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Your Service Department’s Secret Weapon– And It’s FREE!

Have you ever wanted a nuclear weapon? Think of your industry competition as an arms race. So would you want to risk not having one when you don’t know who else might?

Well on today’s show, we talk about a secret advantage that’s a nuclear weapon to add to your arsenal, and it’s free!

The secret advantage I’m talking about is communication, and it’s 90% of everything, not just for advisors to customers but also for leaders to their employees. A lot of leaders, especially new ones, give me this a lot where they’re like, “Well, I just gotta be mean.”

No! That’s not the answer! The answer is to address it right away before it gets pegged up. You’re letting people walk on you, and you’re not telling them the truth! You got to give instant feedback. Push in, don’t step back and just let them back you into a corner until you lose your cool and become passive aggressive.

People usually are trainable and will take direction, so don’t just leave them to do their thing while you internalize it. All that does is it starts to simmer then boil, and then you overreact because you feel like you’ve been taken advantage of, but really what’s happened is you didn’t set boundaries and you haven’t stood up for yourself.

It’s all about over-communicating. That might sound like a bad thing like overeating or overworking yourself, but in this case, there’s only ever over-communicating and under-communicating. Too often we think we say something to employees once and it’s burned into their memory, but it’s really not. You got to say it every day, all the time.

If you were coaching a football team, you got to say the same thing over and over again, “You got to block and tackle. Just block and tackle.” It’s all about the fundamentals. We assume that people know the fundamentals, but you got to over-communicate to remind them. Do it in different ways, gamify it, tell success stories. Profile employees that are doing it right; make them into a big deal and praise them for it.

You can’t just come at it the same way every time. It gets boring. You really have to make an effort to over-communicate what the expectations are, what the customer experience needs to be, what the basics are over and over again. It never stops. Just like it’s not a bad thing to over-communicate, in this case, it’s not a bad thing to be a broken record either. Whatever it takes to get people on your team to remember. Even if they start mumbling it in their sleep.

Nobody ever complains about over-communicating, at least in the context of a business. Nobody’s heard a technician say that they were given too much information about a vehicle, and no employee has ever said that their manager over-communicated what the shop’s expectations are.

And then you always have to end with, “Okay, tell me what you’re taking away from this.” Sometimes what people think you’re saying is different from what you’re actually trying to say, so you got to get that confirmation. You have to understand that they’re looking through a lens or a context that can affect how they interpret what you’re saying so you think that what you’re explaining to them is obvious and common sense, but maybe nobody’s ever told it to them that way before.

Where this becomes a nuclear weapon is if you call customers when they don’t expect it or you call them before they’re even thinking about you, you’re making deposits in the future and building trust, trust that a lot of advisors miss but you can beat them in that arms race! Most service advisors aren’t calling at all, or they’re calling at the end of the timeline when the customer is expecting it.

Even if you don’t have any substantial information yet, you can still call and be like, “Hey, it’s next to go,” or “We’re on track. How’s work?” That’s different than any other advisor out there.

In our advisor training, we have what we call the ‘two hour call’ where you call somebody and you’re just like, “Hey, did you make it to work okay?”

Then they’re like, “Oh yeah, is it going good?”

“Okay, well, car’s in line. We should have somebody looking at it here in the next hour or so. I just wanted to give you a little update.”

That’s priceless, and it’s so easy! How many other services out there call you to give an update before you even think of calling them? The beauty of our industry is that the bar is ridiculously low on communication, and that means the opportunity has never been better, especially with digital communication like texting and email.

It’s about being proactive. At Jeremy’s shop, they’ve been doing this thing where, when they get in before they even start, they call or text the customers that had their cars held overnight to let them know the plan for the day. Or that their car wasn’t stolen overnight…

So now you got a free nuclear weapon in your arsenal so your competitors might think twice before hitting that doomsday button, and it’s time to move onto our questions.

“Hello, Chris. I recently switched dealerships to be closer to home. I’m a service advisor and have been one for about 10 years. I’m having a hard time fitting in at the new dealership. It’s a small town atmosphere in a very relaxed environment. The two biggest things that I can’t get my head around is letting customers have loaner vehicles for extended periods of time for simple repairs while we have to turn down other customers due to not having courtesy transportation. Then, we’re being told that the department is not profitable, but told to let the customer have a loaner for five days for an oil change and detail. My mind will not ignore that we’re losing money on that transportation and big picture. We’re missing opportunities on other vehicles due to not having a vehicle available for major repairs. My next concern is dealership charge accounts. They tell us to not let customers have a tab at the dealership, but then as soon as the customer talks to management, they fold and let them do an internal charge. Sometimes up to a $10,000 repair. Then, when the customer misses payments or doesn’t pay, the writer gets blamed. It also makes the writer come off as the bad guy and the manager come off as the hero just by the writer following policy. Any advice on what I should do?”

