Tag Archives: business advice

Service Drive Revolution Quality Service Advisors

Volume vs Quality: How Service Advisors Can Find the Balance

As service advisors, it’s really important to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on out there on the service drives. One of the best ways to do that is to be part of a network of people who keep each other in the loop about different elements of the business–what the problems are, new products on the market, sales trends…the whole nine yards. 

One of the people in my network is Coach Super Mario, Service Advisor Coach extraordinaire. I had him on the Service Drive Revolution podcast to talk about what he’s seeing in service drives, which is that people are making mistakes when it comes to balancing volume versus quality. 

Mario used to be an advisor at Longo Toyota here in Los Angeles. Longo is part of the Penske Automotive Group, better known as PAG, a business that’s known for its damn good employee retention and customer service, among other things. They’re known for it and as a former employee, Mario agrees with the public’s perception. When he was at Longo, they took care of the team by bringing in lunch, special dinners…that kind of thing. They knew that if their employees were happy, they would do their best work. Mario told us that PAG president Greg Penske’s big thing is remembering names–to the point that if he saw you and couldn’t remember yours, he’d literally give them $20 on the spot or take them to the in-house Starbucks to make up for it…and he’d never forget that person’s name again. And that kind of attention to detail when it comes to people trickled down into the whole company. 

And guess what? Longo Toyota literally sells more cars than anywhere else in the world. When Mario was there over a decade ago, Longo always broke records in May, and their goal for the month was to sell 2,500 new cars plus easily 700-800 used. I like to call it the Disneyland of car dealerships because their operation is so epic. They might even have a jail in there…you’ll have to give the episode a listen to find out whether or not that’s true. 

Anyway, let’s get back to the topic at hand. When it comes to drives, service advisors are making mistakes left and right when it comes to balancing volume versus quality. What do we mean by that and how do we know? According to Mario, the first thing he looks at any time he goes into a dealership is how the drive’s operating. He looks at how service advisors are going about their business–how they’re connecting with customers, how receptive customers seem to be to the information they’re being told, and what the outcomes are. And more often than not, he’s seeing a bottleneck effect. Here’s what it looks like: The doors open up, each service advisor is 5 or 10 cars deep right out the gate, and they’re all running around trying to get people in and out the door as quickly as possible. 

The way that these service advisors are looking at it is that if they don’t handle the transaction quickly and keep customers waiting, they’ll lose them. In reality, handling customers this way feeds into their preconceived notions about dealerships: That all service advisors and their employers care about is getting their money as quickly as possible and getting them out the door so they can take another car in. So even though service advisors think that they’re making customers happy by moving so quickly, what they’re really doing is just feeding into the negative perceptions so many customers have about the auto service industry and dealerships in particular. 

If you look at Longo Toyota as an example, you see that there’s another way of doing things that’s much more effective in the long run. At Longo and other successful dealerships, service advisors are trained to really pet the dog as I like to call it, meaning that they’re trained to actually talk to customers as they come in. They build rapport by asking questions about how the customer is using their car, what the issue has looked like for them, and just generally checking in on how they’re doing. Longo’s numbers we mentioned before speak for themselves. They’re selling more cars than anyone else in the world and that’s definitely at least in part because of their customer service training. 

The reason why this works so well in terms of customer retention is because of the psychological impact of showing the customer that you give a damn about their experience. The car is a commodity, sure, but the customer isn’t and they’re looking for respect from the people they interact with. Plus, the strategy of moving things along as quickly as possible doesn’t really work anyway. It doesn’t actually eliminate the bottleneck effect, it just pushes the bottleneck from the front to the back. A thriving business will always have customers waiting, so the way that you handle each customer and show them that you value their business, the better.

However you and your team decide to go about changing your sales strategy, the most important part is consistency. You have to have a plan, make sure everyone is on board, and then stick to the strategy. To show you what I mean, let me give you an example of why consistency matters so much. When I was at Crevier BMW back in the day, I wanted to implement a system where the sales manager went out and greeted the customer and completely took car prices off the table. I’d let the customer know that I’m the money guy, which is the easy part, and that this sales manager’s job is to make the customer fall in love with their dream car. Once a customer agreed, it made the sales manager’s job a lot easier because their only goal was to really show off the cars based on what the customer was looking for rather than having to convince them that it was worth a certain price. Sounds like a good plan, right?

