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The 5 Landmines to Avoid When Reopening

We weren’t prepared for Coronavirus. It’s true! Think of all the things that we, as a country, weren’t prepared for… New car sales shutting down indefinitely, Service Advisors and other staff furloughed, others working remotely from home (this one in particular was a big adjustment for my team). Think of all the businesses that couldn’t make such rapid changes to their structure, who won’t survive this…. 

And what happens if there’s a second wave? Will the economy shut down all over again? I don’t see how they could do it, but we’ll see. It’s happening right now in Korea and Japan….

…It’s tragic, but we can learn from this! You know me, I’m all about learning. So, as businesses begin to reopen across the U.S., we reviewed some of the reopening policies in California and created a list to help you reopen smoothly.

Speaking of reopening, Jeremy brought up an interesting story in this episode– He had a customer whose wife has been working from home for the past six weeks. She’s not a Service Advisor, she does clerical work, but working from home has worked out great for her. She can get an extra two or three hours of work done in a day, so not only does she like it, but she’s more effective! So when her boss started talking about reopening the office, she told him straight-up that she refused, and was going to work from home. 

Sure, maybe her boss can still downsize or lay her off…. But Jeremy is willing to bet that there’s probably an attorney somewhere who would take on her wrongful termination case. I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not going to get into that…. 

So let’s talk about the 5 Landmines to Avoid When Reopening:

Being too aggressive

So Jeremy had a client who wanted to buy a car right at the beginning of the shutdown, but when it came time for him to contact the dealer, they told him, “No. We can’t sell you a car. We’re closed.” So, what did that customer do? 

They bought a car at another dealership 200 miles away. 

What did the first dealership do? Well obviously, now that they’re reopening, they’ve been blowing up Jeremy’s phone every day.

Look, we get it. Anyone who shut down is going to have a lot of pent-up energy, and you’re going to want to be aggressive, and while that’s normally fine… Slow it down. You can still increase R.O. count without overwhelming the customer.

There is such a thing as too much, and you don’t want to overwhelm the customer. Be strategic.

Tsunami syndrome

What happens right before a tsunami hits?

The tide goes out, everybody lets their guard down, and people flock to the beach. Little do they know, that big wave is just collecting water…. and it’s gonna come crashing down when they least expect it.

That’s where we’re at right now. 

You can’t let your guard down and just go back to normal like nothing happened. Your Service Managers, Service Advisors, Technicians, and Sales team (anyone who touches a customer, basically) need to step up their game. Even if you think it’s safe, you need to make time for disinfecting the cars and common areas, wearing protective equipment, washing your hands, social distancing, etc.

What’s important right now is to be the shop, or the Service Advisor, that’s staying vigilant. That way, you’ll be prepared when the tsunami comes back. You don’t want to be the one in the news like, “Hey, we traced these 100 people getting Corona back to your business.”

Never forget: The customers will remember forever if you dropped the ball and got them sick. 

Not putting the customer first

What’s the most important thing you should be focused on right after you re-open? Your sales goal, or how you can help the customer?

It’s a rhetorical question, you should always put the customer first. 

Whether its Service Advisors social distancing during the walkaround, or Techs protecting the customer by sanitizing every step of the way…. Always serve the customer, because that’s what business is all about.

There is a real opportunity for Service Advisors to pet the dog right now. Show the customer that you’re still concerned about keeping them safe, and that you’re not gonna start slacking just because the curve is flattening. There are a lot of things we can and should still do right now.

Not reestablishing your systems

The best businesses have really good systems and processes in place, but now is the time to reevaluate your systems and make sure you still have a solid foundation.

There’s never been a better time in human history for reinventing yourself than right now. Look at your systems, find ways to get better, faster, more efficient, and connect on a deeper level.

The thing about systems is that you want to understand that it’s a feedback loop. What you have inside of a system is a process of doing things, then you have the outcome of that process.

Back when I was a Service Advisor we had these $29.95 oil changes on Cadillacs and it was 30 minutes or it’s free.

I thought about that as a feedback loop. We’re marketing and we get lots of customers coming in and off of this and so the 30 minutes started when we wrote the R.O…

So now what happens? When I would give it to the quick lube techs and they would give it back, there was never anything written on the inspection sheet!

Because they weren’t invested. They didn’t care. There was no upside for them to recommend work. The whole thing they were thinking about is, “I’m going to get in trouble if this isn’t done in 30 minutes,” because they would get yelled at if we had to give one away.

The point of that story is that their priority wasn’t inspecting the car, right? It’s a feedback loop where I’m writing oil changes but these cars leave here with 100,000 miles on them and needing work. Then they’re going to come in on a tow truck when we could have told them.

If a customer gets an oil change and then three days later they break down because a belt breaks or something happens, who do you think they’re going to blame?

Well, they’re going to blame the entire shop because they don’t know the difference between a quick lube tech and a team leader! All they know is that their car was broken and that they’re inconvenienced. It doesn’t matter who let it slide, to them it’s the whole shop’s fault!

So that’s how I would approach it as an advisor. I would look at everything you do as a process and ask yourself if the outcome of that process is what you want. If you’re writing 25 customers a day and you’re taking shortcuts, step back and look at that process.

