Service Drive Secrets: Behind the Curtain with Elite Service Advisors

Service Drive Secrets: Behind the Curtain with Elite Service Advisors

In any industry, if you want to be the best, you have to spend time with the best, read the best, watch the best, live and breathe the best. It might sound extreme, but it’s just true. In my Signature Coaching Group, you can achieve elite status by having the highest net-to-gross, the best CSI, being a leader…basically consistently performing at a high level. When you have elite status, it’s a different kind of experience. It’s about hanging out with talented managers and having the opportunity to participate in life-changing experiences. 

When I brought two elite members of the group, Joe and Damon, to talk shop with me on Service Drive Revolution, they were told to come in wearing steel-toed boots. If you want to know more about that, you have to give the episode a listen here

To give you some context, Damon’s story of how he got to the top is pretty interesting and he definitely didn’t follow your average career path. He started in the auto industry after a long stint in finance. It was good until it wasn’t, which was when the financial institution he was working for closed its doors. He found a finance manager position at a dealership and did that for about a year, but he burnt out pretty quick and decided to re-evaluate. He was going through a lot of personal stuff and needed a change, so he decided to into service writing. Better hours, predictable schedule, more financial stability because it isn’t a commission-based position. After about another year, he decided he didn’t want to work for other people anymore and he bought the shop. It was a small franchise shop, but a big step nonetheless. He thought buying the shop would give him the freedom he was looking for, but it didn’t so he sold it. He was unemployed for all of four hours before he took a position as a service manager at bigger car dealership, where he killed it and continued to get recruited to bigger and better positions.

Joe’s story is very different. Being a tech is in his blood. His dad was a mechanic and he started fixing cars in high school. It’s something he always knew he wanted to do. When he was about 25, he got tired of the grunt work and started as a service writer. The owner of the shop, an old Italian guy, took Joe under his wing and taught him the dealership business and how to make it go. At the time, he knew that he was going to continue his career in the auto industry, but he had no idea how far it would take him and how high he could go within it. He stuck with it at that dealership for awhile, eventually becoming a service manager, but decided to move on at age 40 when the team dynamics went south. It was a family-run business, and family dynamics can get tricky if you aren’t careful. He moved on to a dealership in Florida where he’s been absolutely crushing it since.

In this episode, we went behind the curtain, so to speak, to give you some insight into our experience–all over cigars and tequila, of course. 

To start, I asked the guys what advice they’d give to their younger selves–what they were confused about, what issues they could have avoided if they knew what they know now. The first was this:

“I would never listen to the line ‘We’ve always done it that way.’”

That kind of mentality is rampant in the auto industry and it’s a huge issue. It breeds complacency and stops people from trying new things or sharing ideas because they know this will likely be the answer they get from the people above them. In this industry, as many of us know all too well, you often see people getting trained by the person above them, who was trained by the person above them, who was actually untrained and may not be doing the work well or efficiently. No matter how often you get that line, you can’t stop trying to level up the system and your work. Joe’s career really took off when he started at the Florida dealership and his boss told him the exact opposite–that he knew what they were doing wasn’t working and he wanted Joe to find ways to improve their work. It was a huge catalyst for his success and it also leads directly into the next piece of advice…

“Don’t be afraid to fail.”

This isn’t anything new, but it’s worth repeating, over and over again. Fear of making mistakes, especially early on in your career, can and will hold you back if you aren’t careful. Why? When you’re at the beginning of your career, you feel like you have something to prove to someone else. You want to succeed because you want to prove your worth. So you follow “the book” and try to get the numbers. It makes sense, but that means that you aren’t trying anything innovative. Anything that might be really effective…or not. Over time, you’ll see that the “failures” are worth it. More often than not, they’re outweighed by successes that you wouldn’t have achieved if you hadn’t tried something new. Every time you “fail”, you learn something–what not to do next time in that particular scenario or what you could do differently to make it work. Which leads us to…

“Don’t take things personally–bounce back and keep moving.”

