Tag Archives: DealerPro

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

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

Where does Profit Improvement start? At the Service Managers Desk, of course!

In every Dealership there is a desk. And behind that desk sits someone who has the responsibility to increase Profits.

In Fixed Ops, this person is called the Service Manager.

Typically  (when I go into a store that is not profitable), I find the person sitting behind that desk working on everything not related to increasing Profits while believing that they are working on everything related to increasing Profits.

I call it the “Theory of Un-relativity” and it goes like this.

P=ATD+PIxNC. Profits equal the Amount of Time Dedicated plus Process Implementation times the Number of Completions.

Simply, the Manager must dedicate as much time as needed every day to making sure processes are being followed and that they are being done with every Customer.

In stores that are not profitable, the Manager spends more time on things that have nothing to do with Profits and everything to do with nothing…including Managing the department…or as I stated before the “Theory of Un-relativity.” The things they are doing have no Relativity to making more Profits for the Dealership.

UP=ATW+UTxNC. UnProfitable equals the Amount of Time Wasted plus Unnecessary Tasks times the Number of Completions.

Let give you an example. I am standing in the Service Drive with a Service Manager when he is approached by the Sales Manager and informed that the tethered marketing balloon outside which normally is in position first thing in the morning is not up yet and “Could you take care of that as soon as possible.”  Unnecessary Task.

Another. SM is working in his office when he is informed that the lights on the front lot “are not lit up and can you do something about it?” Unnecessary Task.

One time, as the owner of my store had just handed me another daily task not related to Profit growth, I decided to write down all of the daily tasks that had been thrown my way over the past year just so I could get a handle on it. The list was 40 plus items and guess what…not one of them had anything to do with making more money.

Were some of them important? Yes. Necessary…no doubt about it. But at the end of the day when the Dealer Principal has “The Fin” in his or her hands and wants to know why “Fixed Ops is off by 15% and what are you going to do about it?” and you have the “But Boss, I’m so busy doing all of these other things!” excuse sputtering out of your mouth…now doesn’t that paint a pretty picture Mr./Ms. Service Manager?

By the way, when I handed the Dealer my list and asked him to specify which of those tasks were Top Priority and which were not, he actually apologized. He had no idea how many things he had “delegated” to me until I pointed it out to him.

Here are a few things you can do to get back on track making more Profits.Profit

1st, make a list of the things you are doing every day. Now separate that list into “Tasks That Make Money” and “Everything That Does Not Make Money.” Give Top Priority to Monitoring, Coaching, Training, Managing and Nothing, Zero, None, Nada Priority to Everything Else. Within a few days someone will come to you and say something like “The lot lights are out again” and then you can show them your list that makes the Dealership money and they will find someone else to ask about the lights.

2nd, share this list with your Dealer Principal or General Manager. Why? Because they forgot they told you to do half of those things and don’t remember the reason why they told you to do the other half.

3rd, learn to say No. Point out that working with your Advisor on Phone Sales Skills is way more important than stocking toilet paper in the bathroom or talking to the coffee vendor about the price of the new machine.  Stick to what makes money and makes sense.

Lastly, you and I work in the real world. If the DP drops the keys off and asks to get his demo washed and gassed, don’t show them your list. Get the demo cleaned up and gassed. Remember the 20 foot rule. Walk outside the building 20 feet and look up 20 feet and see whose name is up there.

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