We Have Always Done It That Way Of all the phrases, excuses, and reasons for not making a change that I hear at the businesses that I have visited, the most common of all is "Because we have always done it that way". The automotive industry, as well as most other industries, have been plagued by the attitude of continuing to do things the way they have always been done. Not that there is anything wrong with the way that some things are done, but this attitude is a sure way to limit growth and in the very best case, yield not more than the same old results. For a department that "appears" to be doing well, that may not sound so bad, but customers and environments are ever changing and failure to change with them is a recipe for disaster. In the recent months, I have been in several stores that have gone from being steady to two or three times the business they have ever seen before. But all this increase in business has come at a cost. Antiquated practices and manual tasks are the norm for these businesses and the practices are no longer supporting the increased clientele. Then, when presented with the question of why something is done in a certain way, the answer from the staff is, more often than not, “We’ve always done it that way.” They simply cannot explain the rationale - they only know that it would be worrisome to deviate from that norm. This is one of the largest limiting factors that are keeping these businesses from the success they are capable of. So, the question then becomes, why? Why is it that so many managers are so set in doing things the way they have always been done? Why is it that we expect different results while still performing the same task in the same way we always have? Why when someone attempts to change that process do we fight it so much? Recently, I read a story on the Internet that can help to explain this phenomenon. It is a much simplified report of research performed in the 1960s on a group of monkeys by G. R. Stephenson: Start with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under the banana. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and climb toward the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, researchers spray all the other monkeys with cold water. After a while, another monkey attempts with the same result... all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it. Now, put the cold water away. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and attempts to climb the stairs. To his shock, all the other monkeys assault him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs he will be assaulted. Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm, because he is now part of the "team" and has learned the rules. Now, the monkeys that are beating him up have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs. Neither do they know why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey. Finally, having replaced all the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys will have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, not one of the monkeys will try to climb the stairs for the banana. If they could talk, they would simply say, “We’ve always done it that way.” Certainly, it's important to build on your past successes and not simply change for the sake of change, which is a costly exercise in itself. But, never forget that, even if you don't change, your competitors and customers may. In an article by Michael Reardon. He offered 3 compelling ideas to combat the attitude of having always done the same thing: Any time that anyone says, “We’ve Always Done It That Way” call them out on it and let them know that “We have always done it that way” is NEVER, NEVER, ever a good reason for taking some action or performing some process at work (or at home, for that matter). When in meetings, planning sessions, brainstorming exercises, etc., you should APPOINT a Devil’s Advocate. Why do you need to appoint one then? Because if you give that responsibility to a person in front of everyone else, that eliminates the personal nature of it. He/she can offer resistance and/or alternatives without offending those who suggested them because for that meeting, it’s just their job. Have a “process-cleaning” party. Pick a slower week/month for your organization (sooner rather than later) and declare that it will be the semi- annual time to reevaluate all processes and procedures, and of course add that “We have always done it that way” is NOT an acceptable answer to approve a process for another period. A little housecleaning, if you will. I’ve seen this in action and it’s truly effective. I'm not saying there isn't value in experience, or things that are tried-and-true. Not at all. But as a consultant I'm usually dealing with businesses that already know things need to be different in some way or else they would not have hired me, and I can't tell you how many times I've been told, even in the midst of compelling data asking for change, that "How we have always done it" should be the credo to follow. Change is hard, yes, but it is needed and worth the effort. When we ask what we’ve always done that way or why we’ve always done it that way, sometimes there is a good reason. If so, we should understand WHY we are doing something that way and ask if we really should continue it that way. Should we tweak the way we do it and make it slightly better? Written