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.

HOW MINDSET DRIVES BUSINESS PERFORMANCE ON THE SERVICE DRIVE

HOW MINDSET DRIVES BUSINESS PERFORMANCE ON THE SERVICE DRIVE

Let me take you on a quick trip back to my band days. For those of you not familiar with “band” thinking, it’s very much like being in a gang. You must stick together, and everything is for the good of the band. So one day we’re practicing and Ian Astbury comes in and asks if there’s a drummer who wants to try out for The Cult. Well, I was the only drummer in the room so it was totally awkward. But because I was completely committed to that, “we must stick together,” band mindset I passed on the opportunity. My mistake.

But, back to mindset and being a prisoner of your own mind… Almost without fail, when we meet with new clients, whether they’re service advisors, service managers, or owners they’re stuck in an old way of thinking, often the result of bad experiences, or feelings not facts. That is no way to run a business, and I don’t want you missing out on your chance at being the drummer for The Cult. You create your own destiny. No, I haven’t just returned from Burning Man. This is real. Your mindset affects everything you do from dealing with problems to how you feel about yourself. So you have to have a mindset that is positive and informed to make smart decisions.

IF I HAD A DIME FOR EVERY TIME I ASKED A CLIENT TO RETHINK THEIR PRICING AND THEY SAID NO WITHOUT DOING ANY RESEARCH ON PRICES IN THE CURRENT ECONOMY I’D BE A BAZILLIONAIRE.

Tip 1. Do your research on current prices and see where you’re off. It’s lazy not to look at data and make assumptions about what people will or won’t spend.

Next, tip 2. Try new things and be open to new ideas. I promise that if you open your mind your brain won’t fall out.

I remember when I was always out in stores I constantly saw new things that were going on. But once I was stuck in my own shop I stopped seeing all those fresh ideas, and started to fall into the trap of creating my own ideas of what would work, or what wouldn’t. You must leave your own territory and see what other people are up to.

Tip 3. Train your employees about financials and profits. How to understand them and make pricing decisions that will help your shop make money.

It’s outdated, but we still think of technicians as grease monkeys, or somehow not skilled laborers. But with today’s technology these guys are mechanics, electricians, and in some cases almost engineers. You can’t do business without them, or their service advisors, so they all MUST learn about their numbers and financial statements too. The fact that service managers are not trained on financials is a joke.

I HAVE TO GO WALK THE DOGS BUT HERE’S YOUR QUICK RECAP ON HOW TO RESET YOUR MINDSET:

  •  Base decisions on facts over feelings.
  • Do your research and get the correct data.
  • Get outside your market and see what other business are doing.
  • Get a coach to help because we see what’s out there.
  • Get in a coaching group so you can be exposed to lots of different things and people.
  • Open your mind to new strategies and opportunities.

OK, GET TO WORK ON OPENING THAT MIND BECAUSE I PROMISE, YOUR BRAIN WON’T FALL OUT! I’LL SEE YOU NEXT WEEK WITH MORE TIPS AND TOOLS FOR BUSINESS PERFORMANCE.

MAKE SURE YOUR SERVICE DRIVE IS DROUGHT PROOF

MAKE SURE YOUR SERVICE DRIVE IS DROUGHT PROOF

Take a moment and imagine…

It’s late on a Friday night, and your wife is calling for the fourth time asking when you’ll be home. You barely take her calls at this point because you know what she’s going to say, “You’re never around.”

You just lost your best technician, and man, he took a job in ANOTHER industry.

You’ve posted ads looking for new, qualified technicians, but the only guys who came in couldn’t get through HR, or pass a drug test. Your blood pressure is up. You’re pulling your hair out because you’re really worried you’re going to lose your job. The owner of the shop is coming down on you every day, customers are furious with the amount of time it’s taking to get their cars fixed. You’re starting to seriously consider outsourcing some of your shop’s work just to make the angry customer calls stop, despite what a financial loss that will be.

You find yourself in a completely unmanageable situation, and it doesn’t seem to matter what you do. You just can’t win.