In reality, the system worked like a charm on the rare slow days, but on a busy day, it was a different story. The first Saturday we tried to implement it, the system totally fell apart. I had about 3 desk managers, 40 salespeople, and 25 customers lined up. The managers were saying that there’s no way they can just go out there, introduce themselves in the desk deals and say goodbye. There were bottlenecks everywhere. I realized that we had to create a system that would be consistent every single day, not just on the odd slow days. 

The question is…is the problem really about volume versus quality? In my opinion, there will always be service advisors, salespeople, desk managers, any employee really, who will take shortcuts to move things along faster or do less work. So I asked Mario to think about busy times when there’s a line of customers out the door and tell me what two things he would never skip in order to move the process along faster. His initial answer was preparation, meaning taking time to review his appointments before heading in for his shift so he knew who his customers would be, how they drive their cars, and what kind of preventative maintenance they’d done in the past. When I threw a wrench in that by asking him what he’d do if most of his customers that busy day were drive-through oil changes, his answer changed: he’d pet the dog and slow things down so he could make sure each customer was taken care of and each job was handled well. 

That’s my answer too because it applies to every situation. No matter how busy you are, never skip petting the dog. In many cases, it doesn’t matter if you’re taking shortcuts to get the work done, as long as you are engaging with the customer as you do it. If it’s a Monday or Tuesday, you can ask about the previous weekend. If it’s Thursday or Friday, just switch it up and ask about upcoming plans. 

When you pet the dog, it’s not just that one interaction that goes more smoothly, it’s that you’re setting yourself up for future business with that customer. Nine times out of ten, when a customer opts not to get a new part or a repair done at your dealership even though they bought the care there, it’s because they don’t trust you. By actually engaging with customers and showing that you value their time and business, you build trust that creates long-term relationships. People are looking for service advisors they can really trust to tell them what they need and help them out so they feel safe and keep coming back. As Mario says to his service advisors: “It’s not the customer’s responsibility to remember you, but it is your responsibility to make sure they never forget you.” 

If you’re ready to step up your game, we dropped even more wisdom on the podcast–listen to this episode here and then tell us what you think in the comments below. 

Humble Mechanic on Customer Retention

Want to Attract and Retain Clients? The Humble Mechanic Weighs In

When you think about the ecosystem of a dealership, do you place techs and salespeople in totally different areas? There’s no overlap between those skillsets, right? Wrong. Very, very wrong. In fact, when your techs have knowledge and understanding of customer service, it can make a HUGE difference in terms of client satisfaction and retention. And this is just one of a few adjustments your shop can make that will bring in more customers and keep them coming back over time. 

To talk about what these changes are and how to implement them, I had Charles Sanville, better known as “The Humble Mechanic”, on Service Drive Revolution. He’s seen the impact of things like techs who know customer service firsthand. A million and a half years ago, as he puts it, Charles started as a technician for Volkswagen Audi shop in North Carolina…and that’s where he stayed for the majority of his automotive repair career. He references taking apart VCRs in telling the story of how he made his way to tech school–that’s how many years ago he’s talking about–but you’ll have to listen to the episode for that part

Charles came to VW with no professional experience fixing cars. Before starting as a tech there, he’d been a salesperson at a different dealership and worked in retail while he went to tech school. But unlike many other techs, he’d never worked in a shop as a tech in any capacity before. And the thing is, that’s what he sees as being his biggest advantage. Why? He came in with an understanding of how to treat and take care of his clients–a skill that those other techs often lacked. So many techs would rather avoid contact with clients, focusing on doing “their job” well. Charles, on the other hand, wanted to build relationships with his clients and created what he refers to as a “tiny service station” inside the dealership. He didn’t necessarily do it with the goal of retaining more customers than his colleagues, but that’s what happened. His customers didn’t just choose to keep coming back to the dealership for repairs, they chose to come back specifically to see him. The way he put it is pure gold: 

Never wanted a customer to think, “Oh my God, what do I do? Or how much is this going to cost me or what the heck? Who is going to look at this and figure this out? Am I going to get ripped off?” It was always, “I wonder when Charles can look at my car.”

