Learning on the Fly! Rally Champ, Drifter, Lawyer Turned Auto Entrepreneur with Andrew Comrie-Picard

Learning on the Fly! Rally Champ, Drifter, Lawyer Turned Auto Entrepreneur with Andrew Comrie-Picard

In the auto industry, your career path can go in so many different directions. Sometimes, it doesn’t even look like a “path” at all and the twists and turns don’t make total sense when you’re taking them, but looking back, it all does. That’s definitely the case for my latest guest on Service Drive Revolution, Andrew Comrie-Picard, also known as ACP. ACP is a former high-profile lawyer, pro rally car racing champion, Hollywood stunt coordinator, pro drifter, and founder of ZipTire. This guy’s won a lot of races and awards, and I mean a lot: Canadian Rally national champion, North American rally champion, Baja 1000 class winner, Pikes Peak record holder, Formula DRIFT pro drifter, and BFGoodrich official spokesperson, to name a few. I think we could all learn at least a thing or two from him.

ACP’s obsession with cars started at age seven, when his dad owned a trucking and moving company in Canada. At age seven, his job was to back the cars and trucks they were working on into the yard, lining them up like soldiers. ACP ended up rolling one of the trucks and when he told his dad about it, he pointed him in the direction of the welder and told him he better figure out how to fix it…so he did just that. He drove his first semi at the age of eight or nine. The bottom line is…he started to build his expertise really, really early. It’s no surprise that he’s pretty shocked that so many 16-year-olds don’t even want to get their licenses or learn to drive a standard these days (though he drives an automatic in LA, like the rest of us). 

Growing up in Canada had a big impact on ACP’s interests. He chose to become a rally driver and an off-road driver because in the Canadian tundra, he was forced to drive in slippery, frozen conditions. He calls this “kinetic friction”–sliding on a road rather than actually driving–and it was the perfect primer for a career in drifting and racing. Living in a rural area, ACP also grew up valuing collaboration and community. The mentality in his town was that everyone lends a hand to one another. It was more communal and less competitive. He’s not sure that’s still the case these days, though he definitely has some strong opinions about Tim Horton’s, which I won’t get into here…you’ll have to listen to the episode for that.

Another important piece of the puzzle for ACP is that his mother was an academic, which was not typical for the farming lifestyle. She was a professor who really valued schooling, so while ACP was learning to fix cars, he was also crushing it academically. He ended up getting five university degrees, including one from Oxford, and eventually landed as an attorney in New York City. All the while, he was racing cars on the side in an amateur capacity. We talked about his experience and came up with some key takeaways for you:

  • Always read the contract, no matter how long and boring it is.
  • You should have 3 lawyers: One who’s a friend who gives you a lower rate and helps you with most of the smaller things, one that specializes, and another that strikes fear in the opposition, should you ever need that to happen. 

ACP also got a graduate degree in Political Economy from Oxford, which he says has given him a certain level of cred in every industry he’s worked in. Sometimes, you’ll make a career move that doesn’t directly relate to your end goal, but if you spin it the right way, it can still make a difference. When it comes down to it, it’s all about branding.

Before he started his work as a lawyer, ACP had a $2000 racecar. Once he started raking in the big bucks, he invested in a $40,000 car. He was racing every weekend and then heading back to New York to hustle as an attorney, working 60 or 70 hours a week, sleeping under his desk, and climbing the ladder. At a certain point, it hit him that the racing was going well enough that he could do it full time. He could feel himself caring less about work and knew that his heart was half in it at most. 

ACP realized that he wasn’t looking for work-life balance. If you ask me, there’s really no such thing as work-life balance for people that are obsessed with accomplishing something. He was looking to do what he loved and was good at day in and day out…and that was racing. So he quit his job as a lawyer and became a full-time racecar driver. 

At that point, he realized that if this was going to be his full-time gig and livelihood, he really had to commit 100%. That’s where it all came together. Even though making the transition from being an attorney to become a racecar driver might not make sense on its head, it all lines up in ACP’s story. Being an attorney gave him the funds he needed to invest in racing and then, once he started doing it full-time, he brought a lot of his skills with him. He knew how to negotiate his own contracts, he could talk about cars in an elevated way, and he understood the business side of things, which differentiated him from his peers. Here’s how he put it:

“I’d like to think I am the best rally racer in North America, but I’m probably one of 10, 20, 50, 100 guys that are really good drivers. But of those guys, how many of them can also talk about what’s going on or deal with the business [side of things]? That’s a lot fewer guys, so once you take two different areas, disparate areas, and melt them together, then you’re more weaponized, to use the analogy again, but you’re able to get further.”

