Tag Archives: dealership training

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

Processes Save Lives

Processes save lives. It’s true. It is especially true when you are lying in a hospital bed with a doctor and a nurse talking to you about how their processes will save your life…which was where I found myself in the not too distant past.

Saving a customer's life begins with processes.

Saving a customer’s life begins with processes.

Actually, I found it rather odd that I was being talked to about processes. Usually, I was the one explaining why a process, when properly implemented, would save a customer’s life. (Not to mention the dealership’s life.)

So, there I lay. “We are going to check your vitals every 2 hours until you have made some progress.” That seemed reasonable to me. I might have needed a little extra monitoring to get well. It made total sense.

In our business, whether it is called checking the vitals or touching base, it is a necessary function of the Service Department. It doesn’t matter if the customer is in the waiting room or at home/work, you need to put them on a regular schedule of checking their “vitals”.

Let me ask you this. If you were to check on your customers in the waiting room on a similar schedule, would that save your CSI score? What about saving the customer all of those feelings they get when they are waiting…like “What’s taking so long?” and “Why hasn’t someone come to talk to me?”

More importantly, how would frequent status checks impact your Sales per Repair Order? I think a customer that feels like they are being paid attention to would be more receptive to hearing about what you have to say about their vehicle.

One thing about getting a consult in the ER or a hospital room is the consideration for your privacy. As you may know (once you are admitted) you get to wear a hospital gown that leaves you feeling vulnerable and exposed to the world.

Additionally, because everything is separated by curtains, most people walking by can listen to everything being said. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need my treatment plan broadcast for every person walking by to hear.

How about your customers in the waiting room? Do you just charge in there and start talking to your customer in front of everybody else who is waiting? Don’t you think they feel a little vulnerable and exposed? Why not move them to a little more private area of the service department or take them out of the waiting room to discuss their repairs? It makes total sense when you think of it and the customer will appreciate you taking that extra step to make them feel comfortable.

Better yet, take them to their vehicle! Show them what needs to get done.

Another thing about processes in the hospital… Everybody follows the process. There is no allowance for any personnel to make a change to the process. All of the hospital staff knows that they’ll be held accountable for their actions.  One of the biggest takeaways is …everything is charted.

One of my very first lessons in the service department as an Advisor came from my manager. This lesson was courtesy of some very poor Repair Order documentation on my part. Believe it or not, customers often call or ask questions when you are not around.

In this case, the customer called and due to my lack of documentation (and the technician being at lunch as well), the Manager could not tell my customer anything other than “We are checking it out and as soon as I have some additional news, I will have Leonard call you.”

I can tell you from that day forward that I added notes in detail. The rule was “If someone else other than you picked up the RO they could follow the notes and take action on your behalf.” They do the same thing in the hospital.

What about your store? Do you add enough information to the RO that anyone could pick it up, read it and then take action on your behalf? Are processes followed by everybody? Do you hold people accountable for their actions?

The absolute truth about a process is that it requires action to be accomplished. It cannot act on its own.

This means that when someone does not follow the process, it is because they did not complete an action step. This makes it incredibly easy to diagnose and repair. Let me give you an example.

“Hey Sally, did you complete a walk-a-round and menu presentation on Grandma Jones when she came in this morning?” That is how easy it is to measure whether a process has been done or not.

“No boss. She was just in 2 weeks ago.” Now you have something to talk to Silly Sally about. Why didn’t she follow the process? And, who gives the Advisor/Technician/Parts Counterperson permission necessary to skip a process? Can they just decide themselves which process is necessary and which one is not? Can they decide not to follow a process on their own in your store?

“Well Sally, she just came and asked for the service manager (that would be me) because she can’t understand why two weeks ago you recommend a service (which she declined then) and today, when you talked to her during the write-up, you did not mention it. What do you think I should tell her?”

At this point Sally knows she needs to follow the process every time with every customer.

Sometimes you need more tests to diagnose what exactly is going on. In my case, they needed to complete an additional diagnostic procedure to give them more information.

Not only did the doctor explain the process, but I had at least two more visits from the nurse on call and the nurse assisting the doctor. Each time they asked me if I understood what was going to happen and did I need additional information or another explanation.