by Julian Armijo The Next Level We have been blessed to have worked with stores during our collective automotive careers that were managed by brilliant businessman, with strict conviction and foresight into our industry. We gather these experiences and create ways to accomplish your goals. One of the greatest lessons learned was simply "You cannot manage what you do not measure". That being said, let’s think of a few things we can measure. Effective labor rates (ELR), hours per repair order (H/RO), cost to produce a dollar (CPD), and proficiency percentage (PROF%). There are many calculations we can do to help us monitor, maintain and enhance our skill levels. As managers, we are held accountable by our dealer, the factory, employees, and of course, our customers. Top performers in our business must know how to manage these key performance indicators, but first they need to know how to calculate them. As a refresher for some or an education to others, let’s look at how to do just that. You will need to gather some information. The two simplest calculations are your effective labor rates and your hours per repair order. Effective Labor Rate Formula: Labor Sales ÷ Hours = ELR Example: $102,319 ÷ 1376.4 = $74.34 Source: DMS Report (RAP, 3611, Advisor Performance) or Financial Statement/Hours Sold Effective labor rates, also known as your ELR or OELR (overall effective labor rate) is the labor rate you collect based on your labor charges on your repair orders and your hours paid (billed, flagged). Why, you ask? This determines the rate per hour you are getting for the services you provide. You can even determine the ELR's for the work mix (repair vs. maintenance) in your store. You can determine all ELR's the same way. Take your total sales and divide by your hours. You can calculate your customer effective labor rate (CELR) by just taking a total of your customer pay categories on your financial statement and divide by the total hours paid in the same categories. The same formula applies to your warranty (WELR) and your internal (IELR) rates as well. Once you know your current ELR's, you can compare them to your door (posted) rate. Any significant difference between them that perhaps you are not comfortable with, would indicate that managing this value daily is necessary. Hours per Repair Order Formula: RO count (written) ÷ Hours = H/RO Example: 2478 ÷ 1376.4 = 1.8 This calculation, along with the ELR equation, is often included in service advisor pay plans. Believe me, they know them backwards and forwards. Similar to ELR, this statistic encompasses and measures how many hours per repair order your advisors are writing, rather than the effective rate per hour. By itself, this calculation does not totally reflect a good or bad performance. After all, point of sale consistency is ultimately the true equation of success, along with delivering the "Exceptional Customer Experience". We can detail them in a future article. You can get your RO count from your DMS or financial statement. Divide this count (total) by your sold hours to get your hours per RO. Managing these results are crucial to relative improvement. Cost to produce $1.00 Formula: Sales - Gross Profit = Cost of Sale Cost of Sale + Total Department Expenses (personnel + semi-fixed + fixed) = Expenses Expenses ÷ Sale = Cost to produce $1.00 Example: 366,345 - 241,762 = 124,583 124,583 + 209,937 = 334,520 Commitment of a Service Department In times like these I often think of our great nation's history, and of how lucky we are to call this country home. On the 4th of July in 1776, fifty-six brave men committed to a cause they believed in - they signed their names to a piece of paper and in doing so committed an act of high treason against the British crown. Fifty-six valiant acts, all of them punishable by death. Each man risked dismemberment, disembowelment, decapitation, and disposal simply to do what he felt was right. That's what I call commitment. Nowadays our service departments nationwide struggle to make any commitment at all. As a manager I'm sure you've heard the following countless times: "Your car should be done around 3:00." Why not make a commitment and say "Your car will be done at 3:00"? "Your total should be around $300.00." Honor your word and commit to the number. "Your total will be $257.63." Commit to what you know to be true. Your forthright professionalism and your confidence will help your dealership in so many ways. Have your advisors commit to making status calls with every customer, every day, for every vehicle in your service department. "I will contact you at 10:00 am to give you an update on your vehicle. Would you prefer phone, text, or email?" Eliminate noncommittal tendencies from your workplace environment. I travel across our nation visiting all brands of car dealers. Time and again I hear words like "upsell", "tear it down", "diag", "rip it apart". All these phrases should be dismembered, disemboweled, decapitated, and disposed of. Service departments pay lip service to the vitality of customer satisfaction yet they often fail to commit to customers' most vital needs. As managers we continue to allow this type of behavior in our service drives countrywide. Why?! Doing the same thing again and again expecting different outcomes is insanity. Should we all be...committed? We get complaints from advisors every day that they are being overwhelmed