This mentality took away the stigma so many people associate with taking their cars in to get repaired. Rather than thinking about getting “ripped off” or what a pain the experience would be, Charles’s clients were eager to bring their cars to him for a dependable, trustworthy repair and a friendly experience. 

With this mindset, Charles was able to take ownership, and ultimately control, of his business as a tech. He wouldn’t waste time blaming the system or other people if business slowed down–which it rarely did. 

So, where do service advisors fall in all of this? They’re usually the ones talking to clients and making those transactions happen–not the techs themselves. The problem is, more often than not, techs and service advisors operate so independently that it’s detrimental to them both. For example, in order to give a good presentation to a client on what kind of work their car needs, service advisors need to have a solid understanding of what the problems are. But more often than not, they just get the inspection sheet and use that basic information to fill the client in. Sometimes, this is because they just aren’t curious about what the details are. Other times, it’s because they think the tech will feel as though they’re questioning their work. Whatever the reason, it leaves the service advisor without information that could be helpful in presenting to the client. On the flipside, techs often treat the whole process like all they’re selling is a commodity and don’t feel the need to communicate with service advisors. 

This poor communication is a huge problem in the auto service industry. In addition, different positions within the dealership often get so caught up in sticking to their roles that they lose sight of the common goal: to fix the car and keep the customer coming back. In combination, these two problems can have a really negative impact on customer retention. 

On the other hand, when techs and service advisors communicate and work together toward a common goal, the whole game changes. Instead of just handing over the inspection sheet and moving on, the tech goes to the service advisor and briefly explains the issue and the service advisor has the chance to ask a few questions to make sure they know what they’re talking about. Then, the service advisor can finesse the explanation and take it to the client. The client will inevitably trust what the service advisor is telling them more if the advisor says that they went back to the shop and talked to the tech about the tie rod that needs to be fixed and why that is rather than just saying it needs to be fixed. If the client has questions, the service advisor can actually answer them rather than bumbling around and BSing them. Plus, the service advisor will likely deliver the information in a way that appeals to the client (and without the expletives tossed around in the garage).  

Charles saw the typical issues play out at his VW dealership. He also noticed some major shortcomings in his dealership’s social media strategy. He saw other dealerships offering crazy promos and deals–$5000 off your new Chevy if you purchase in a certain time period and things of that nature. But what he didn’t see was shops who were really promoting their service. He’d always known that his shop was particularly awesome. To start, it was a VW dealership and the people he worked with and around were really killing it at retaining customer relationships. He tells some stories about seeing different generations come in and swapping out bumper stickers as kids grew up and started new schools. So when he thought about social media, he wondered how his shop’s unique vibe and customer service could translate to their online persona. He wanted to change the dialogue around the auto service industry and the stigma and fears clients have about bringing their cars into the shop. When he brought this to the dealership, they got on board but then immediately outsourced to a company to manage their online persona for us. 

Charles wasn’t into that, so he decided to do it himself and created a resource for customers as well as techs that lets you in behind the garage door. As the Humble Mechanic, Charles pulls back the curtain to give consumers some insight as to what is going on with their cars, what’s not working and why, and how they can talk to their service advisor or tech about it. His business is thriving, and that’s because it does a few critical things: It provides customer service in a space where its lacking and needed, many people really are interested in what’s going on with their cars, and it takes away the mystery of the whole process. In the auto service industry, there’s so much mystery behind the diagnosis fee or why a certain job takes as long or costs as much as it does. This is a big part of the reason why there’s so much distrust when it comes to auto repair. As the Humble Mechanic, Charles explains it to them. For example, it might take seven hours to do a job by the book, but the tech has purchased specialized tools that allow him to do the job in three. If the tech only charges for the three hours of labor, it doesn’t account for the expense of the specialized tools. Explaining these kinds of things clearly to consumers helps build trust in the auto industry as a whole. Because Charles is no longer a tech himself, he’s providing this information and these resources without a pitch to get people into his shop, so he has nothing to gain in the process which further increases consumer trust. 