When you decide to take risks in order to succeed, you’re bound to get feedback that isn’t always positive. If you can take the emotion out of it and just learn from the experience, you’re gonna get a lot further than if you focus on your pride and ego and get stuck feeling angry or ashamed. Damon put it perfectly: “We let our ego get in the way of seeing clearly through a failure and [we can’t] decipher the information that we can get out of it to get better.” If you decide to try something new and it doesn’t go well, you can wallow in the mistake or you can learn from it. It’s as simple as that. 

This is just the beginning of the advice that Joe, Damon and I share in this episode. We also talked about a famous bet that Joe and I had when we first met in New Orleans that proved a lot of these points. We can’t get into all of that here but definitely listen to the podcast if you want to hear about it. 

We also talked books–what we’re reading right now, why we’re reading it, and what we’ve learned. Here are the key takeaways, though I highly recommend listening to the episode for the full rundown:

  • The Presidents’ Club by Nancy Gibbs: This is Damon’s pick, which I actually recommended to him. It’s about how presidents pass down wisdom down the line and help each other learn and make decisions. They even have a literal clubhouse across the street from the White House so they have a place to go together. It’s pretty remarkable that the highest office in the country operates like this and there’s a lot every leader can learn from their experience. We also talk about where Trump fits into the dynamic…
  • Unfu*k Yourself by Gary Bishop: Joe’s pick is about the ways in which we all screw ourselves over in our own minds and how to stop doing that. For example, many of us are always trying to predict the future, worrying about what may or could happen, but what’s the point? What we need to do is figure out what we want to do and make it happen–don’t leave it up to chance. If something out of control gets in the way, you’ll deal with it. That’s just one of the many takeaways from Bishop’s book.
  • The Alter Ego Effect by Todd Herman: As you may know, many successful people create something of an alter ego that embodies the success that they want to achieve. I have one (I’ll tell you about him in the episode) and you should have one too. Herman talks about how to develop an alter ego that is effective in getting where you want to be.
  • Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins: Goggins is former military and this book is about his leadership within that context. It reminds me of Jocko Willink’s epic book on leadership Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win. Don’t miss it.
  • Serving the Servant: Remembering Kurt Cobain by Danny Goldberg: This one is by Nirvana’s manager. It’s not as clearly business-related as the others on this list, but I couldn’t put it down. It gives you a behind the scenes look at Cobain’s life and if you’re really entrepreneurially and success-minded, I bet you’ll find that a lot of the lessons and themes can relate to your life and business. Plus, it’s just incredibly interesting.

There are tons of good books out there that all business leaders should read. If you have a suggestion, send it my way here. We might just talk about it on the podcast if it makes the cut.

This episode was so good that we broke it up into two. If you’re ready for more, head on over to Part 2 and give it a listen.  

HOW HAIR SALONS CAN DOUBLE THEIR SALES

HOW HAIR SALONS CAN DOUBLE THEIR SALES

 

I’m a little obsessed with helping businesses find new streams of revenue, in case you haven’t noticed… I’ve thought a lot about hair salons specifically, and it all comes down to a system.

The first piece they get wrong in most hair salons is scheduling. Usually, there’s some receptionist who’s handling all the appointments. That person is usually the anti-appointment administration. The “we’re busy”, “we’re booked”, person. God forbid, they get a walk-in…

I’ve been sitting in a salon and there’s people standing around and somebody walks in and the receptionist turns them away. C’mon, you can’t take those people for granted! Part of growing your clientele is having a plan to drive traffic, getting the phones answered, and getting bookings on the calendar.

The receptionists should be incentivized on how many appointments show up and are booked. Maybe pay them a little bit less hourly and then incentivize them on how many appointments come through. That person should be commission-invested in the booking of the schedule. If it directly affects their pocket book, I guarantee you’ll see different results.

Create a system for the person booking appointments and teach them that you want to book early and stack them up. No more, “When do you want to come in?” If a stylist comes in, they should have their five appointments stacked up and then they’re done. You don’t want them having two-hour gaps. It’s bad for morale. Book clients early and book them consistently.

