Ever wondered why it is that some service advisors hit (and exceed) their goals, just crush the competition, while others can’t seem to get there? The automotive industry can be a tough game, but just like in any other industry, there are things you can do to push ahead of the competition…and other things that will pretty much guarantee failure.
I talked to service pro Jeremy O’Neal about why some service advisors fail, so you can avoid making their mistakes.
Before we get into that, though…
If you haven’t entered the $50,000 Service Manager Challenge yet, what are you even doing? Service Drive Revolution. The big prize is a fully loaded 2020 Jeep Gladiator and the only competition is yourself. What do I mean? All of the details are here, so check it out and get moving.
Back to why service advisors fail or, as Jeremy would put it, “unsucceed” because according to him, you only FAIL if you give up. If you ask me, a service advisor who doesn’t meet his goals at one shop and then moves on to the next to do the same thing again isn’t “unsuccessful”…they’re a straight up failure at their job. But you can call it whatever you want–either way, why do some service advisors fail?
1. They beg for a Customer Service Index (CSI)
Listen, both Jeremy and I know that CSI is important to dealerships and therefore, to service advisors. It often dictates how much your paycheck will be and whether or not you’re going to move up the ladder. But when you’re a service advisor and you’re begging your customers to fill out the survey and give you a good score, that’s a bad look. If you want someone to give you a good score, perform in such a way that they’ll want to do it without you asking. Don’t slack on customer service and then pop up and ask them to take the time to fill out your CSI and give you a solid score. What kind of sense does that make? It’s not only annoying to the customer, but it’s also a pretty strong indicator that you haven’t been doing a good enough job to warrant the score you want. Instead, kill it at customer service, then let the customer know that if something goes wrong with their car when they get it home, you want to hear about it directly so you can take care of it. Tell them that they’ll be getting a survey, which is important for your business, but that you would much rather hear about any issues directly so you can take care of them as efficiently as possible. This also builds rapport and keeps them coming back to you. Jeremy’s got a good story about CSI–give the episode a listen to hear it.
2. They don’t have a system
You know those people who rely on their good looks and charm to succeed? And it’s all well and good until they run out of looks and charm because they don’t have anything to back it up? It happens in the auto industry all the time. So many of the service advisors I’ve seen fail have relied on luck or charm or whatever else they naturally have going for them that have allowed them to avoid creating a scalable structure. They pet the dog, their customers love them, and all is well and good in the short-term. But every single time, there’s a cap that comes along with this approach that causes these advisors to plateau or even start to trend downward when their charm fades. It’s not a long-term strategy. So even if this is your approach right now, watch the other service advisors around you who have been successful for a long time and develop a plan that will continue to work over time. I talk about my system more in the episode if you’re looking for some guidance. I call it the Chris Collins Circle of Trust.
3. They don’t have a pregame
More often than not, failing service advisors are in reaction mode. They start off their day in such a way that they’re not prepared to run the game the way they want to and they don’t even realize how big of an impact it’s having on their performance. The same is true for every position in every industry, whether you’re a service advisor, service manager, dealership principal, gym owner, entrepreneur, or solopreneur, you need a routine that sets you up for success.
Jeremy calls his pregame strategy his “Golden Hour of Power”. Whether he’s at his shop, working at a dealership, or doing an on-site training, he gets there in the morning and has a routine before he gets started. Here’s what he does:
A couple things I do is I never work on administrative tasks during game time. Game time is from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. That’s where I’m writing tickets out, consulting with customers, petting the dog, making sales presentations, going through all that. I can’t do administrative stuff during that time. So, I do my administrative stuff either in the morning or in the afternoon. And then I also get my log book out and set my goals. Car count goals, sales goals. And then I look at my slow day plan. So, now I’m prepared for what I want to do. I’ve got my mind set right. I do some reading, I might listen to one of your podcasts, all that stuff. And then I would look at the appointments that are coming in. Make sure I have everything prepared and that I’m ready to go. So, that hour in the morning sets you up. So, it’s the golden hour of power and you’ve got to have a pregame ritual to get yourself set up for success.
Whether you want to emulate Jeremy’s pre-game or come up with your own is your call. I’ve got my own pregame that looks a little different. All that matters is that you have one that works for you.
4. They don’t pet the dog
If you’ve been following along with anything in the world of Chris Collins, you know what it means to pet the dog. If you’re new here, watch this video to get caught up. No BS, no rushing, but making time to provide them with the kind of service they’re looking for an deserve. When service advisors fail, a big part of it is often that they’ve made the mistake of allowing being “too busy” to get in the way of taking care of their customers. They start acting like the car is the commodity, rather than the customer and are surprised when that customer doesn’t come back. That means that they’re constantly trying to find new business instead of nurturing existing and loyal customer relationships.