Dealerships that are looking to level up–and which ones aren’t?–should take note of the Humble Mechanic’s success and make a few powerful adjustments to how you run your shop that will not only bring in more customers but will keep them coming back:

  • It’s amazing how far a little hospitality can go! Southern hospitality in Charles’s case, but any kind of hospitality will do. Train your staff, from techs to service advisors to salespeople, to work together to provide the best customer service.
  • Let consumers behind the garage door…figuratively speaking. Clients don’t trust the mystery. They want transparency and information that is digestible to them. Having your techs and service advisors communicate will be part of that, but there are other ways you can do it too. Which brings me to the next point….
  • Be generous with information. Make videos about how to change a tire on a specific make and model, for example, and post them on your social media accounts. Your existing clients will see them and, more importantly, so will tons of other people who aren’t your customers now but might be soon. Plus, it’ll allow clients to make decisions about what they do and do not want to get fixed and weigh out the consequences of those decisions. 

If you make this minor yet impactful changes at your dealership, I guarantee you’ll see results in terms of both client acquisition and retention. 

Don’t miss out on the Humble Mechanic Charles Sanville’s words of wisdom. He knows what he’s talking about. Start by listening to this episode of Service Drive Revolution, then head over to his YouTube channel and the Humble Mechanic blog. You won’t regret it.

Chris Collins, business advice, customer service, mindset

HOW TO COMPETE AND WIN IN BUSINESS

 

Want to know your advantage in the marketplace and how you fight the big boys to end up on top?

CUSTOMER SERVICE.

What nobody thinks about when it comes to customer service is if you’re selling a commodity, somebody else can sell it for less. If you have terrible customer service and your employees aren’t building good relationships with customers, then it all comes down to price. If you’re not the lowest price AND you have bad customer service, your business is going to fail.

Your most valuable advantage in the marketplace is the experience your customers receive and the customer service that you offer. Truth is, customer service and experience never really come down to the commodity, they come down to your connection with the customer.
For example, I go out and buy a book at the local Barnes & Noble that’s been downsizing for years. In a Barnes & Noble you have to wait in line and then they make you feel like a jerk because you don’t have the Barnes & Noble “Club Card”. It’s a total shit-show. The employees have good intentions, but they don’t care. They aren’t asking you about your day, or if you found what you’re looking for.

On the opposite side of the coin, you have Powell’s Books in Portland, OR. You go into Powell’s Books and everybody who works there is super into books. You go up to the cashier up they say, “Aw, wow. This is a great book.” They ask where you’re from and it creates a conversation. It’s never really about the book, it’s about genuinely showing interest in what you’re doing. The book is a commodity. I could go on Amazon and buy the book.

That’s the difference. When it comes down to price you’re going to lose every time because somebody’s going be bigger, they’re going to have more money, they can wait you out, they can play poker longer than you can, right? So, customer service becomes your best weapon.

The key to good customer service is understanding the three different types of employees.

First, there’s the engineer type. In a restaurant, this would be the cook. In a car dealership, it’s the mechanic. These are usually very knowledgeable people, but they’re more introverted. For most purposes, you don’t want them talking to customers.

Then, there’s the second type—the sales people. A salesperson could be a cashier at a Starbucks, but it could also be the waiter. These are your closers—often a bit too much for customer service.

The third person is support and customer service. This person answers the phone, works as the hostess, maybe they’re a cashier in a coffee shop. It’s a blend. But, this is the person who is interfacing with customers.

Herein lies the problem. Most businesses don’t have a system for hiring people that sets out looking to hire the right TYPE of person for an open positions.

The best tool I know of to make sure that you’re hiring happy people who actually like other people, is group interviews. The way a group interview works is exactly how it sounds—you have a group of people interviewing together in one room. The people who like people, who can easily converse with others and are happy and smiling, they stick out. The people who are introverts stick out, too.

