Tag Archives: service advisor

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


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 3 Essential Elements to every GREAT Coaching Session

Here are the 3 Essential Elements every Great Coaching session has! Image

The first Essential Element is a specific Goal you want to achieve from conducting the Coaching session. It can be anything as long as it is specific. Be clear and concise. In fact, the best Coaching sessions are itemized right down to the start and finish times.

Why is this important?

If you are not specific about what you want to change you will find it very difficult to hold people accountable once the Coaching ends and the real work begins.

A great Coach is an excellent observer of how people do things. They are specific when making their observations. They will write down dates, times, the Customers name, what was said…anything they consider important to developing a Coaching plan of Action.

Then, when they have their notes, they describe in detail what they observed and begin the process of deciding how they are going to say it to the person they are Coaching.

By the way, these Coaching sessions are the formal sessions, not the informal “I just noticed ___________ happening” every day moments that Managers and Leaders conduct all the time.

So a Coaching session should begin like this. “At the end of this session I want you to understand how to properly answer the phone and make an appointment when the Customer asks “How much does it cost to __________” on a consistent basis.”

Notice how detailed and specific the Coach has written the Goals for this Coaching session. The more specific you are, the greater your chance of Success!

Secondly, a Great Coaching session is an opportunity to Train. It requires some planning on your part. What Training materials do you want to use? Do you have a script/manual/policy that you can use?

Is there a website with the material on it? Do you have a computer based platform (like DealerPro VT) you can use to demonstrate what you are talking about?

It is extremely important that you decide what you are going to use ahead of time and not try and throw something together while you are talking.

Nothing says “This is really not that important” to an employee more than being unprepared to guide them and Coach them after you have begun the session.

Lastly, have a follow up date. All Great Coaching sessions are continuous.

By having a firm date for review, you tell the person you are coaching how important this is to you and the Dealership. It also gives the employee a sense of value.

They won’t believe that their Success is a priority to you unless you demonstrate it to them. These 3 Essential Elements are the key to your Coaching Success! Follow them to increase employee motivation, desire to perform and watch your results soar!

Need more Training sources? Is your Team in need of a “Fixed Ops Coaching Session?”

Go to www.dealerprotraining.com for more information.



By Leonard Buchholz

People say the darnedest things, don’t they.

We hear many things in Service.

Many people, many messages.

Stand on any Service Drive on any given day and you will hear Customers describe all kinds of noises related their vehicles. The variety of sounds people make describing their vehicle and situation is utterly amazing at times.

And no doubt you will hear conversations between Service Department personnel as they conduct their daily business.  Everything from “When will that part be here?” to discussions about lunch and everything else in between. In Service more words are exchanged on an hourly basis than nearly anyplace else on earth.

But there are things that you will never hear in the Service Department or even in the Dealership.  Here are a few of them.

  1. “Don’t take care of the Customer.” Is there ever a situation when you would not take care of your Customer? Maybe…I can’t think of one.  The chances are that 99.9% of the time you will be doing something.  Whether that is driving to their home to deliver a car to making sure that the waiting room coffee pot is full. The first word in your Department’s name is “Service.”
  2. “You are doing way too much maintenance work.” We recommend Service and Maintenance because that’s what we are supposed to do. The person doing that job is called the “Service Advisor” not the “Service Guy” or “Service Man/Service Lady” or even “Service Writer.”  The Service Advisor needs to be the most Professionally Trained and Knowledgeable person in the Dealership.  You can’t talk to a Customer intelligently about the vehicle and the maintenance required to keep it functioning as it is designed if all you know how to do is punch letters on a keyboard and say “Have a seat in our waiting room.”
  3. “You don’t need to be profitable this month/this year.” Just not going to happen. The Service Department is the heartbeat of the Dealership. Have you ever been to a Dealership where the Service Department was on its last wheezing gasps? That’s a Dealership in trouble because just like a human, you can’t live without a heart.
  4. “You can close early every day this week.” Nope, not going to happen either. Service stays open because vehicles break and more importantly Customers need us at to be open. For some people the family car is the one and only thing they have to get them around. For others it is the difference between making it to the doctor’s appointment or not. Service stays open because there isn’t a crystal ball made that can predict when it can be closed.
  5. “You don’t need to Train anymore.” There is not one single Successful business, military branch, professional sport, popular band or orchestra that does not Train on a regular and continuous basis. Not one. It’s impossible to put a marketable product, military presence, winning team or great sounding band into the world’s eye without it. Training is the beginning of Profit and the basis of Professionalism. You can’t have one without the other.

Take a listen the next time you walk through the Service Department. You will hear many things. Some of them might even be humorous. But chances are, you won’t hear these 5 things anytime soon.

The one word every Advisor needs to hear…

There is one word every Service Advisor needs to hear.