ACP started competing in the X-Games when it opened in 2006 and went on to compete five times. It was a coveted position to be in–the X-Games only invited 12 drivers to participate and in the first five, which ACP calls “the dream days” it was him, Travis Pastrana, Ken Block, and Tanner Foust. They were doing rally racing and rally cross and the course escalated every year. His stories are pretty epic, out there head-to-head on the course with the best of the best, doing crossover jumps and tricks. He learned how to do a backflip on a motorcycle from Travis, who he considers to be a good friend and who is practically the inventor of backflipping a dirt bike. To do it, you really have to go for it full throttle–you can’t hold back. According to ACP, Travis is missing a “self-preservation gene” that allows him to really go for it on the course. ACP isn’t missing that gene himself, so Travis was able to give him the push that he needed to do the backflip. The story is pretty epic–listen to the episode to hear it in its entirety and get a play-by-play for how it’s done. It was an epic time for racecar driving and ACP’s tales about what the culture was like and being a champion rally pro are well worth a listen.

So, at this point you know that ACP is an award-winning racecar driver, a lawyer, and an all-around badass. But there’s more to his story–he’s also a well-known TV host. It started in 2004 in Canada, when he saw an ad for a reality TV show where guys had to compete to build a car in three days and other similar challenges. He pitched a team of mechanics he knew who’d been crushing it for a long time and when he was in talks with producers, they started to talk about who could host it. ACP himself was an obvious choice, since he wasn’t just a talented racecar driver, but also knew how to talk about cars in a way that was smart and compelling. He auditioned, got the gig, and started as a host on Global TV called on a show called War of the Wheels. He continued to race, got better and better, and was eventually cast on a Discovery show and it all blew up from there. Through that experience, he met the producers of Top Gear. He drove a car with Charlize Theron in the passenger seat in Atomic Blonde, and when she went on to produce a show on Netflix called Hyperdrive, she brought him on as the stunt coordinator.

Would you believe me if I said there’s even more to ACP’s story? Cause there is. He’s the founder of ZipTire, a mobile tire business that comes to you rather than the other way around. The idea came to him after he’d been sent Michelin tires and BFGoodrich tires and realized he’d have to go into a shop to get them put on his car. The idea came to him that there should be a company that comes to you to change your tires. He did some research and found that there were a few companies out there using Sprinters to get tires out to people immediately and he knew that he could use his expertise to build a company that would do it even better. Today, ZipTire is a preferred installer for Tire Rack and they’re working on scaling the business. 

Hungry for more of ACP’s story? Makes sense…he’s an interesting and incredibly successful guy. You’ll learn more on his episode of Service Drive Revolution, such as which poem he’s carried in his wallet since age 12 and which dealership ACP thinks of as “the only game in town”? Is it Mitsubishi? Ford? Toyota? Subaru? Place your bets and then listen to the episode to find out. 

And one more thing before you go…have you entered the $50,000 Service Manager Challenge yet? In this contest, you’ll literally compete against yourself for the chance to win a fully loaded 2020 Jeep Gladiator. Find out the details are here and get your name in the game before it’s too late. 

 

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The Difference Between 30% and 50% Net-to-Gross

The Difference Between 30% and 50% Net-to-Gross

When it comes down to it, there are tons of service advisors and managers out there, right? You might be one of the best or even the best at your dealership or service center, but how do you stack up across the market? The only way to find out is to line yourself and your numbers up against them and their numbers. In my coaching group, that’s exactly what we do. 

One of the ways the advisors and managers in this group level up is through gamification and competition. For example, I recently announced the new Service Manager Challenge on Service Drive Revolution. The prize is a tricked out 2020 Jeep Gladiator. I’m talking gun rack, humidor, the whole nine yards. Intrigued? You should be. There are two ways to join the challenge that you can learn more about here.  