Do you take the time to explain the diagnostics involved in diagnosing your customers vehicle? Not only is it the right thing to do, you will find yourself becoming more of an expert on the vehicle. Especially when it comes to recalls and campaigns. If a customer brings their vehicle in and it is chugging like a steam engine, their expectation is that it will take a little time and knowledge to diagnose the vehicle.

But they still want to know what you are going to do! So, tell them. Ask them if they understand what is going to take place. Offer to show them on their vehicle what you will be doing.

Lastly, in your process, do you follow-up? I can tell you that since I’ve been home that I have received 2 calls from the hospital asking me how I was doing and did I need anything else? What a feeling of confidence that gave me.

Do you follow-up with your customers? Many dealerships say they do. Many dealerships think they do. But, the reality is, many of the customers that come in don’t get a follow-up.

Lifesavers are every where if you know where to look for them.

Lifesavers are everywhere if you know where to look for them.

In fact, many of your customers don’t even get a proper send off at the cashier window. Many of them leave without talking to an Advisor or a Manager. Even worse, they don’t even get a Thank You. Or an invitation to come back!

Quite frankly, I did not want an invitation to go back to the hospital. In fact, I would be very happy not see the inside of one for the rest of my life.

Here is your reality. Your customer may or may not see you again too. It depends on how well you and your Service Team followed your process.

Processes save lives.

By Leonard Buchholz

 

Where does 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 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

200K in 200 Days

In the past 4 years there have been quite a few Dealers who successfully increased their Fixed Ops Gross Profit by $200K, $300K (one Dealer had a $900,000 dollar increase) by changing how they conducted their daily Service Operations.

They made fundamental changes in Processes and then Coached their personnel to increased Performance.

If they can do it, so can you.

 

Here is a link to “200K in 200 Days” a resource that describes how Successful Dealers did it!

Get it, Read it, Do it!

By Leonard Buchholz

“Missed it by that much”

There is an old saying carpenters use. “Measure twice, cut once.”

I recently went to a Dealer to present DealerPro and our Performance Driven Training Program and guess what…I measured once and missed the cut.

I didn’t miss by much. About a 1/16th of and inch or so. When you really think about it, on a small scale, 1/16th is not that much at all. It really does not seem that big a deal.

But miss by 1/16th of an inch when you are calculating something like the square footage of your home and taxes are involved and suddenly you remember things like high school algebra and can quote complex mathematical theories.

The point I am making is everyday we all say things to ourselves like “Oh, it’s ok if I don’t give that Customer a menu because I know that they don’t buy anything” or “I’m not going to worry about that multipoint inspection. They were in just a few months ago” and we give ourselves a pass.

Why?

It’s just a little bit and it won’t make a difference. Right?

I flew 200o miles to present our program to a Dealer that was not prepared to see me because I failed to follow my own process. I got busy with other things and did not “measure twice, cut once.” Can you guess the end result?

It’s never the big disaster that kills a deal. Big disasters almost always start with small decisions that don’t really seem that important when you are making them.

Deciding not to personally call this Dealer and get him on the phone even after we had talked a couple of times, did not seem that big a deal. I mean, everybody reads their email…right? And everybody can read and follow directions…can’t they?

It was only a little shortcut. And it caused a huge miss.

Are your Service Advisors taking those little “shortcuts” because in their minds “it’s just a little thing” and nobody will notice? Are you allowing your Service Team to circumvent, use “choice implementation” or refuse to follow processes that are in place? Are they “missing the cut?”

Take the time NOW to review everything you are doing that is working and  everything that is not working and find out why.

Grandma dropped her car off and did not get a multipoint inspection? Why?

Mr. Jones came in for a recall and was not offered a menu? Why?

Billybob the local twice a month customer came in and was not greeted properly? Why?

Silly Sally the Service Advisor did not complete and walk around on her 10 writeups today? Why?

Ms. Coffeecellphone came in and was completely taken care of and even wrote a letter to the owner about her recent service experience. Why?

It’s not just about what is not being done. It also about what is being done correctly.

Find out what is being done correctly… train, show,coach, review, train, show, coach, review, lather, rinse, repeat daily for maximum results.

Do this enough and missing by just a 1/16th becomes a footnote in your Success Story.

Me, I’m back to measuring twice. I hate missing the cut. Don’t you?

(send me an email with the name of the famous tv show that the title of this blog post came from and I’ll get your Service Advisors signed up for a free e-learning series lbuchholz@dealerprotraining.com)