This word is the key to their future…whether they become a top-notch superstar a middle of the road average Joe or a washout…they need this word.

It defines greatness as well as highlights deficiencies.

The word is…No.

Since our company trains in Dealerships all over the country, we are exposed to every possible Service Advisor imaginable.

From the greenpea who is day one in a new job to the old dog who knows every customer who has come in for the past 5 years!

And in the Seattle area there is a Service Advisor named Chad who became a believer in the word No!

Chad was new to the Service Advisor business at that time. He did not come from an automotive background, unless you count driving a car, and he had no  special skills. And he does not come to work wearing a cape nor does he possess the ability to see through concrete.

When we first started training in Chad’s store and introduced Professional  Selling Skills, Chad was skeptical just like everybody else.

After being trained on the 12 Step Process and ASR Presentation Skills he went back to work in the service drive. At first, he did some of the 12 Step Write-up processes some of the time and followed the ASR Presentation process sometimes… and just like everybody else, he got what you might expect…some results.

But Chad was a little different.

He understood the value in presenting all of the recommended repairs and maintenance to the customers but didn’t always follow through. Like many other Advisors, he didn’t want to seem “pushy” or “sell them something they didn’t need.”

And he didn’t like the word No.

What changed for Chad is referred to as a paradigm shift. His view of “what it means to be a Service Advisor” became radically different when he realized that his customers were having repairs done someplace else even though he had made the recommendations.

And other customers were coming in with the maintenances on their vehicle up to date because it was being completed by other shops…his competition! He realized he was getting all of the “leftovers” and the “warranty work.”

This is commonly referred to as “someone is eating your lunch.” It means  someone else gets to enjoy the fruits of your work without having to do anything for it.

He asked himself “Why are my customers leaving my Service Department  without having the work their vehicle needs completed right here at my Dealership?”

And then it hit him…it was because he NEVER ASKED! And more importantly, he realized he was afraid to ask!

He made up his mind that his customers were going to be serviced at his Dealership! He started believing that the recommendations he was making were helpful to the customer in maintaining their vehicle and actually saved them money!

And he became a fan of the word No.

He started presenting recommended services…and repair recommendations …and started reminding his customers that “just change my oil” was not really maintaining the vehicle and in the beginning he heard a No a lot. In fact, if you ask him, he will tell you that he almost gave up!

But he had decided that in order to be successful as an Advisor he needed to learn how to sell. And so, he heard even more No’s.

And in his mind he decided that every No was a good thing because that led the next YES!

And because he stuck with it…more and more No’s came his way… and still Chad kept going… and going… until finally one day…he started getting YES.

And soon the amount of YES’es doubled the N0’s.

Can you guess what happened to Chad’s HPRO?

Yep…it doubled… in fact…he became the number one Service Advisor in his store. Can you guess what happened to his income?

Yep…it nearly doubled as well.

Chad is still happily employed at that same Dealership…can you guess how his CSI is? Yep…it’s better too!

All of us like to deal with a Trained Professional…someone who can guide us and help us make the right decision based on our needs and wants. Know what else is true?

We will gladly pay for it…and in some cases pay even more. It’s because we all like to be taken care of.

Want to be succesful as a Service Advisor?

Be like Chad.

Get more No’s!

Coaching For Professionals

Several years ago, our local golf course completed an extensive re-model and re-design.  At the dedication, Ray Floyd was the celebrity guest of honor.  At the time, Ray had been enjoying renewed success in his golfing career.  The local newspaper covered the event which included an interview.  The answer to one of the questions intrigued me, and formed the basis for this article.   The question was, “Ray, what do you contribute your recent successes to?”  Ray responded, “I hired a new swing coach and started seeing a golf psychologist.   You see, I needed to make certain I was maximizing every aspect of my game, both mental and physical!  I needed all I could get from my swing and had to make sure my head was in the right place.  These two changes helped me to improve my game and start scoring again.”

From Ray’s comments we can conclude that regardless of experience, abilities or past successes, EVERYONE can benefit from coaching, even your business.  Coaching can improve current performance and help move dealerships to their Next Level.  A third party, a coach, will see things others do not see, or things that are seen but overlooked, or worse yet, tolerated.  A coach can help efficiently maximize an organizations effort.

Many of the dealerships we visit lack structure and processesStructure is like the golf swing, you need to START correctly in order to finish up where you want. Processes relate to the mental aspect.  If a dealership has procedures that are followed as designed, the thought process becomes easier, EVERYONE does the same thing, EVERY TIME.  The only time one needs to improvise is when the situation is not clearly defined by a process.  When that happens, get help immediately.

