Tag Archives: service manager training

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

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

Uh Oh…Another Employee Quits

Resignation Letter

To: Dealer Principal

From: Fixed Operations Net Profit

Reference: Fixed Operations Gross Profit Resignation Letter

Dear Dealer Principal,

It has come to my attention that Fixed Ops Gross Profit has resigned effective immediately. Without the continued support of Gross Profit I cannot continue to be effective in the performance of my duties while adding funds to your Profitability. (not to mention your bank account)

I too have found other employment at a dealership that understands me and appreciates me for who I am. As you know, I am extremely sensitive to sudden changes in revenue stream, expenses and …ahem…”discretionary purchases” (if you know what I mean)

In the recent past there have been direct actions taken against me by personnel who do not have my best interests at heart. For example, the Service Department has stopped making appointments with adequate time between customers resulting in an instant revenue reduction in my department. In fact, last time I checked, they didn’t have a service drive process at all!

And because we don’t really have any processes in place (including how to answer the phone) there has been a decrease in customer pay RO count. Just last week I heard one advisor tell a customer they could not get in this week for service! And we have techs standing around at 3:30 most days!

I don’t know if you know this or not (and I am not trying to be a “disgruntled ex-employee”), but I heard that the parts obsolescence was at nearly 27% of current inventory! It has become very difficult to get any customers car in and out of the shop in one day due to a lack of parts availability. Just yesterday we did not have brake pads in stock for one vehicle and on another we didn’t have wiper blades.

In one case, the parts manager had to make an emergency purchase and then the advisor gave the customer a discount on parts and labor to make up for the extended wait time they endured while we were chasing down the parts!

Boss, there is not a Net Profit on earth that can work under these circumstances.

I have talked with Margins, HPRO and Effective Labor Rate and they are undecided on whether or not they will stay. Of the 3 (if I had to guess which one), I believe Margins have just about had it as well and will be leaving soon.

I never say never Boss, and if things change around here, I would be interested in getting a call from you.

With Sincere Regret,

Fixed Operations Net Profit

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

Why “Old School” Communication is the new “Class Dismissed”

Fierce Leadership (Sketchnotes)

Fierce Leadership (Sketchnotes) (Photo credit: murdocke23)

Clearly there is a huge gap between what “we” (old school) managers and Leaders consider useful and proper communication,  motivation and Leadership techniques and what the “new” generation responds to.

There is a choice to be made.
A. Keep doing what you’ve been doing and keep getting the same results while expecting a different outcome.
B. Do something different.

In this business “transitional people” are a given. We attract people because we are the largest OJT training industry on the planet. ANYBODY can work in the Car Biz because we accept everybody.

The only people we reject (and that’s not a given either) is the people who cannot pass the smog test or background check…but I can guarantee you this…nearly half if not more reading these words do neither when hiring. It’s not an accusation or condemnation…it’s just the way it is.

So, having to deal with a generation who does not respond the same way, think the same way and act the same way should be no real surprise. What is a surprise is how much “old school” wants to hold on to the familiar and safe ways of management and Leadership style rather than adapting and overcoming this communication and Leadership gap.

Do we hold them to established Dealership standards of conduct? Yes
Do we hold them accountable to established performance goals? Yes
Do we expect professional behavior while on the job? Yes
Do we monitor and coach on a regular (daily) basis? Yes

HOW we communicate those standards of behavior and professionalism is where we need to to grow. HOW we hire and train is where we need to change. HOW we grow our own pool of qualified and professional people is HOW we overcome the challenge of finding qualified people.

This generation, like any other generation, still wants to Succeed. Just not in the manner we have defined Success! Identify and qualify that definition and you will have the employee you want and an employee you can count in in the future.

Keep applying “Old School” Communication and Leadership techniques and it will be “Class Dismissed”.

Grasshopper Pie

A traveling salesman had come to the end of a long day and was very hungry. He had not made many sales and was feeling a little frustrated with his results. He decided to stop and get something to eat and mull over his next step.