On this episode of Service Drive Revolution, I also tell you which members of my coaching group won last month’s comp. Stacked up against other service advisors and managers, these guys came out on top. If you’re interested in joining us, you can learn more about that in the episode too. Maybe, if you’re good enough, I’ll be announcing your name as the Elite Top Dog soon…

At this year’s Top Dog event, an interesting question came up: What are the differences between the service departments that gross 30% and the ones that gross 50%? When comparing, the team that’s grossing 30% is often quick to make excuses. They assume that the difference is some sort of unfair advantage, like the markets are different or they have lower fixed costs for one reason or another. Next, they think it’s cuz the other team is working longer hours or more days every week. That might be true, but it’s not always it. 

To find out the answer, we compared net to gross for service advisors at Top Dog. The vast majority of them were at 30%. There were a couple of people who were at 40% or 50%, but most were right around the 30% range. It occurred to me pretty quickly that the likely reason for this is that 30% gross is what we tell service advisors they should hit when they join the group. Most of the time, they don’t believe us when we say they’ll get there and say things like “Oh, I don’t know about that. That seems impossible. We just want to get better.” No matter how hard they doubt or push back, we say “No. You can and will get to 30% net to gross. The goal is 30.” So our coaches start working with them with 30% net to gross as the goal. Every time, once they understand how to implement what we’re teaching them in the group, they reach that goal and end up at 30% net to gross. 

The problem is that once most people hit that 30% goal, they let themselves stay there. That was the big goal after all, right? It seemed unachievable before, so now that it’s been achieved, they go into maintenance mode without even knowing it. Instead of continuing to push for a higher net to gross, they stay at 30% and are happy about it. 

My question is…why can’t we set the goal to 50%? The answer is that it can be. So I’m on a mission right now to change the mindset around that goal. Sure, we can start at a goal of 30%, but that’s not where we stop and put our feet up. We can drive and convert traffic, keep expenses low, and run a healthy, strong business all while being at 40 or 50% net to gross. It’s just true. 

The only thing that’s stopping any of you from reaching beyond the 30% goal is your own mind. If you set yourself a goal, especially one that feels lofty to begin with, and then you hit it, do you stop reaching higher? Is 30% your full potential? I highly, highly doubt it. Cause if we’re really applying ourselves to get better all the time, 30% doesn’t mean we’ve arrived. It means we hit the first goal in reaching our untapped potential. 

So I challenge all of you to really think about what you think your own full potential looks like. Where could you and your team be in terms of results if you really pushed yourselves to be the best you could be? I’m talking about sustainable efforts here too…not a crazy push to hit a goal that you can’t keep up with once you get there. I’m talking about operating at your full capacity on a daily basis without pulling any stunts or insane hours. What does that look like?

I also received some questions from service advisors that I’d be willing to bet a lot of you also want to know the answer to, so I answered them on this episode. Here are a few of them:

“I’m about to start a new career as a service advisor. I’ve been watching your content on YouTube and trying to learn what I can before I start. I’m 51, and I know in your book that is a little too old to be great at the job or at least it doesn’t seem to be ideal from your perspective. I really do want to be successful and great at what I do. Any advice?” 

First of all, it’s important to note that I don’t necessarily think 51 is too old for a new service advisor to succeed. The issue isn’t age here, it’s capacity for learning new things and doing things in new ways. At 51, some (if not most) people have established how they do things and how they view the world. They see someone and have immediate judgments because they’ve been around for awhile and seen some things, so they take shortcuts in deciding who someone is and what they’re about. But when it comes to starting a new career as a service advisor, these shortcuts won’t help you and may even harm your ability, so it takes a lot of unlearning in order to succeed. 

if you take a service advisor or a service manager that is young and has no experience whatsoever, they’re a blank canvas without preconceived ideas. So you train them with the right tools and the best systems, more often than not they will outperform the advisor or manager thinks they know it all and is stuck in their ways. Their twenty years of experience can actually work against them. So I’d say that the first key to becoming a really good advisor at the age of 51 is to go into it with absolutely no prejudices or preconceived ideas of how things should be. 

The second key to success is true for any service advisor–young, old, new to the game or really experienced: Collect customers. This means that you need to really connect with them, pet the dog, make friends and be your customers’ go-to person in the car business. That’s the secret. You need to understand that the car is a commodity that anyone can service, but set up your game so that your customers feel like you’re the only one for the job. Make sure your customers feel valued, cared for, and safe in that they can trust that you’ll be ethical in working with them. You and your personality are what’ll set you apart from other advisors, so use it. In Millionaire Service Advisor, I give the example of my rich uncle…the guy I want to stay in good graces with. Your “rich uncle” is your customer base that chooses to spend their money with you. Nurture it and you’ll be golden. 