You can always tell who the people are who want to make everyone else in the room comfortable. You can see them. Personally, I could sit in a group interview wearing earplugs and just by watching, I can identify the ‘people’ people  because they radiate from the group.

The best way to improve your customer service is during the hiring process. Hire people who really care and who want to engage with people. The group interview is great because if they can’t shine in a group interview, they’re not going to be good under pressure when the phone’s ringing, or when somebody’s standing in front of them, and definitely not when they’ve got somebody who wants to return something. They’ll ultimately fold.

Another tip is to carry business cards with you. Any time you get good customer service from somebody, give them your card and get them in for an interview. The best indicator of future performance is past performance. If somebody connected and engaged with you, you know that’s their thing.

Customer service starts at the top. It starts with the leader of the company making a big deal about customers always being right, and always being happy. Next, hire people with the personality for customer service. These are folks you can constantly train and work with to exude customer service and connect with people on something different than a commodity.

Being able to connect on a different level is your SUPERPOWER. We have a customer service video where I tell this story about going to a vet for my bulldog.. It’s called, Pet the Dog. Watch it and have everybody watch it that is interacting with your customers. Connect deeper and become a customer collector. No one can compete with that.

 

Listen to the full episode our new podcast, Chris Collins Unleashed, on Apple PodcastsStitcherGoogle PlayYouTube or chriscollinsunleashed.com.

 

Think I’m onto something? Disagree entirely? Reach out to me on Twitter at @bulldogcollins. I’d love to know what you think.

Follow us on Instagram

Follow us on Twitter

Follow us on YouTube

Follow us on Facebook

Follow us on LinkedIn

THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN A BOSS AND A LEADER

Being a leader, as well as a boss, is critical to getting your employees to perform at their best. Not sure about that? According to Gallup polls:

  •   Poor leaders in the workplace are the number one reason people quit their jobs.
  •   Poor management can cost a team 50% less productivity than well managed teams.
  •   Poor management can cost a company to make 44% less profits.
  •   75% of employees say dealing with direct supervisors is the most stressful part of work.
  •   Gallop estimates that $960 bil – $1.2 trillion is lost a year due to poor management.

A lot of people think of the Meryl Streep character from The Devil Wears Prada as the token stereo type idea of a boss, right? She’s the real to-the-point, perfectionist, do it or you’re fired type.

There’s a flip-side to that. There’s also the boss that’s what I like to call, the “keeper of the keys,” or the “Charlie Brown”. They can unlock the door every day. They’re reliable, but they’re not a leader. They’re not making the numbers go anywhere. They’re not propelling the business forward. I have a theory on the difference between any manager or boss, and a leader. There’s one thing that happens that changes everything, that most bosses or managers never actually do. They can go far in their career, but they’ll never transcend. They’ll never really know what their full potential is, or how they can add a ton of value to other people’s lives.

The difference between the two is raising your hand and saying, “I’m going to be the leader”.

Something happens in your psyche when you raise your hand and you say, “I’m going be the leader”. At that point, you accept all responsibility. The biggest difference between a boss and a leader is the responsibility part, the owning it. Owning the result until the end. The outcome is yours.

I think the way it was described to me early on in my career by one of my mentors was saying that managers manage things, leaders lead people. You can’t manage people—you can try, but once you get out past a hundred or so employees, it’s really hard because you can’t see them all. You can manage inventory, you can manage resources, you cannot manage people. You’re better off leading them so that they follow you willingly instead of standing on top of them.

When you accept full responsibility, you focus on the results more than the feelings. A lot of times, managers are led by feelings, not results. It’s tricky because it’s easier to create feelings around your comfort zone than it is to create feelings around the actual result. Raising your hand and saying, “Hey, I accept this. I’m going to lead us out of this valley,” is a magical thing in a lot of ways. It is at that point you’re committing to the result.

When you raise your hand, you’re committing to improving all the time. As the leader, you’re saying, “I’m constantly going to get better.”

