professional”?

Helpful…or Professional…which of these sound better?

If you are like a lot of Dealers and General Managers hiring “helpful” people always seems to be the right call. The belief is that you can develop someone into becoming a Professional. While I don’t disagree with this practice, what I find all across the country is the opposite of helpful or Professional.

Because we train all across the country, we have exposure to every make and model of vehicle in every kind of Dealership, whether it is a locally owned single point, multi-line point or large Dealer Group.

And when we train invariably, we get to the point in the training that we ask the Advisor “How do you see yourself as an Advisor” or we might ask “What is your role in working with the Customer?”

And 9 times out of 10 the answer comes wrapped up with a bow in a package labeled “I want to be helpful” or “I want to help the Customer and give the best possible Customer service.” This answer is of course not only the expected answer but the accepted answer. And it has absolutely nothing to do with helping the Customer.

In fact, I submit to you that being “helpful” is exactly what we don’t need in a Dealership.

The reason I say that is because in every single case where I have an Advisor who is trying to be “helpful” to his or her Customers, they have become the exact opposite. They have become “un-helpful” and in most cases a liability.

Let me explain.

Helpful Advisors share 3 common characteristics.

  1. They make decisions for their Customers without asking the Customer what they (the Customer) would like to do.
  2. They make judgments about their Customers based on past experiences and fail to honor the word “Advisor” which is part of their job title.
  3. They are poor Salespeople with poor communication skills and non-existent processes.

Helpful Advisors make decisions for their Customers like not telling them everything that is wrong with their vehicles, instead just telling them what they think the Customer wants to hear.

They do not offer additional services during the write-up process and never present a menu. They have become in effect the same as the person whom we call an “order taker” at your local dry cleaners or fast food restaurant.

Professional Advisors make no decisions for their Customers at all. They Advise them on everything the vehicle needs, recommend additional services they know will be beneficial for the Customer and present a menu at the time of write up. They take the time to explain everything to the Customer so the Customer can decide what they would like to have done on their vehicle.

Helpful Advisors make judgments about their Customers based on the past.

If Mrs. Jones came in 2 years ago and Doubtful Dan tried to make an Additional Service Recommendation and was shot down by Mrs. Jones with the “I can’t afford it today”, Doubtful Dan now assumes that Mrs. Jones can never afford any additional repairs and stops telling her that there are additional services needed in order to maintain a safe and reliable vehicle.

The next time Mrs. Jones comes in for an oil change, Doubtful Dan is surprised to learn she has new brakes and tires.

Doubtful Dan then asks Mrs. Jones “Where did you have the repairs completed?” and Mrs. Jones replies “Right down the street at Bob’s Big Boy Service Center. After the last visit here my grandson stopped by to visit me and said ‘Grandma, you should have your tires checked’ and of course I asked Timmy (my grandson) ‘Why?’ and he said ‘One of your tires has some wear on the edge Grandma.’”

She continues “Well, I just happened to have some free time later that day and popped in at Bob’s and they said ‘Sure we can take a look at it’ and next thing I know they told me that the tires were needing replacement and I said ‘Are you sure, because I just had it in a ABC Motors and they didn’t say anything’ and they showed me the worn tires and wouldn’t you know it, when they took off the tires, the brakes were worn down too.”

In the car business this is known as “Someone just ate your lunch.”

Professional Advisors do not make judgments. They Advise. They take all the recommendations from the repair order, prioritize them from most important to least important and then tell the Customer everything they need to know about maintaining their vehicle. They let the Customer decide.

Lastly, Helpful Advisors are invariably poor Salespeople who do not keep up on their skills and they do not use any Sales Processes because they want to “be natural and not robotic.”

Let me ask you this and you tell me if it sounds crazy.

When was the last time the General Manager stood up in the Sales meeting and said “From this day forward, Salespeople do not need to log their ups. You do not need to touch the desk and you do not need to complete a walkaround and test drive with the Customer. You can do what you feel is natural.”

Crazy….or what?

And every day in the Service Drive we have Helpful Advisors who do the exact same thing. They don’t follow a process, they don’t communicate the benefits of maintaining the vehicle to their Customer and they don’t develop their skill sets.

Professional Advisors use tools like processes, like menus, like Listening Skills, etc. to help them make the Customers service experience the best it can be. They want the Customer to make informed decisions based on the recommendations and vehicle maintenance needs.

So, look around your Service Department. Ask yourself “Are my Service Advisors helpful or Professional?” and decide for yourself which of these is the better choice for your Dealership.

Written 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.

Signed,

Fixed Operations Gross Profit