He stopped in town, parked on Main Street and looked around. He found two restaurants side by side.  Above each there was a sign.

The one on the left said “Food, more expensive but worth it” and the one on the right said “Food, average, cheap and will fill you up.” The man stood for a moment and looked at both signs. He weighed his choices and after deliberating for a few minutes, chose the restaurant on the right.

He stepped in and was greeted by the maitre’d who showed him to the only table in the place. It was in the center of the restaurant and was circled by chairs with people sitting and sipping cool drinks with umbrellas and limes.

He thought it was rather odd and asked the maitre’d who all the people were sitting and sipping. The maitre’d replied “Oh, don’t worry about them. They are just here to see the show.”

The man asked “What show?”

The maître’d replied “The show that starts in a few minutes. What can I get you to drink?”

The man placed his drink order and waited somewhat nervously as he wondered what sort of restaurant he had wandered into. The waiter returned a few minutes later and placed the drink on the table and said “Hello, I’m your waiter this evening. Let me describe our special for you.”

The man thought to himself “Well, at least this is normal. Thank goodness.”

The waiter said “For our special this evening the chef has prepared an average dish using locally available average ingredients and prepared it using only average tasting sauces and wrapped it up in dough made only with average flour and served on a plate with average bread.”

The man thought to himself “Well, that does not sound too bad” and said to the waiter “I’ll have it.”

The waiter replied “Very good sir” and walked away. The man noticed that suddenly all of the people in the restaurant had moved a little closer to his one and only table. This seemed a little odd to him and made a mental note to ask the waiter when he came back with his food.

In a few minutes the waiter returned carrying a large tray with a steaming pie in the middle of it. He proceeded to set it down on the table. The man looked at the pie and said “Hmm, this looks good, what is it called”

The waiter replied “Grasshopper Pie.”

The man said “What? Grasshopper Pie? I’ve never heard of it! What’s in it?”

The waiter replied “Locally available average ingredients mixed with an average sauce and wrapped in average dough.”

The man thought about it for a second and said “Ok, I’ll try it” and with that took his fork and started to eat. As he took the first mouthful, he noticed that the other people sitting in the restaurant were quiet and watching him with renewed interest. And they had stopped sipping their limed up umbrella drinks.

The man chewed for just a second or two and then jumped up while spitting out the bite he had just taken and started wiping his mouth furiously with his napkin as if it were on fire. He then grabbed his drink and took a long gulp trying to wash the taste out of his mouth.

He yelled for the waiter.

The waiter returned and the man said “What is this?” pointing at the dish in front of him.

“What you ordered sir” the waiter replied. The man then pointed again and gestured with his fork “That is not what I asked you. What is in this pie?”

The waiter replied “Locally available average ingredients mixed with an average sauce and wrapped with average dough. Why, is there something wrong with it?”

The man replied somewhat angrily “Yes! It tastes terrible!” Immediately all of the other people sitting in the restaurant started passing money back and forth amongst themselves.

The man now really angry said “And who are all of these people passing money around?”

The waiter replied “Well sir, these are the people here for the show I told you about and they have been betting on whether or not you would eat your dish. I must say sir; there are a lot of them whom you have made very happy, including me. We all bet that you would not eat more than a bite of the pie.”

The waiter gestured to one particular group of people “Those people over there in that small group, they bet that you would eat more than one bite. Only those two people (pointing across the room) bet that you would eat the whole pie. They always bet on the longshot. Will there be anything else?”

The man was really angry by now and said “This is outrageous. All I wanted was something to eat at a cheap price. And now look at me. I am still hungry, the center of a show and I’m really angry! That dish was terrible!”

The waiter replied “What did you expect sir. You ordered Grasshopper Pie.”

The moral of the story…when you are hungry for change it’s better to pay more for what you really want rather than try to make a terrible choice into an average result. Remember that many people who know you will gladly watch and bet on the outcome with no other interest than their own self amusement and lastly, Grasshopper Pie is really what it sounds like and it does taste terrible. You get what you pay for.