Unfortunately, this is a true story. It happened to a friend of mine. And, almost every service manager I’ve met has a version of this. In this particular case my friend was literally at the end of his rope before he called me asking for help.

Fast-forward six months…

It’s Friday evening and the sun is just about to set. You look around and realize everyone is heading out for the day. There’s no one in the waiting room because all the cars have been repaired and returned to their owners, on time or ahead of schedule. Seriously.

A tech walks by and you tense up. He pops his head into your office to say, “We’re all done for the day. Hope you have a nice weekend!” Have a nice weekend… It’s music to your ears. Your wife sends a text that reads: See you soon! <3

Then your boss walks by and waves at you, which is the most enthusiastic he gets. You look around and realize there’s no more work to be done. It’s early enough that you’ll be home in time for dinner AND to show up to your son’s junior high basketball league game. You’ve done it and you sigh with relief.

This is life in a healthy, efficient shop. We can help you get there.

But, let me break it down for you:

The problem?

It’s simple. There’s a shortage of qualified technicians, and the work is backed up.

Why?

That gets more complicated. There are a lot of reasons. Some stem from the fact that young people are not coming into the industry because millennials don’t want to be techs. They have other interests, and cars just aren’t that important to them. Then, there’s the cost associated with entering the occupation—often a $7,000+ investment. Another big problem is how many great techs are leaving the industry due to poor treatment or wages.

What does it mean for me?

If you haven’t felt the loss yet, you will.

We’re headed towards a place where technicians will be outnumbered 2:1 making finding qualified ones even harder.

The good news is we have plenty of ways to help you not only survive, but thrive despite the impending technician drought resistant.

I mean, we’re fixers here at Chris Collins inc. It’s what we do, and we’re going to help you fix this problem just like we fix your other problems. No, we can’t train your dog, or go with you to counseling. But we’ve created some products that will ensure your business is drought free.

Stay tuned because more solutions are coming…

HOW TO MAKE CSI AND PROFIT SEXY AGAIN

HOW TO MAKE CSI AND PROFIT SEXY AGAIN

This week we’re talking about how to make profit and CSI sexy. Get your mind out of the gutter because it’s not what you think…

One of the things that drives me the craziest is when people are having trouble with their service drive and they tell me they need more traffic, or some fancy gadget to solve their problems with profits or CSI. That is absolutely not the solution and here’s why. What we talk about the most is great execution and how to create momentum, and it seems like people are missing the basics.

Everybody wants their system to be exciting. OK, I get it, but they forget simple things like, answering the phone and greeting customers. People get busy searching for the new software that will save the day, but that won’t fix your business if you don’t have a solid foundation. You must be able to block and tackle first. Finding that next cool thing is meaningless until you do the basics brilliantly. After you’ve mastered the basics, then you can work on expanding and using technology to move yourself forward.

Subtle can be sexy. The basics can be sexy.

When we go into a business we audit the repair orders. Time and again we find that there’s no viable system in place. So while they tell us they need more traffic, what we know to be true is that more traffic will only bring about more of the same problems.

Let’s try something… Can you answer these questions? What happens when the customers drive up to the curb of your service drive? Do they sit there waiting? Does the service advisor come out and greet them at the car? Do customers know where to go? Often we overlook these things and want a magic pill to fix the business when what we really need is a flawless system up front. Here are the fundamentals for a strong front end:

  1.  Answer the phones and make appointments.
  2.  Have a great attitude.
  3.  Greet the customer.
  4.  Check their history.
  5.  Inspect the car while getting their history.
  6.  Offer all this in a way that the customer is comfortable and doesn’t feel pressure.

 

It’s crucial to excel up front so that it’s a nice experience, and your customers feel like you care about them. If you can help your customers avoid surprises, and not push sales down their throat you will become a customer collector. And, isn’t that the point?

You just create a great process. The trick is believing you can do it, and then practicing it over and over until it becomes second nature. And it will. We need to pursue excellence every day, and there are a lot of things to think about. Even when things are moving along you should always be looking ahead and thinking, what can we fix next?