“What are your thoughts on advertising maintenance prices online? These items are meant to be impulse purchases that will boost our effective labor rate. We just signed up with X time, and now, we have the option of posting an online service menu. Should we include our prices?”

The short answer here is: No, don’t include your prices. The point of posting online is to drive traffic, and putting all of your maintenance items and their cost online is not going to accomplish that. The things that customers perceive as competitive labor that will actually bring them into the service drive are oil changes, tires, batteries, sometimes brakes, but that’s about it. You need to have two or three things that you’re competitive on and those are the things that I would put up on the website. I walk through a bunch of other things you can do to boost traffic in this online Service Manager University training if you’re interested–I can’t give out all the tips for free–but I can tell you right here and now that it won’t be by posting all of your maintenance prices online. 

If you decide that you do want to post prices, choose the ones that you know will drive traffic for your business and think of those things as loss leaders–services that aren’t necessarily big money makers but that will bring people in the door to spend more. If you can do that, go for it. If not, I wouldn’t do it. 

“After listening to Service Drive Revolution, I realized the dealership I’m currently at is leaving lots of money on the table and is not willing to make changes to allow service advisors to reach their earning potential. Should I leave for a dealership that makes customer service a priority? If I apply elsewhere, what questions should I ask to ensure the environment is going to be good?”

To answer this question, I have an exercise for you. Sit down with a piece of paper and draw a line right down the middle. At the top, label the column on the left “Things I Can Control” and on the right, “Things I Can’t Control”. Then, think about your situation at your current dealership and list things off that you can and cannot control right now. For example, as a service advisor, you can control how you approach customers. You can control your enthusiasm, you can control how you do walk around, how you pet the dog, how you follow up. There are a lot of things you can control, more often than not. Fill out the second column with things about the situation that are out of your control–how your manager views customer service, for example. Listing these out will make sure that you’re not making excuses for your lack of commitment to the role or issues with the dealership or service center. 

For the second part of the question, how to know if a dealership cares about their customers when interviewing, there are a few ways you can go about it. One is to secret shop them. Go in with your car or a borrowed car for an oil change and see how it goes. It’ll tell you almost everything you need to know. Second, when you’re interviewing with the manager at the shop, ask if you can talk to some of the advisors and then ask the advisors what their opinion is about company culture and how they take care of customers. Third would be to read online reviews. Sure, every shop will have a few people who are mad about their experience for unfounded reasons, but for a shop that’s solid on customer service, those will be few and far between. 

I answered a few more questions on the show, so check it out here to hear the answers. If you have questions of your own, ask them in the comments below or send them to me at [email protected] 

And don’t forget to enter the Service Manager Challenge Jeep Gladiator Giveaway. 

Want Better Results? Drew Tarvin Says Have More Fun

Want Better Results? Drew Tarvin Says Have More Fun

Leaders in every industry are always looking for ways to be better. They want to increase productivity, boost sales, grow, scale, keep leveling up. One place where even the best leaders fall short is in developing a solid company culture that actually supports all of that growth and productivity. I recently sat down with best-selling author and Humor That Works CEO Drew Tarvin on Service Drive Revolution to talk about just that. 

Drew spends his time teaching people how to get better results while having more fun. He’s the world’s first and foremost “humor engineer”, teaching people how to get better results while having more fun. He has worked with 35,000 people at 250 organizations, including Microsoft, the FBI, and the International Association of Canine Professionals. Combining his background as a project manager at Procter & Gamble with his experience as an international comedian, Drew reverse engineers the skill of humor in a way that is practical, actionable and gets results in the workplace.

Given his career and how successful he’s been, you might be surprised to learn that Drew identifies as an introvert, meaning that he feels recharged when he’s able to spend time away from people and likes to process internally rather than aloud. To him, being an introvert doesn’t say anything about whether or not he’s able to socialize. Drew looks at socializing, networking, humor, and the ability to engage in good conversation as skills that anyone can build rather than inherent capabilities. Because personality assessments are just that…assessments. They don’t dictate or limit our behavior or the skills we’re able to build. Personality assessments aren’t what define us. Our actions are what define us. And when you look at it that way, it’s really 100% up to you which skills you want to build and capitalize on, regardless of your “personality type”. 

