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5 Easy Ways for Your Service Managers to Build Customer Service Skills

As the automotive industry continues to innovate vehicle technology, on the service drive, we’re all about making service managers’ lives easier through improvements that deliver repeatable results and are easily implemented. This week we focus on 5 easy ways to build customer relationships that will deepen trust, increase loyalty, and build a culture of customer service on your service drive.

1. Pet the Dog

This is where customer service starts. You’ve got to genuinely care about the people you’re helping. You’ve got to create a culture in your service department that builds trust and has the customer’s best interest at heart. It’s all about trust.

You have to teach everyone to “Pet the Dog,” from the cashiers to the advisers, even the techs. It’s an easy thing to do. My Pet the Dog video is up on YouTube and anyone can watch it for free. I have people from all kinds of industries telling me that they use that video with their employees to talk about how to really connect with people. 

A lot of times we focus too much on what we want to  sell customers and not enough on understanding that selling the service is easy, it’s the connection we have with the customer that’s important. This is about really understanding that connecting on a deeper level and getting to know customers in the context of what they care about, not what we care about, is the most important thing. That’s number one. 

2. Role Play

This reinforces building a culture of trust. One role play I like to suggest with your advisors is how to “Pet the Dog.” It reinforces the connection that can be made on the drive and what should ultimately be the main focus of the dealership. That’s where we want to go, and that’s where you begin to set the stage. 

Another game I like to play with advisors is the smile game. Super Mario, one of our coaches, came up with this. What we do is watch the advisors with the customers and if they can get the customer laughing and smiling at the car, we give them some sort of raffle ticket, or five bucks, some sort of spiff. This is fun and sets a tone that’s contagious. If customers see other customers having fun and that the environment is fun and people want to be there, it’s contagious.

Another thing is if you can record phone calls and play them back for role playing. A lot of times sales objections are the customers saying, in one way or another, “I don’t trust you.” Building that trust extends beyond how you handle the phone call. If you’re sending a video inspection, it can be about physical appearance of technician’s stalls, too. Everything counts.

3. Stop Wanting to be Right

This might be the most important. I was talking about this the other day, about how the key to good customer service starts with one thing and that’s stop wanting to be right. A lot of times a customer issue falls on our desk, it’s because an advisor wanted to be right. They didn’t want to win. Whenever you have a customer issue, it doesn’t matter if you are 100% right. If the customer perceives that something was not right, you have to fix the customer. You have to fix the relationship first.

I had a conversation with a manager the other day, and his average ticket was like $800. Customers were coming in on average every eight months, a little less than twice a year, right? So, you see a customer almost twice a year, and you get $1,600 from the customer and you want to be right about $100? You never want to be right. Just let it go. Think about the time and the frustration and the money. And the customer isn’t going to come back most of the time. The best thing is to never be right, just listen, apologize, and then fix it. That’s it. There’s no reason to be right whatsoever in any situation. 

This is especially important when you think about how a bad review online can impact future customers, future revenue. Don’t be right. Ask the customer how you can help get a situation resolved. Sometimes it’s more about acknowledging their experience than actually “fixing” anything. Just asking sometimes helps in not having to fix it, which so many men love to do. In one recent situation I handled, the customer just wanted an apology. They wanted their experience acknowledged. That was enough.

4. Take Off the Seatbelt

This is my favorite one. If you want to build a culture of customer service skills, you have to step out of your office. You have to take off your seatbelt, get out of your chair, and go out and wander around. Pick up the phone and call some customers. Talk to the shuttle drivers. 

Whenever I come into a service department to fix it, I’ve found that the cashiers and the shuttle drivers and the people in the front lines know the most about what’s going on. They know more about how we’re disappointing customers than the manager does because they’re on the front lines. You’re not going to learn anything unless you get out there and get on the front lines and talk to some customers. Randomly walk up to a customer and say, “Hey, how’s it going?”

It’s just like when you eat in a high-end restaurant and the manager comes around and asks, “How is everything?” Get a sense of the mood. Listen to how your advisors are talking. Listen to how people are answering phones. Do it in the morning, at your peak time especially, and then again throughout the day. Taking your seatbelt off to see what your team is really doing for at least a couple hours a day is absolutely key.

5. Learn to Hire

Number five of the five easiest ways to build the culture and customer service skills in your service department is learn to hire. Most of the highest paid CEOs on this planet spend over 80% of their time hiring. Recruiting talent. If you hire the right people for the right position, they will be self-managed. They’ll be self-driven and they will get you the results that you want. If you have the wrong hire in that position, there isn’t anything you can do to crack the whip or push them. 

For many front line roles, I like to use group interviews to get a sense of personality and identify who is driven, who has that innate ability to be likable and build trust. People in those front line positions need to have that built-in. They also need to be comfortable under pressure dealing with an unhappy customer. I’ll start with a group interview, then be very selective about who to bring back for a solo interview. 

You want to get good at interviewing and asking questions. A good question when you bring them back to interview is, “How have you used your sense of humor and personality to handle a tough customer situation?” If they don’t have that go-to in their personality to really lighten the moment, they might not be suited for that. You want specific examples of how they’ve dealt with difficult customers, how they’ve used their personality or their skillset to exceed a customer’s expectations. 

It’s all about recruiting the right talent and building the right team. It’s talent. You have to think about it like building a sports team. The best service advisors get followed by the best techs, and vice versa. 

We go into more detail about hiring in our online training. We’re working on a big project right now. Jeremy just recorded like 45 videos. The feedback I’ve gotten is that there is a big demand for online training. We’re building service advisor training for independent shops, and we’re building training for shop owners, too.

So, those are 5 easy ways to build customer relationships: Pet the Dog, Role Play, Stop Wanting to be Right, and Learn to Hire. Remember, it’s all about trust and connection, and building a team that delivers that, and creating a culture that sustains that. Implement these process driven elements of our automotive service advisor training, and you’ll transform your business from the inside out.


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