Jim Collins said, “We found, instead, that they first got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. And then they figured out where to drive it.”

Meaning, you really have to understand that there are people out there who just aren’t meant for what you’re trying to do. Don’t spend all your time trying to convince them. Go find people that want to change the world and be a part of what you want to do. If you spend all your time trying to convince somebody who doesn’t believe, it will demotivate you and may ultimately stop you. More than anything, you have to have a sense of who you’re letting on your team.

To break it down, the real difference between a boss and a leader is raising your hand and owning every result that happens—it’s when every customer interaction, every misfire, every bullseye, is on you. The good and the bad. You’re going to manage to the middle. You’re going to be stoic. You’re not going to get too excited or too depressed about anything because you’re constantly moving forward. By raising your hand, you’re saying that you want to be the leader who gets better, who constantly improves. The one who is managing by the results, not by the feelings, and you’re humble enough to tell your team that you’re not perfect, and by doing everything together as a team, you’re stronger and better.

What do you think? Do you think leaders are born or make the choice to be leaders? Have you ever raised your hand? Let us know!

 

Listen to the full episode our new podcast, Chris Collins Unleashed, on Apple PodcastsStitcherGoogle PlayYouTube or chriscollinsunleashed.com.

Think I’m onto something? Disagree entirely? Reach out to me on Twitter at @bulldogcollins. I’d love to know what you think.

Follow us on Facebook

Follow us on LinkedIn

Follow us on Instagram

Follow us on Twitter

Follow us on YouTube

 

GOING INTO BUSINESS WITH FAMILY MEMBERS AND FRIENDS

Should you? Or, shouldn’t you?

People have wildly different opinions about whether it’s a good idea to go into business with family and friends, and for good reason. Personally, I have dreams of grandeur that in some situations it can go well, but plenty of my close friends and colleagues have warned me against these optimistic notions. Some have gone even further, warning me about near brushes with divorce over working with a spouse.

The biggest issue I’ve heard about is that you lose all sense of boundaries. Particularly with spouses, or partners, who work together—it’s never clear where the business stops and the marriage begins. They blend together and it can get rocky because no one knows their role. It’s often the same when people go to work for their parents—there’s a weird power balance in the office, or getting caught in the middle between other employees and the parent, or boss. God forbid, you get into a situation where you have to fire a spouse or family member.

In fact, according to psychologists, couples who work together experience an overload and interference. Overload because couples have insufficient time and energy to perform both as a family and business owner. Interference because work and family activities occur at the same time so it becomes hard to know when family begins or ends.

On the other side of the coin, the biggest upside of having family in your business is trust. In most cases… For example, with businesses like car washes, bars, places that are cash heavy, it helps having people up front who you can trust. As long as you trust your family members, they’re the best people to have handling your cash.

The other huge benefit to working with family or partners, is having someone there to be the rock. When everything’s going chaotic in your in business, you’re behind on your taxes, you’re bouncing checks, you’re trying to make payroll, you’re having to do all these things that an entrepreneur who’s starting up has to do, you need somebody there to hold you together. Someone who will put you back together and fix your wounds and send you back out to do more.

If you’re lucky enough to have that healthy business/personal relationship with a family member or partner, that’s great. If it becomes unhealthy with the family member for any reason, then the work should probably be removed because you don’t want to jeopardize the one person who you can count on above all else.

At the end of the day, whether going into business with friends and family is a good idea really depends on who your friends and family are and what your relationships with them are like. It could be the best situation—it could be the worst. So, get real clear on what kind of business partners you want. If your loved ones don’t fit the bill, or might not be able to handle your ambition, work with people you feel comfortable pushing and keep your loved ones safe from the ups and downs of the business life.

Do you have any experiences working with friends and family?

Reach out to me on Twitter at @bulldogcollins. I’d love to know what you think.

Listen to the full episode our new podcast, Chris Collins Unleashed, on Apple PodcastsStitcherGoogle PlayYouTube or chriscollinsunleashed.com.

Follow us on Instagram

Follow us on Twitter

Follow us on YouTube

Follow us on Facebook

Follow us on LinkedIn