Social skills, like almost anything else, can be practiced and improved. Generally, introverts end up having fewer conversations when they reach adulthood because their nature is to seek solitude to recharge. This means that they often have less practice–or less “reps”, as Drew puts it–in engaging in dialogue. Drew realized this and decided that in order to build his skills in that area, he’d go into improv. Maybe it didn’t “come naturally” to him, but that didn’t matter. He’s a smart guy who was able to develop a strategy for delivering content that he knew would land with his audience. 

He did the same thing to develop his networking skills. Networking wasn’t his strong suit, per se, so he developed a three-step process that would allow him to engage with others comfortably. It took some practice to get there, but now that he has the process down, he’s solid enough to train others on how to do it successfully too. If it had always come “naturally” to him, he wouldn’t have this process and structure in place and likely wouldn’t be nearly as successful as he is. He put in the work and he’s clear on the process, which are two of the most critical elements in getting results. 

These same principles apply to the auto industry. Service advisors and salespeople who claim to be naturally good at selling and talking to customers end up being inconsistent in their delivery and outcomes, and inconsistency just isn’t scalable. Without a process in place and a toolbox for making the process happen, it’s almost impossible to evaluate what works and what doesn’t and adjust your strategy accordingly. And when you someone doesn’t have to create that process, they won’t. They’ll rely on their “innate ability” to sell or speak, which can only take you so far most of the time. 

The fact of the matter is, even when someone makes their work look easy, the people who are at the top of their game have put in the work–the “unseen hours”–on the back end to get to that level of “ease”. From LeBron James to Jerry Seinfeld to Dave Chappelle, just to name a few, these people are putting in tons of work to make small tweaks to their game over time so it’s as good as it can be. It’s methodical, not “natural”. The service advisors and salespeople who are killing it are often the ones who had to put some effort into their game. 

So to boil it down, our main points are:

If you’re an introvert, embrace it and recognize the strengths that come with it. Focus on your powers of observation, skillful planning, and ability to help others understand how to do things, rather than pretending you’re an extrovert or trying to change yourself. 

Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you have to do the work to get results. Introverts may be more naturally inclined to observe, plan, execute, evaluate and tweak, but extroverts need to do it too. 

Another principle that guides Drew’s work is that humor and fun in the workplace are absolutely critical to a company’s success and it’s really centered around one key question:

Would people rather do something that is fun or not fun?

It seems simple, maybe even too simple, but the impact of this question is important. That small question drives a lot of behavior because more often than not the response is that people would rather do something that’s fun, right? So in order to sell more products or services and engage more customers, we need to make the process more fun for them. 

Let’s take a client I worked with recently for example. It was a gym and like many gyms, they were doing the Groupon thing, inviting people to come in for personal training at a discount with the goal of getting them to sign on for a monthly membership once they try it out. If people just take the Groupon training session and never come back, they’re operating at a loss. So, what can a gym do to get people to come back? The answer comes from the same place as it does in the auto industry–curiosity. What can you do to make sure that your customer really wants to come back? More often than not, as Drew says, it’s fun that brings people back. You have to look beyond the tired and annoying tactics that have “worked” in the past and find ways to engage people that they will truly enjoy. This is another place where introverts thrive because most introverts are curious. 

I asked Drew what happens in a company when they’re not having fun and how he can tell when a company has changed after he’s taught them how to change the game so they are having fun. What are the characteristics that demonstrate that the company has changed? Productivity increases, turnover decreases and retention increases, and profits increase. Isn’t this pretty much exactly what every company is trying to accomplish?

From a behavioral perspective, Drew says that he sees workplaces that have made an effort to infuse fun into their culture start to show up on time more because they’re looking forward to go to work. At work, they’re laughing more and they’re less stressed, and that impacts literally everything. Again, it seems simple, but the truth is, as Drew puts it:

“We live in a society in which more people believe in ghosts than actually like what they do for a living.”

So it might be a simple concept, but not many companies are actually looking at their culture and making an effort to develop a workplace that values fun and humor. 

