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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Leonard Buchholz

Where does Repair Order Count attrition start? On the Telephone of course!

With the emphasis on increasing RO count through the manufacturer’s initiatives in regards to Quick Lube, Express Service, Fast Oil Change or whatever you call the 30 minute oil change in your Dealership, you would think that RO counts would be going up.

In some instances, yes they are. There is no doubt that these programs have resulted in more traffic into some stores in some cases.

But, in many stores, even with the advent of the “30 Minute Oil Change” marketing push and Free Maintenance, RO counts are going down.

Why?

Because Mr. and Ms. Advisor still answer the phone that same way they did last year…and the year before that… and the year before that.

Advisor “Hello, this is ABC Motors, can I help ya?”

Customer “I’m having a problem with my ’07 wagonmaster. It makes a funny noise when I start it up in the morning.”

Advisor “Yep, I’ve heard that one before. It’s probably the flutenator valve.”

Customer “Flutenator valve, huh. It sounds expensive. How much to repair it?”

Advisor “It’s depends on what type your wagonmaster had originally installed. Sometimes the whole rocket box assembly has to be replaced as well. Basically, if you don’t need it re-chromium plated, it’ll run ya about $395.00 installed.”

Customer “$395.00…I’ll have to think about it. I wasn’t expecting it to be so much.”

Advisor “Well, I’m not supposed to do this…but we have a coupon for 15% off right now for any repair. I have an extra one in my desk if you want it. Please don’t tell my boss that I gave it to you. Just come in and ask for me, Dumbass Dan.”

Customer “Ok, I’ll think about it.”

Advisor “Ok. Thanks for calling.”

I conduct in dealership live phone calls all the time. It’s part of our process when we are doing an evaluation. In the past 4 years, I can count on one hand how many times an Advisor came close to what would be considered a “professional telephone call” (by any standard you choose to use)  in which the Advisor guides the call and the customer to actually making an appointment.

Which, by the way, is the only reason for the Advisor to answer the phone… to make an appointment!

I have never met an Advisor whose last name is Google, but all day long they answer the phone and give out information and pricing and advice and coupons and everything else under the sun!!!!… without actually SELLING THE APPOINTMENT.

In addition to having poor to non-existing phone skills, the Service Departments themselves have a hard time dealing with an influx on customers who come in on the promise of a quick oil change by trained professionals and yet experience a long drawn out wait peppered with bad tv shows, loud pages over the intercom (yes, it still happens every day), and little to no information as to what their vehicle needs in order to maintain it in a safe and reliable condition.

“I have identified the enemy and it is us.”"I've identified the enemy..."

Want a better customer experience? Want more RO count? Want to capitalize on the marketing the manufacturer has pushed (not to mention your own efforts)? Then you need phone and communication skills to match your expectations.

Not training your Advisors is a choice.

by Leonard Buchholz

Where does Service Sales failure start? In the Service Drive of course!

In every dealership that I visit that is struggling with increasing Sales per Repair Order, performing a walkaround  is the area that the Advisors do not do well, if at all.

Recently, I was observing a service drive when a customer pulled up in a car and the advisor looked up from the desk and and said “Oh, look…she is just sitting there.” And for the next 3-5 minutes, the advisor sat at her workstation and waited…until the customer got out of the car and made her way into the service reception area. The advisor did not get up and go outside to greet the customer, make them feel welcome or offer any assistance. Is there any wonder why this store is struggling with increasing service sales and declining RO count?

We have all been customers in dealerships, repair centers, restaurants, cleaners, hotels… you name it…and there is nothing like a customer service person who gets it…from the initial greeting all the way through the final payment. And like many of you…I spend more money when I am taken care of.

Treat me like a number…give me grunts in response to questions…don’t use common courtesy…be in a hurry to get rid of me…don’t explain the process and expect me to guess what is happening next…and make me feel like an interruption to your day…is there any wonder why some Advisors (and Dealerships) struggle? I wouldn’t spend any money there and neither would you.

A walkaround is the very first tool in every Advisors toolbox to start building the relationship and introducing the customer to the maintenance and repair process. Without it, the customer might as well be at the DMV or the TSA line at the airport or the checkout line in the supermarket. It’s all the same until the person delivering the service decides to do the right thing.

And that is the fundamental difference between the checkout line and the service drive… one caring professional human.

by Leonard Buchholz

The Service Advisor’s “6 Steps to Happy Bank Deposits”

Here is a simple way to make more every month.
It’s called the “6 Steps to Happy Bank Deposits” and it goes like this.

1st, write down what you make per month right now.

Your position in life is determined by what you believe.

Your position in life is determined by what you believe.


2nd, write down what you want to make per month. (Be Realistic) This is a crucial first step because if you don’t make a personal commitment to make a change in how you think about your income then you can’t make the income you desire. 
3rd, determine your Sales per Transaction. If you write an average of 180 Customer Pay Repair Orders per month and you average $45,000.00 dollars a month in Customer Pay Sales, each Repair Order you write is worth $250.00.
4th, decide what amount of increase you would like on each Repair Order. Write it down and be Realistic. Post it where you can see it everyday. Think of it as building a staircase. You can’t jump to the top of the staircase…you have to take each step one at a time. Make a commitment to yourself to increase by a specific dollar amount…say $25.00 on each Repair Order. 
5th, increase your Sales per Transaction by using the Tools (Menu, Multi-point Inspection, Maintenance Recommendations) and Techniques (Feature/Benefit Sales Presentation, Professional Sales Skills) to Communicate Effectively to the Customer the Information they need to Maintain their Vehicle in a Safe and Reliable operating condition.
6th, Deposit New Income from following these steps.

Set Goals, Be Successful!

By Leonard Buchholz

200K in 200 Days

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

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

If they can do it, so can you.

 

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

Get it, Read it, Do it!

By Leonard Buchholz