5. They prejudge people
Some service advisors will look at a new customer, look at their car, and decide right then and there what they’re going to spend with them and how they’ll make decisions about their car. Time and time again, that’s a huge mistake. To give you an example, when I first started, many of my best customers were young college girls with old Volkswagens that my colleagues assumed wouldn’t pay a dime to keep them up or that if they told them their repairs would cost more than the car is worth, they’d walk away. They were dead wrong. Even when I told these girls the truth about the situation, they decided to repair their cars. Listen to the episode to hear how. The moral of the story is to keep an open mind and don’t assume anything about your customers before you have more information about them and their car. Treat everyone with respect off the bat, no matter what.
6. They diagnose in the service drive
Sometimes, service advisors try to be experts and diagnose what’s going on in the drive. A lot of times this happens to technicians that become advisors. They sabotage themselves because they presume that they can diagnose what’s going on, when their job is actually to get all the information, put it on the repair order, and let the technician diagnose it. Not only isn’t it their job, but it can also be an incorrect diagnosis that leads the customer to distrust you. You don’t have to be the hero for the customer and fix the car in the drive. There’s no magic wand that’s going to go out there and fix it. The system works, so use it if you want to succeed at your job.
7. They offer discounts as a rule, not an exception
For some service advisors, discounts are the tool they use to close the sale every time. what they don’t understand is they’re diminishing their value right out of the gate. The customer isn’t even asking for a discount and the advisor is just assuming that it’ll sweeten the deal, when really it just looks like the work might not actually be worth the full price. It shows a lack of confidence. Instead, offer your best pricing out of the gate instead of overcharging and then offering a discount.
8. They don’t like people
When it comes down to it, being a successful service advisor is all about people–knowing how to treat them, how to make them feel, what they’re looking for (and not looking for), how to keep them coming back. It’s unreal how many service advisors I’ve met who just straight up don’t really like people. They’re grumpy, miserable, and don’t smile at people. They’re just there because they needed to get a job and somehow they made it past the manager and got the job. If you don’t like people, you’re going to fail in this role and you won’t last. Trust me on that.
9. They’re not consistent
For service advisors, consistency is EVERYTHING. I can’t stress this enough. Sometimes, especially in independent repair shops, they’ll pull out all the stops for the big sales and then when someone comes in for an oil change, it’s basic, low-level service. What they don’t realize is that if you pull out all the stops–or at least some of them–for every sale, you’re setting yourself up for that person to come back and spend more on bigger ticket repairs and maintenance. Consistency in customer service is critical too. Pet the dog for every customer, every time they come in, and you’ll build a loyal customer base before you know it.
10. They aren’t pros
This one seems obvious, but I think you’d be surprised at the number of service advisors who just aren’t pros at what they do. Jeremy told a story on the podcast that really hits the nail on the head as to what I mean by this. I won’t steal his thunder here…go listen to the podcast.
So, there you have it. If you want to be a successful service advisor, don’t do these things. Jeremy and I will be coming back to you soon to tell you how to run a shop. Service advisor training for independent shops is his area of expertise, so we’re planning a collaboration that we’ll share with you soon. Stay tuned. And don’t forget to enter the Service Manager Challenge Jeep Gladiator Giveaway. It’s you versus yourself…what do you have to lose?
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]
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.
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.
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 areinterested 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.
These days, it’s more important than ever that businesses meet customers where they’re at. This means creating platforms that allow customers to engage when and where they need to rather than sticking with old school systems that don’t work anymore. That’s definitely true in the auto service industry and many service advisors–maybe even you–are looking for ways to deliver their services more effectively.
I had Quik Auto CEO Jack Gardner join me on Service Drive Revolution to talk about how he created a platform to automate and digitize some of the work that auto customer service advisors and auto repair consultants have traditionally done. It’s started to take the automotive consulting world by storm and there’s a lot we can all learn about how it came to be and why it’s so successful in the world of automotive consulting services.
Jack started his career as a Toyota tech and then tried sales. Turns out he was pretty good at the sales game. The problem is…he didn’t like it at first. He decided and even attempted to quit, but his manager pushed him to stay on. When he did, his mentality changed. There was less pressure and more drive to just see what he could learn and do. He describes it as “confidence that was derived from product knowledge”, and it led to a $16k paycheck in his second week alone. He also got into a fair amount of trouble and has some funny stories to tell, but I’ll let you listen to his episode to find out more about that…
Jack’s sales strategies were simple but effective. When the concept of leasing cars started to come up, he was hesitant at first because he didn’t get it. But when he saw another salesperson making bank off of fewer sales, he realized it was time to learn the game. He saw the money in it and learned everything there was to know about leasing.