Maybe you’d make more friends and take better care of your customers and have better retention if you only wrote 15 instead of 25. That’s a feedback loop.

Forgetting to have fun!

Understand that it is what it is. We can only control what we can control, so try to have some fun in the process. Go out of your way to make your fellow employees’ and your customer’s day.

Have a mindset of service and fun, and don’t be so buttoned up!

That’s all there is today that’s Corona-related. Now to move onto some pretty normal questions on what to do when everything opens back up. Remember, if you send us a question, whether that’s via email, social media, or over in the Vault new Service Drive Revolution website, and we answer your question on the big show, we’ll send you some free swag.

“Service department is always putting things into their policy. When it is a customer issue or an advisor didn’t make proper notes and the vehicle comes back. This does include marking down the parts to cost. Is this a normal practice, or am I just giving in to allow this to happen? Shouldn’t it be a cost plus 10-15%? I’ve been told that they don’t want to pay for the part twice, which is why this is being marked down to cost. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in making the customer happy for repeat business, but this is aggravating because it affects my CB or RO.”

Now, Jeremy has a perfect fable, or parable, or whatever you want to call it for this…

Some doctors are on a rafting trip, and they’re by this beautiful river. They’re around the campfire enjoying their coffee when all of a sudden, a body comes floating down the river.

So the guys rush in, they pull the body out and they start CPR, and they manage to revive the person.

Two minutes later, another body comes down.

Then another.

Before you know it, it’s like the ER. There’s bodies on the shore, bodies everywhere, and they’re working their tails off like, “Man, we came out here for a vacation, not to work.”

All of a sudden, one of the doctors gets up and just walks away. His buddies are like, “Hey, where are you going?! Get back here! You gotta help us save these people!”

He says, “Nope. I’m going to go find the guy throwing the bodies down the river and stop this madness.”

I love that story. It’s perfect.

The problem is you’re focused on the wrong thing. It’s not what management does with the comeback. It’s not what they’re selling the parts for. It’s not what they’re making you mark things down with…. It’s the fact that Service Advisor error is creating this problem!

If you forget to write things on the ticket, you rush, or you’re not genuinely concerned with taking care of the customer and documenting everything right the first time, you’re creating this issue and it doesn’t matter what management does!

The 10-15% markup is irrelevant if you do your job right from the beginning!

Also, it doesn’t make sense that you’re paying for the part twice. It would be under parts warranty unless you’re buying your parts from some backwoods.

“Good morning Chris and crew. I work at an extremely busy Toyota dealership in Southwest Florida. If I’m aggressive enough, I can easily clear 20 ROs a day. I’ve noticed that when I try to grab every car on the drive, my ELR suffers. But we are way too busy to spend an hour or more with each customer. I’m trying to find a balance of numbers of cars written per hour versus keeping my dollars per high. I finished last month at roughly $265 per copy, and I’m looking to increase that number. Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.”

Well you shouldn’t have to spend an hour with each customer. You gotta get more efficient then that. Less is more.

But you definitely should spend like 15 minutes, right?

I have a recent scenario with somebody who was arrested and got a public defender. Guess how long a public defender in Los Angeles spends with their average client whether they’re accused of a drug deal, murder, whatever…

Six minutes.

The average public defender spends six minutes in preparation for something that could cost you your life. You could be innocent, or even if you’re not, I think the one thing that we hold true as a country is that you get a fair trial, right?

So less is more in the sense that I would rather connect with two or three customers on a deeper level and create a key thrower than write 20+ ROs.

That being said, work on shortening your transaction time per customer. If you’re smart, you could double your numbers.

“Hey Chris, when you talk about pet the dog on the drive, what would you do if your repair facility isn’t set up in a way where you can walk around the vehicle with the customer?”

I’ve never seen it. I’ve heard about it. I’ve had people tell me that they have a facility that they can’t walk around with customers…

… but when I’ve gone there, I’ve never seen it.

Customers are pulling into a parking spot somewhere. You don’t have to have a traditional drive in order to walk around with the customer. You just designate certain parking spots that they pull into and then you go out there and do it!

The only thing that I’ve ever seen that comes close to a facility where you can’t walk around is when it’s 40 below outside and the winds are going 60 miles an hour. Then maybe you don’t do it during that time, but eight months out of the year you can do it.

Go beyond the transaction and stop being stubborn. It’s not about you, it’s about how you can better serve the customer.

If it’s not about them, then you’re working the wrong job. You should probably go work at the DMV or TSA.

“Hey, I love the podcast and all the great info you guys give. One thing I miss is the Book Report. My question is what good books do you recommend for training?”

Training for what? To be a plumber?

Oh, Service Advisors. Right.

Read Millionaire Service Advisor or Irreplaceable Service Manager. If you read them two years ago, go back and reread them.

They’re still relevant, and oftentimes you’ll find you get more out of a book the third, fourth, and fifth time that you read it compared to the first time.

If you think this week’s episode was fun, next week is our 100th episode! We got some extra surprises in store that you will not want to miss, next time on Service Drive Revolution.


Businesses are starting to reopen, and its important not to get carried away. What mistakes should you look out for? Let us know what you think in the comments, and find out our answer, only on this week's Service Drive Revolution. Now streaming! JOIN THE SERVICE REVOLUTION --

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