Next, salons rarely do any sort of marketing. I’ve never been to a salon where they collect my email and market to me, but this is an industry made for fun marketing. Before and after pictures are like gold in those situations—the system is built for dramatic before and after pictures. Particularly with a business where clients need to be reminded how good they can look with highlights, or that they might want different looks for different seasons. This also opens the door to market products. Shoot easy little videos with a cellphone and send out emails once or twice a month to your list to remind them.

Getting your hair cut or styled is also perfect for social media—especially if it comes out well. I see people posting about how they got their hair colored or cut, yet I never see them tagging the hairdresser or the salon. If the hairdresser or stylist was the person who took the picture and shared it, they could cross promote, and make sure the salon is tagged.

The next thing is, where’s the presentation of what you could take with you? We’re all using products in our hair, but most of the time you have to beg for them to tell you what to use. They’re the experts. They need to present. Most of the time, the hairdressers get a percentage of what is sold, but there has to be some sort of mandatory forced presentation every time where you come in. Tell the clients what you used in their hair, or what shampoo you recommend. You could have some sort of needs analysis during the process where you ask them if they have damage, or tell them they have damage. Ask if they struggle with dry hair or greasy hair and then come back at the end with suggestions for them. Then, if they buy, next time they come in ask how they liked the products, and refill the supply, or adjust as necessary. You could double or triple your sales on products just by doing a needs analysis alone, pointing out the things that are wrong with the scalp, the hair, that sort of thing. Use your expertise to create a custom plan for your clients, and make sure they have everything they need.

Let’s wrap this up. To double your sales in a hair salon make sure that the person answering the phone is vested in making appointments and in those appointments showing up. Prioritize efficient management of the appointment schedule. Identify ways to drive new traffic with things like Groupon. Have an email CRM where you’re collecting emails and you’re sending out before and after pictures so you’re marketing, and creating a bigger story for your clients. Then send out reminders and present products every time. Use the time that you have with the client to recommend color, pedicures, nails, anything you can sell on top of whatever the client came in for.

Hair salons are built on creating a good experience, and if these business-boosting suggestions are executed properly, you’re only enhancing that good experience. The good news about boosting sales in a hair salon is it’s a win-win for everyone. 

To hear our full profit plan for hair salons, 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.

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LEARNING FROM JCPENNEY AND SAVING SEARS

LEARNING FROM JCPENNEY AND SAVING SEARS

It’s no secret that retail is in a tailspin. The leaders of that tailspin are companies like Sears and JCPenney.

To illustrate my point, at the beginning of 2016, Sears Holdings operated 941 Kmart stores and 705 full-line Sears stores. By the end of the year, they had downsized to 735 Kmarts and 670 full-line Sears stores. In one year, they closed a total of 241 stores across two brands. JCPenney isn’t doing much better.

 

If I can reminisce for a moment, I’ll take you back to the days when the Sears catalogue was known as the “Consumer’s Bible.” The Sears catalogue was so famous and revered, it has been written about in American novels and was part of the fabric of American consumer history. JCPenney was another leader in the catalogue world, and notably one of the first companies to begin online selling through a Viewtron videotex service. They were basically Amazon before Amazon existed. Throughout their histories, these companies have been pioneers in the consumer retail industry, yet today, their futures appear to be very, very grim.

 

So, here’s where things started to go terribly wrong…

A few years ago, back in 2012 when JCPenney could see the writing on the wall but things weren’t terrible yet, they hired Ron Johnson. Ron is the man responsible for the creation and success of Apple retail stores. The Genius Bar within them? His idea too. Figuring no one would know the modern consumer marketplace better than him, JCPenney brought him in to come and shake things up…and shake things up, he did. Johnson comes up with a lofty new transformational vision, but it did not go well. In fact, Johnson’s execution was widely considered one of the most unsuccessful tenures in retail history. The exact things that make an Apple Store so successful, alienated the JCPenney customers and deterred them from coming in to shop. The modern customer-base was not looking for a well-designed, cool place to hang out. They were interested in highly-discounted items and a simple shopping experience. So while Johnson was trying to change JCPenney into Apple, it only pushed them further into the ditch. They weren’t chasing the sale or the value proposition, they were chasing the redefinition of a 100+ year old brand, and this proved to be a very costly mistake.