Once he had the expert knowledge about leasing, he figured out how to get that information to skeptical clients. He had a line he’d use to get them interested in learning more about it:
“Would you agree that a better decision will always be made based on all of the facts, as opposed to some of the facts?”
Once they said yes, they were on the hook to hear his pitch about leasing…and it worked. Then his strategy was to deliver a pitch that focuses on the basic terminology and information clients would need to make a decision, instead of getting into percentages and residual rates. His goal was to help them understand this new concept and why it would be a solid option for them to consider. And people considered it…at the staggering rate of about 60%.
From there, it was all finding the “sweet spot”. He learned early on that allowing clients’ leases to mature was a bad move. After their leases matured, clients would come in to return their cars but often put more mileage on the cars than they had agreed upon. Once the contract was up, that meant that Jack had to tell the client that they owe more money, which never went down well and took up a lot of time and energy. So he started to touch base with clients to talk about trade-in before their leases were up. The trick about the sweet spot was that there was no specific timeline around it, it just came up whenever the manufacturer needed to move a supply of cars off of the lot. So Jack would wait for those moments to come up, then call clients who were leasing and offer them a new lease on a new car for a “comparable” payment, with “comparable” being the magic word.
Another key point Jack made was that people remember the little things. If you deliver consistently on the little things, like making sure each leased car has a full tank of gas when it leaves the lot, you’re golden. That’s what people remember. So clients would spread the word to others about leasing and the smooth process and the next thing you know, he’s got an incredibly lucrative leasing business that leads directly into a solid used car business.
From there, Jack went into finance for a few years, then started as a general manager, and moves on to start training people how to lease cars. And then…he met a guy at a bar, as he puts it. They started talking shop and eventually decided to launch Quik Video, a business that sent information on multi-point inspections to customers in a manner in which they understood it. From there, it grew well beyond videos and into texting, electronic multi-point inspection, internal chat and more and they changed the name from Quik to encompass the new services. Quik. is a digital service advisor that lets customers see what their options are, learn about them, and make decisions without an in-person advisor. Basically, they offer a solution that makes relationships between dealers and customers more honest, open and transparent.
But more than the technology itself, the key to Quik.’s success has been consistency. Jack’s strategy was built on a few pretty simple but really important rules. The first one is Toyota’s Quarter Time, meaning that the results of a multi-point inspection should be in the customer’s hands in the first 15 minutes, which leads to an 80% chance of selling the work. If it takes 39 minutes, so those first 15 plus 24 minutes of delay, that percentage falls down to 10%. So Quik. offers dealerships a way to put that video out to a customer in 15 minutes, which led to impressive sales results. It’s a tried and true rule that many automotive industry consultants know, and it was confirmed yet again through the Quik. platform.
Quik’s software saves dealerships tons of money and can generate even more revenue from customers. Why? According to Jack, customers have a hard time believing service advisors because they view them as salespeople looking to make the most money possible. When a digital program is telling them what they need, they tend to trust it–it’s just a machine that doesn’t know how to lie or upsell. In addition, customers can learn more and do it on their own time when they’re using software to do it. So, basically, they upsell themselves to the tune of about 30%. When they’re making decisions online, they opt in for more maintenance than they would with an old school in-person advisor.
Plus, once customers decide they want to do in terms of maintenance, a technician can then look at that as well as what they decided not to do. If the technician thinks that the service is necessary, they can explain to the customer why they should do it in an online video that goes directly from the tech to the customer. This way, as Jack describes it, the customer gets that advice directly from the “doctor”–the technician–rather than the “receptionist”–the advisor. Psychologically, this gives the customer the sense that this work is important and gives them the opportunity to understand why, so they are much more likely to go for it.
Over time, Jack has learned that automating everything is crucial to Quik.’s success. Integrating with DMS (we won’t tell you which is the worst out there), making sure all of the different systems that are part of the inspection and maintenance process are talking to one another…those automation make sure everything goes smoothly.
Jack’s main goals have been to help dealerships increase their revenue without additional work and to build a platform that gives customers what they want and need, instead of forcing them to use an antiquated system that makes it stressful and difficult for them. In elevating the customer experience, the three things that both the dealer and the OEM are truly concerned with will fall right into place:
They will sell more work, which means the manufacturer is selling more parts–more selling all around.
Customer Service Index will go up, because you’ve exceeded the consumer’s expectations.
Retention will go up because of the other two fell into place, so why would the customer go anywhere else?
So, service advisors…what’s your takeaway here? It’s not that your role is going to be eliminated because technology can never fully replace talented service advisors. The takeaway is to develop strategies that allow you to be CONSISTENT in what you provide and how you provide it. As Jack says, technology won’t replace people, but it will replace the weak. If you aren’t weak, technology like Quik. will only help you out. If you are, it may take you out.