by phone calls the same advisors refusing to make status calls. It's no mystery why our phone lines are flooded in the late afternoons. Our customers are begging to be kept informed, yet we make them call us hoping, wondering, and wishing for their vehicles. No dealership can promise a Disney experience. But we can commit to keeping one of our key sources of income (the customer) reliably informed. America's Founding Fathers were playing a high-stakes game so is every service department. We can take away life if we misdiagnose a vehicle...liberty if we neglect to make informative status calls...and the pursuit of happiness is brief and fruitless when we fail to provide quality service in a timely fashion. Let's commit to making our service departments all that they can be. Help me to make our customers our countrymen proud. All of us at M5 Management Services can help you commit to your goals. If you would like more information you can reach out to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Written by Gus Wadsworth Growing Your Own Technicians In-House When the economy was declining, this caused consumers to delay buying new cars and maintain older cars longer. At the same time, the technician labor pool was shrinking for a number of reasons. New technology such as onboard computers requires technicians with new higher skill levels. The prevailing stereotype of “grease monkey” discourages interest in the automotive field. Parents and school counselors did not recommend the field to secondary students. Many secondary automotive programs did not meet modern business requirements, and the equipment provided to the schools was outdated. Look at the overall demographic shift here: you have 78-million baby boomers who started retiring in 2008 being replaced by Generation X, which is comprised of only 45-million workers. Basically, you have a lot of people retiring now and not enough people to fill the jobs they're leaving. This is going to impact the profession at every level, from the repair technician on down to the parts-distribution level. For every 10 technicians retiring, only two are coming into the industry. Consider this--“Grow Your Own”. During my travels, I have seen great success using this method. Typically, technicians that grow up in a dealership are your most loyal and longest lasting employees. If you need a new line or “B” level technician, they can be hard to find. So maybe you can look at it this way... can your technically-inclined and dependable porter become your new ‘D” tech and your current “D” tech become your new “C” tech, while your “C” tech becomes your newest “B” tech? Now we only have to find another good porter, not a “B” technician with five-plus years’ experience that we might even have to over-pay just to land. Seeing the ripple effect of opportunities within the store is always good for morale. Learn to look at people’s skill sets, and personality traits, not just what position they have worked in before. You can use your own process, but here is just a short example. Offer the employee the opportunity to enroll in an accredited tech school and pay for part of his tuition or tools needed. Start the employee as a lube tech. Have him work together with an experienced lube tech for some time, then have him go solo. Monitor his or her progress and have regular meetings to discuss their progress. After they have mastered changing oil and rotating tires, have them perform more complex maintenance repairs such as fluid exchanges. Have the employee work with a master tech as an apprentice and compensate the master tech in some way. During the time with the master tech have them complete factory certifications. After consulting and managing the employee’s progress, you can determine the time they can start on the line independently. Another benefit is that once the new hires see they have opportunities to grow with the company and move up the ladder, they will be more likely to put their hearts into their work. Friends of these quality people who are stuck in hourly jobs with no future will start coming to you looking for careers. The word will get around that you are “the place to work.” People like working for companies that look inside before looking outside. They start seeing a career, not just a job, and that makes hiring easier. Scheduling For Success As I travel all around this country, consulting and coaching various dealerships, I am amazed how often I go into a service department and find how little time and effort has gone into setting up the service appointment schedule. Our industry, and its technology, has come a long way from the days of using a pad of paper and a pen for scheduling the day's appointments. In fact, one of the shortcomings of today's technology is that many of today's appointment scheduling software programs are so sophisticated that they can confuse and overwhelm the very people they were designed for. As a result, it is far too common for me to find that the current Service Manager isn't even the person who set up the appointment schedule. And, because it seems like such a mystery to figure out how it works, they simply leave it as it is--hoping it will work fine for them. Hope, my friends, is not a strategy! This appointment making process is a critical step to keep your Technicians busy and your customers satisfied. It cannot be left to “hope”. It requires a plan. It