 

What I don’t understand even more is that Sears has been in a free-fall and hasn’t done anything dramatic at all! At least JCPenney gave it the old college try…

 

Now, I’m going to tell you how I’d fix the Sears mess. Not long ago, Sears was THE place for electronics and had the best catalogue business to ever exist. How they didn’t transfer their catalogue business online is beyond me. Beyond me. They had the infrastructure, they had the SKUs, they had everything they needed to succeed, but Amazon snuck up right behind them and stole the market away. Amazon started out in an entirely different business, but Sears offered up their share of the market through its failure to adapt, and Amazon was innovative enough to snatch it.

 

This is my direct advice to Eddie Lampert, CEO of Sears Holdings.

Get yourself on an airplane headed to Seattle, hop in a car and go straight to Amazon’s corporate HQ with the full intention of not leaving until you can make a deal. Collectively, you will open a store and go back into the catalogue business. Your storefront will be Amazon and you can use your own infrastructure. Start releasing the cool, online catalogues that made Sears a household name and use Amazon as your front. You don’t need all the brick and mortar operations that you currently have. Close half your stores and start focusing on the customers. You have lost your place in the retail industry, so the best you can do is to ride the success of the company who is currently dominating it.

 

For the record, last time I was at Sears I couldn’t find anyone to help me and when I did they didn’t know what was going on. This was not a one time occurrence. They don’t have enough quality employees in the stores to handle the customers that are coming through. Without the sufficient revenue to hire and maintain a qualified workforce, the shopping experience has continued to regress. However, if Sears closed half the stores and put the top-performing employees in the stores that remained, they’d be able to assist the customers properly, and not have shoppers leave with the feeling that they’d never like to return.

Sears Holdings Co. Stock

Now that you’ve made your deal with Jeff and Amazon, Mr. Lampert, you’re going to initiate a relentless effort to modernize your product offering. Go out and find some hip designers and make some deals with electronic companies like LG so that you have special product lines, only available in your stores. Get Kanye to design some jeans and create some Sears-only products that people want to come in and buy. I don’t understand the Kathy Ireland thing — it’s so 30 years ago. You’re better off having Kevin Durant design your kitchen wear rather than Martha Stewart. Get someone exciting like Kim Kardashian and let her make some pots and pans. She’s the model of a great housewife these days, whether we like it or not.

 

But more importantly, these celebrity’s products sell. Sales for Kevin Durant’s Nike Signature sneakers jumped 400% from $35 mil to $175 mil last year. Just imagine what his kitchenware would do! Nike sold $300 million dollars worth of Lebron James signature sneakers last year alone, and less than three hours after Kim Kardashian’s makeup kits went on sale, she announced that all 300,000 kits had sold out, bringing in an estimated $14.4 million.

 

And, don’t just roll over and blame it on the millennials, because I go over to the Target in DTLA and it’s packed.

 

To summarize…first, change how you’re doing business online because it’s the only thing that’s going to save you. If you can’t beat Amazon, join them. Second, go out and make some big acquisitions of designs from influential people that millennials care about and create products that people want. They say brands don’t matter but this could not be less true. They need brands and flock to products aligned with the names that dominate headlines, day in and day out. You need to get some of these celebrities that are selling lifestyle. Sears is selling lifestyle products, but can no longer sell the Sears lifestyle.Partnering with the best-fit lifestyle brands is a must.

 

It seems to me that Sears is locked into their old ideas and not leveraging the things they do have. If a business and culture shift is not imminent, they will soon join the ranks of Circuit City and Blockbuster as companies who lost their stronghold on an entire industry, and now cease to exist.

 

So, the question is, what are you, Mr. Lampert, going to do to save Sears before it’s too late?

 

For more on Sears, JCPenney and the booming + busting industries of the modern world, be sure to check out Episode 09 of Chris Collins Unleashed, available now on Apple PodcastsStitcherGoogle PlayYouTube or at 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.

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HOW TO COMPETE AND WIN IN BUSINESS

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.

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