If you’re skeptical, there are numbers behind the theory that fun in the workplace leads to the positive outcomes outlined above, which Drew outlines in his book. According to the American Psychological Association, for example, the average cost of a stressed out employee is $7,500, in terms of healthcare costs, lost productivity, absenteeism, and presenteeism (when someone is physically at work but not fully present). This might not seem like a big deal until you learn that approximately 83% of Americans are stressed at work. That’s a whole lot of cash being lost because people aren’t happy in their jobs.

When your employees are disengaged, it doesn’t matter how well you train them or how efficiently you calibrate their workload. As Drew puts it, “The problem with time management is that, it doesn’t matter how much time you have, if you don’t have the energy to do anything with that time.” The impact on the world outside of your business is huge, too. Disengaged employees can easily become disengaged humans. If someone is spending their time slogging through work all day, do you think they’re going to head out of the office and have a positive impact elsewhere? No, probably not.

So, then, what does it take to be happy? Here’s what Drew has to say:

  • Happiness doesn’t always result from or follow “success”, so stop waiting to suddenly become happy once you reach whatever your definition of success is. Humans have what Drew refers to as “hedonic adaptation” or the “hedonic treadmill” that causes us to perpetually seek happiness. When we accomplish something, we feel an increase in happiness momentarily and then return to our baseline. This short-term impact serves us well when it comes to negative feelings, but it also means the happy feelings are quick to pass. Happiness doesn’t come from accomplishing or buying or achieving. It’s a choice.
  • We need to stop comparing ourselves. There’s not one set bar for happiness and when we compare ourselves to other people in other industries or who are doing things differently, we lose sight of our own happiness.
  • Gratitude is everything. Try to be grateful and mad at the same time. Drew challenged me to do it, and it’s honestly impossible.

All of this said, I need to make one thing absolutely clear: Stress is not a bad thing in and of itself. In fact, on the show Drew tells a really poignant story about his time at Procter & Gamble and how he came to learn that stress expands your capacity up to a point. The problem is chronic stress–stress that isn’t ever relieved and only continues to build. 

That’s where humor comes in.

Humor acts as a critical form of stress relief and basically allows people to counteract the negative effects of stress. Laughter literally lowers blood pressure and decreases muscle tension. It’s powerful. It works in the auto industry and I’d venture to guess most others. No matter your location, budget, or the services you provide, if you find ways to make your work more fun and allow for humor, you’ll see positive results. 

Listen to Drew’s episode of Service Drive Revolution here. He has tons more information and guidance up his sleeve. Then, you can learn more about Humor that Works and Drew Tarvin on his website.

Volume vs Quality: How Service Advisors Can Find the Balance

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 qualiity? 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. 

What Top Service Advisors Can Learn From the NBA

What Top Service Advisors Can Learn From the NBA

When it comes to best practices and ultimately “winning” in auto service, there’s a lot we can learn from other markets and industries. One such industry is professional sports and specifically the NBA. The ties may not be obvious to everyone, but they’re definitely there and worth looking at. To start, there are a number of lessons we can learn about leadership and how it impacts the whole team’s success. This past season, there was a lot of publicity about how teams are going to great lengths to acquire better coaches

I recently had Service Advisor Coach extraordinaire Mario on the Service Drive Revolution podcast to talk about it and how it relates to the auto service industry. Mario’s a huge NNBA fan–even named his kid after Michael Jordan–and a serious pro when it comes to auto service. We started our conversation by talking about the league’s best players and why, but you’ll have to listen to the episode to hear that part. We’re here to talk about the lessons we can learn from the NBA’s strategy. 

According to a LinkedIn article from April 2019, “In a close-fought series, the difference between winning and losing may hinge on if they get the right players on the floor at the right time with the right plan. So while it’s mission-critical for NBA teams to find and field the best players in the world, club owners and executives will also go to great lengths to land the best coaching talent anywhere, employing many of the same tactics that recruiters use. Like many of you, they put a premium on finding leaders with skills such as adaptability, collaborative problem-solving, and, especially, effective communication. As a result, many NBA team have embraced an approach of hiring for skills over experience and promoting from within.”

