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

Why small increases are important to your Dealership profits

Just what does a 10% increase (in any KPI you choose) really mean to your dealership?

Why small changes make big things happen.

Why small changes make big things happen.

 

Have you heard the old saying “Yard by yard it’s hard, but inch by inch is a cinch”?

If I were to go to any of your dealerships and walk into the GM’s office and say “Would you be interested in a 50% increase in Gross Profits?” what do you think he or she would say to me?

They would jump out of their chairs and yell out “Of course…how do I get it!”

And therein lies the problem with increasing performance or increasing profits 50% at a time. It is really hard to achieve that big of a jump all at once. It’s not that people are not capable or willing, it’s just that getting all of the components of a dealership focused and firing on all cylinders at the same time is a difficult proposition at best, and trying to get a 50% increase in any measurable KPI just becomes impossible.

Truthfully, whenever you have heard someone (DP, GM, New Manager, etc…especially the New Manager) say something like “I’m expecting big things this year and our goal is to increase (fill in the blank) by 50%”, would you say the “Dirty Diaper Alarm” trips in your head and you disregard everything that was said and develop a less than favorable opinion of said “Authority Figure” (or whomever was speaking)? Yep, me too.

But if I go into any dealership and ask any service advisor “Hey there Mr. /Ms. Advisor, do you think you could sell an extra $10-20 dollars on every repair order?” what do you think the answer is nearly 100% of the time?

“Of course I can.”

That is the power of a 10% increase.

So let’s look at John Q. Advisor and some of his numbers. At the average of 1.5 HPRO at $85.00 an hour, every repair order John writes is averaging about $229.00 a ticket. A 10% increase is only $22.90 and if John writes 220 repair orders a month, that equates to a $5 Grand a Month increase in Service Sales.

What does John get? At the end of a year, he gets an additional $60 grand in Commission-able Sales and if he is on an average pay plan, he just made another $5000.00 or so dollars for the year or $400.00 bucks a month.

Now go ask your Advisors, “Hey there Mr. /Ms. Advisor, want to make $400.00 more a month?” and what do you think their answer will be? (If they say something smarty pants or “No” or “Who do I have to kill?” just tell them you are going to write a letter to their spouse or significant other stating they turned down a $400.00 dollar a month raise)

Most organizations focus on trying to increase too much when they should focus on just making small but effective changes that yield results over time.

One more thing. Don’t forget the power of compounding.

Back to back increases of 10% in John Q’s example is big. How big? In the second year of a 10% increase, John’s average sales per repair order become $277.00 per copy or $48.00 more than year one, which equates to a $126,720.00 yearly increase in service sales…not too bad a result for a 10% increase.

Get focused on making small incremental changes that add up to big improvements! Help your team see the value and vision of a 10% increase in their service sales process and watch those profits (not to mention team morale) soar!

By Leonard Buchholz

DealerPro Training Solutions announces new Training Center Grand Opening

DealerPro Training is proud to announce the grand opening of the new DealerPro Training Center in Gahanna Ohio. This is  part of the growing Don Reed Training Network.

At this center you can expect Professional Training for Service Advisors, Service Managers, Fixed Operations Directors and General Managers. You can get the best in Automotive Professional Training available in the United States at the Don Reed Training Center. Course content includes Service Advisor Sales Training, Service Management Sales Training, Profit Building for Fixed Operations, Maximizing Marketing Dollars, Professional Communication Skills, to name a few.

Course content is constantly updated and packed full of Action Steps that every attendee will take back to the dealership and implement right away! Training that is implemented as fast as possible creates positive change that sticks and results in increased Performance!

Call the office at 888-553-0100 for more info or send an email to info@dealerprotraining.com with the words Training Center in the subject line.

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

 

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