Let’s look at each of these elements individually.  Proper structure needs to include economic balance in every aspect of your business.  Are you selling the right products, are you stocking the right merchandise?  Are your grosses in line with others in your area, region or the nation?  Are you spending more than you should to generate the sales and grosses you are currently generating?  Do you have guidelines for your new and used inventories?  Are you paying your people TOO much, or TOO little?  Are your pay plans fair to your employees as well as the dealership?   Are your goals in writing?  Did your management staff have the opportunity to give their input when establishing those goals?  How often are the goals reviewed?  The more frequent your review of your goals, the more you tend to move toward those goals.

Processes reflect the mental aspects of your business.  Everyone needs to be doing the same thing, every time.  When a customer walks on your lot, they need to be greeted in a professional and courteous manner, every time.  After the customer has been greeted, they need to be escorted to a place where the salesperson can conduct a thorough, fact finding interview, every time.  When a customer walks up to your service or parts department, they need to be handled the same way, every time.  When a salesperson sits your customer down to negotiate the deal on their new purchase, they need to follow the same process, every time.  Simplify the mental parts with processes and improve the score.  No one can be exempt,  everyone needs to follow the processes, every time.

Processes require ongoing training and discipline.  Speaking of training, who does your training, your managers, your top producers?  If they are not training, who is?  Here is a scary thought, if your sales managers or your top producers are not doing the training that means your BOTTOM producers must be handling it.  When you hire new people, what are they learning and who are they learning it from?

A Coach can help an organization with these and other opportunities.  When was the last time your dealership had a check up?  Is your business on solid ground?  How are your processes?  Are regular, ongoing training sessions being held?  Are ALL employees required to attend?  Is your dealership selling what sells, and stocking what is selling.  Are your managers involved at all levels, including forecasting?  Are your forecast and goals written?  Are the forecasts achievable?    How frequently are your forecasts reviewed?  Do you have a coach, and if not, why? 

Dugan Anderson  operates Profit Solutions, a Division of RVMax. Dugan is a former dealer and for the past 8 years has been working with RVMax and dealerships across the country, dealing with all aspects of Financial Analysis, Expense control, marketing, training and consulting.

Are You Trying to Save Your Way to Profitability?

Getting profitable. Wow. How cool would that be?

You come into the store the first day of the month, open the door to your office, turn on the lights, sit at your desk and open the drawer that you keep your last months financial statement in and read through it until you come to the page that has the final numbers….and you smile a little self satisfied smile….when you realize “we paid all of our bills before we even opened the door this morning.”

Sounds like a science fiction novel? Or a fairy tale?

Maybe…especially if you are trying to save your way into Profitability.

It can be done…no doubt…that first month or two after you have made the cuts in Personnel, and wages (a favorite of all the employees by the way), and supplies, and vendors (they love that thing you do…you know..”Hey dude, I’m not paying $75.00 a car anymore for ding repair, it’s $50.00 now.”), and weekend meals for the Sales Dept…..you know what I’m talking about…and at the end of the second month…Wala…Profit. Right there on the statement. Just like you thought.

Then….the unthinkable happens…even less Traffic…. which you guessed it…. leads to less Sales and that of course takes us to less Profit because there is less Revenue and less of….well…EVERYTHING!

Now what do you cut? More importantly, how can you remain Profitable?

Maybe the question is not “Are my Expenses too High?”….maybe it’s “Are my Profits too Low?”

If this is you, then you need to start looking at Profit Generation and not Expense Cuts. Let me elaborate.

There is an area in your Dealership that has been known to generate Profit….consistently…if it’s being done correctly….it’s called the Fixed Operations or Service and Parts Department. I know….you can’t believe it either….it’s been there all along. Just waiting to be capitalized on.

Let’s present some facts. Now, I’m not picking on anyone, just discussing. Don’t get offended…I’m just the messenger and the alarm sounder.

The average hardworking Salesperson in the average Dealer selling an average New Vehicle will generate an average of $1450.00 in Gross PUS. If the New Vehicle has a $30000.00 sale price, that equates to .048333 or almost .05% average Gross Profit PUS.

Lets look at the Service Numbers. The average hardworking Advisor writing an average of 12 ROs a day will generate an average of $2754.00 in Sales with an average overall Gross of $1636.00 or 59% Gross Profit, per day.

Compared that to the average hardworking Salesperson overall average monthly Sales of 11 Units generating a total average monthly Gross of $15950.00, the average Advisor, well, has the bigger potential!

The average Advisor will generate $32,720.00 in average Gross Profit for the month!

Ok, what’s your point?

Since Saving our way to Profitability is a short term fix (and one sure to demoralize and in some cases, scare the employees), why not invest and allocate available resources into the Fixed Operations? One thing is for sure, the Sales to Gross ratio is a lot better, and the potential for getting even more is a lot greater.

So, which seems the better course of action?

Saving your way to Profitability or Generating More Profit?

Find out what the Profit Potential really is in your Dealership. Send an email to lbuchholz@dealerprotraining.com and get scheduled for a Profit Potential Analysis.