In the auto service industry, most of the service managers start in the shop and work their way up from there. When you’re a tech in a shop, you get a flat rate per hour so your results are really dependant on your ability to turn hours rather than on working as a team player to push things forward. Even though you’re working with advisors or dispatch, your outcomes don’t really change as a result of that collaboration. What matters is managing yourself as effectively and efficiently as possible so you get things done and 

The game changes when you move up to shop foreman. Instead of your outcomes being based solely on your own work and efficiency, it matters how well you can get other people to perform. This requires effective communication, solid leadership, and collaborative problem-solving the manager’s job isn’t to just tell people what to do, but to say:

“What does championship look like for this team at this at this dealership? Our goal is to win that championship.”

So the first step for the manager is to define what championship looks like. Do we want to be number one in CSI? Do we want to be a certain percentage net to gross in profitability? Once the whole team knows what it means to win the championship, the service manager’s job is to devise a plan for how to get there. It’s just like the NBA in that way. It doesn’t matter if you have the best players in the league on your team if your plan to get them all working together is ineffective. Maybe one player will do really well, but the team certainly isn’t going to win the game and certainly not the championship. 

There are a lot of things that service manages can learn from the top NBA coaches. The first is the importance of adaptability. So many service managers out there don’t want to change, even when the industry is evolving. Instead of thinking about how they can adapt to the changing industry the focus on being right. They want to argue about how the way they learned from their manager, who learned that way from the manager before them, is the right way to do things. When really, the “right” way doesn’t necessarily exist and if it does, it’s always changing and evolving. In order to stay on top of the game,  

To take it back to the NBA, let’s think about the 1985 Bulls. That team was stuck in the way they had always done things. It was what they were comfortable with and instead of looking for a system that would get the best outcome, they continued to do things the way they’d always done them. Really, coaches (and similarly, service mangers) leave because their methods are no longer working, whether they admit it or not. So when a new coach or manager comes in, it’s on them to look at the industry and their own data and come up with a plan that will actually work, not to keep using and passing on old, ineffective strategies. 

As Mario put it, “I believe that a lot of managers don’t feel they need to do much changing, because, at the end of every month, they still have a paycheck, regardless if their dealer made money or not, they still get a paycheck, so they feel, ‘I’m making money. The dealer must be making money.’ But they don’t know that they’re not, and changes need to be done yesterday.” For service managers, there is no real incentive to try to find the best way to do things because they are still getting paid regardless. Then, they get fired because their numbers just aren’t cutting it. If you want to know more about it, pick up my book The Irreplaceable Service Manager. I talk a lot about the critical importance of adaptability when it comes to keeping your job and thriving as a service manager. 

The next skill both NBA coaches and service managers need in order to win the championship is effective communication. effective communication comes in many different forms. It’s not just talking to somebody. Effective communication is so much more than just talking to people. It’s how you set up your systems. It’s how you carry yourself. It’s how you hold people accountable. Everything you do is communication when you’re the boss because people are watching. Whether you like it or not, they’re watching how you dress, how you talk, how you show up, if you’re on time, your body language, who you’re within the office with the door closed, what you do all day, how you handle customers, whether or not you follow up… all of it. 

Effective communication requires systems. If you have a system, you follow the system no matter who is in your office or who is underperforming or over-performing. When we don’t have a system, we go off of our emotions. We communicate with people based on how we feel about them or their performance in that particular moment or let our personal bias get in the way of good leadership. And we listen with the intent of learning and understanding, rather than focusing on proving why we’re right about the topic at hand. 

All of this leads to a negative company culture and makes it really challenging to attract and retain talent. 

When it comes right down to it, winners attract winners. So when you have solid leadership, you get solid candidates coming in to apply for your jobs who want to succeed, which often means they are open to coaching and want to be challenged in order to level up. They want the championship just as bad as the service manager does. This kind of talent will only be attracted to environments of performance that YOU create as a leader. Create that high-performance environment where the best will thrive and then manage them in a way that you know will yield the best results–or win the championship if you will.

So, to recap: It’s high time we take notes from the NBA when it comes to winning. Winning starts with good leadership, which requires adaptability, effective communication, and collaborative problem-solvingFrom there, a strong team of winners will come to you and thrive in the environment and under the strategy that good leadership has created. 

We dive even deeper into the topic, the NBA, and Beyonce (ye, Beyonce…) on this episode of Service Drive Revolution. Give it a listen here

Questions? Thoughts? Want to talk about the Beehive? Let’s do it in the comments below.