Have your dealer call us and we’ll set up a strategy session. If they’re losing money, that’s the first thing. It sounds like absolute chaos over there. I get that it’s a small town, but they’re using loaners as a crutch to make up for a lack of execution within the shop.

Let them do what they’re going to do. Instead of complaining that their system is broken, go create your own little business within the business. Go get your own customers and create your own client base. Get to know them, make friends, and word will travel fast. Within two or three years, you’ll have a loyal customer base and you’ll be the service advisor of record for that town.

I would go practice charisma and networking and get out and about and meet people. Get us on with the deal and we’ll try to help with the systems on our end because it just sounds like the systems are broken. They’re doing the best they can without a real plan, and they don’t understand that there’s a better way. But I’m telling you, there’s no better than the right service in a little town where you know everybody by name.

“Hi, guys. Really enjoy your videos. I’d like to know more about the level one diagnostic test and the billing strategy behind that. So many times, I may have a technician that wants three hours diagnostic for one specific issue after printing a diagnostic report. It really burns when you approve that and come to find out the tech figures it out in half the time or less. I find it hard to go to the customer with that news and many times end up eating the cost just to keep the customer happy. Ultimately, the customer is happy, but really are they? I would love to hear all about the levels of diagnostic testing and the pay structure for the technicians. For now, I’ve enforced a very strict booking time policy. The customer turnout has been better than ever! I noticed, as you both know, if a customer leaves feeling like they were taken care of, they will tell the world, and in turn, more happy customers. It spreads like wildfire. Thank you.”

Clearly a new fan because we’ve answered this question.

If you’re going to attack it by selling diagnostic time, two things you have to remember:

  1. When we’re doing the art of diagnosing the car, we’re not generating parts revenue with that service so we need to adjust our rate accordingly for that. We go over that in detail in our on-demand program and also in our coaching.
  2. Don’t get hung up on your technician’s time. Let’s say there’s a guy that’s an expert on fixing nuclear power plants when they have meltdowns. He gets flown in on a helicopter and figures out in 15 or 20 minutes that you need to change a valve and the reactor will stabilize, or whatever you call it.Now, the whole time before he diagnosed the problem, the whole city was on lockdown, alarms were going off, people were evacuating, all that. They end up fixing the valve and everything’s good. Then, a month later, the city gets an invoice for $10,000 and the mayor or whatever calls up the guy and is like, “What?! You were here for like 15 minutes and you’re charging me $10,000?”

    The expert goes, “Oh, I’m sorry. Let me send you a more detailed invoice.” So he sends him another one that says:

    On-site time to locate faulty valve: $5
    Knowledge of knowing which valve to replace: $9,995

With diagnosing these problems, the technicians are that expert and their hourly rate shouldn’t be calculated. If your techs find it in a shorter time than expected, good for them. Package these things up so you can deliver value with a checklist and show the information and process that we go through.

Also, understand that diagnosis on its own never fixed anything. What you want to do is a repair authorization. As an advisor, you got to get good at understanding that if you have a 3 Series BMW with a coolant leak or whatever, you know that the worst case scenario is it needs a radiator. You know that’s going to be $1,800. So a customer comes in with a coolant problem, I present a repair authorization and say, “Hey, I’m going to give myself $1,800 to work with. If it’s less, it’ll be less. If it’s more, I’ll give you a call.”

Stop selling diagnosis. Diagnosis doesn’t fix anything and it causes so much work for you because you got to call them again. I want to know right upfront: do you want the car fixed or not? Usually, it’s the check engine light or an O2 sensor, but the technician doesn’t have to pull the car in and out or spend a bunch of time. It actually saves the customer money and diagnosis because the tech can put in the O2 sensor, recheck it, and you know what it is.

How many times have you had to call the customer twice because you’ve replaced the upper radiator hose, and then it’s the lower radiator? You’re wasting time by thinking in those terms. Those are industry terms, not customer terms. Customers, for the most part, value time and just want their car or truck fixed right. By thinking in terms of diagnosis, you’re setting that barometer to the 10-20% of customers who might be cheap.

Stop talking about diagnosis. By talking diagnosis, you’re projecting failure onto the customer. We’re in the business of fixing stuff.

As always, we had a great show with some great questions. Try really hard to have some fun this week, and we’ll see you again next time on Service Drive Revolution.

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