The mother of retention is repetition. If you want to move the ball in a certain direction, get your CSI up and increase customer pay sales. Then get your team together (the service managers, service advisors and service technicians) and start training them! Figure out what you want it to look like, and what it’s going to take to get there. Then train, train, train, and train some more. A great training program where you do it step by step will work. The key to all of it is the basics, so stop thinking you need more traffic until your averages are really high. Traffic isn’t the hard part, and we can help you get traffic.

To recap, execution is most important and more traffic will only make things much worse if you’re not doing things right. You’ll lose your customer’s trust because they don’t feel cared for, or they’re waiting forever, or they don’t get called back. And, it’s your fault because your advisors are writing 20 customers.

No tablet or robot is going to fix this. So to all the service managers and service advisors: slow it down, get out of your office, and watch the customer experience. Break it down step by step. Fix one step, and then fix the next step, and the results will blow you away.

INSPIRATION IS NOT OPTIONAL: MOTIVATE YOUR SERVICE TECHNICIANS!

INSPIRATION IS NOT OPTIONAL: MOTIVATE YOUR SERVICE TECHNICIANS!

Business problems are easy, people problems are hard. I didn’t invent that phrase. It’s been said many times by many people, and it holds true for every business. Don’t pretend this doesn’t apply to you and your drive. I’ve said it before and I will say it again:

The most important people in your business and least cared about, are your service technicians.

Your service technicians are the only ones in the company who are qualified to solve your customer’s problems. Without talented, well-motivated technicians your drive simply can’t operate efficiently.

First, let’s agree that success is defined by the end goal. Results are what matters. We are the sum of what we achieve, not what we intend. It doesn’t matter if someone had the best intentions in the world. In business, what matters is how much gets accomplished.

Without exception, service departments that perform well have a leader who’s created a strong system. Without clear rules and accountability, the system breaks down. So you must have a good, easy-to-understand system. Then, you must be able to share that system. Start taking notes now because this is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

This is the stuff that’s actually working on drives all over the country!

Tip #1 – Track Production

This is production! You have to see how much people are producing. You’re living in the dark ages if you’re afraid to put the scores up in your service drive. Hang a dry erase board immediately and start tracking their hours. It doesn’t matter if some guys don’t like that idea. You can’t worry about the low performer, or be afraid of losing him. Equality of result is a lie. It’s equality of opportunity. Everybody has the same opportunity but not everybody is going to get the same results.

If you’re feeding your low-performing technicians so that they somehow get the same hours as the guy who’s working his butt off, you’re not creating a culture of high performers. The culture of performance is vital. Create that culture of performance by writing down the numbers from yesterday and everyone will be kept accountable.

Tip #2 Get to know your technicians

The single best way to make your technicians feel appreciated is to sit down with them once a month and talk about their goals. No, you don’t have to be their therapist, or Oprah, to make a huge difference. Use lunch as an opportunity to get together. Trust me, no one is going to poach your guys if you have a personal relationship with them. Your technicians are people too—they’ve got families and situations to deal with so find out what’s making these guys tick.

If you have a busy schedule and not much time to chitchat here’s a cheat sheet of questions you can ask: How’s work going? How can I help? What’s in your way? How can we get better as a department? Since we know from experience that they feel like the most ignored and picked on group in your shop, it’s your responsibility to change that.

Tip #3 Gamification!

If you have not read my book, Gamification, here’s the link.

Buy it and read it cover to cover. Look, I know the technicians are there to fix cars, but they also need to enjoy being at work. Gamification is playing for profits. It’s important to have a pattern interrupt with them where they get to have a break and have some fun. Let them throw a baseball or basketball at lunch—whatever gets their energy and mood up. If those don’t sound good to you, the book has at least 50 games in it so there’s plenty to choose from. I promise, if you throw some cash around, and add some work games into the mix, your technicians will get more done and be much happier in the process.