requires a process. Whether your appointment process involves using the program built into your DMS, or you have a software program that your company uses, the first (and most important) step in the process is to think about how you want it to work. You need to see it in your mind so that you can describe it to those people who can, and will, assist you with getting it set up. All the companies who offer appointment-making programs, have departments of people who are available to assist you. However, you are the one that needs to direct them on what it is you want the program to do. You need to be able to describe the controls you want to have and the limits you want to establish. Consider questions like: How many appointments can you take in a day? How many appointments can you take per hour? How many "waiters" do you want in an hour? How many loaners/rentals can you put out in a day? Once those components are clear in your mind, the experts can guide you through the steps of getting the setups in place. As you go through the steps of setting up your appointment-making process, I have three things for you to consider: 1) Do the math You don’t have to guess how much work you can handle in a day. You have the information available to you for you to calculate it. Your daily capacity should be determined based on the daily production capacity of your technicians. 2) Don’t be too restrictive Remember, the controls you put in place are your response to your customers wanting to come in and give you their business. Having your controls dialed in too “tight” can make it difficult for your customers to receive an appointment based on what works best for them. Try to offer as much flexibility as possible for your customers to choose 3) Check it often This is not a “Set it and forget it” process. As the demands for your services change, your need to adjust your capacities change, too. View it as your way to control your inventory for your available hours in your shop. Make it your goal to become a “master” of your appointment schedule. Rather than “hope” for a good day, schedule for it! Written by Jeff LaMott How to be a Great Service Manager Great Service Managers are essential to any successful service department, especially given all the changes our industry has faced over the last decade. An exceptionally good service manager achieves a hard working, productive and effective workforce that punches above its weight in its performance. A key to successful management is the relationship between the manager and his or her staff. It's the manner in which managers manage people that separate the ordinary from the good and the good from the exceptional. Good relationships are based on trust, commitment and engagement, and a service manager’s essential role is to build these relationships for the benefit of the department, so that the tasks that are set are completed with enthusiasm, effectively, on time and with the energy to do more. Service Managers, however, walk the line - they either have the behaviors that inspire followers to do what they otherwise may not be willing to do, or they do not - and the benefits or costs of both will escalate and ripple for a long time. The person leading the service department of today's dealership knows that leadership is not something we are born with. Rather, it's an observable and learnable set of practices and behaviors. As we say in the South, "You ain't born with it." So what exactly is all this leadership stuff? Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less. It's learning how to hold oneself, and one's people accountable. Rosalynn Carter once said "A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be." Why is it a struggle? Negativity is all around us. Sometimes it's our people, sometimes it's the weather we fight constantly, and sometimes it's that little voice that haunts us all. Our people may work in challenging conditions--facing hot shops and service drives in the summer months and extremely cold shops and service drives in the winter, hauling heavy equipment around, and mostly working alone. It's too easy to become negative. Consider the story of the crabs in a bucket... If you ever get down to South Louisiana where they do a lot of crabbing, you'll often see a bucket full of crabs on a dock waiting to be sold and processed. All of the crabs in the bucket are alive and there's almost always one industrious little crab that tries to get out of the bucket. He'll step over and even on the other crabs in the bucket, just trying to get to the top so that he can pull himself out and eventually to freedom. Instead of watching and eventually following him, do you know what the other crabs do? You guessed it...they grab at his legs in an effort to pull him back down and to certain death...why? Because misery loves company and negative people HATE seeing someone break out and be different....they would prefer that you stay in their pity party and be negative along with them. As a good leader we MUST encourage our staff to break out of the negative thinking and try to inspire each other to crawl out of the bucket and head directly to greatness. As a service manager, all too often we are caught in a trap of empathy and accountability for our staff. When we get caught in this trap, all we are doing is encouraging the pity party and encouraging the crabs to pull their fellow crabs back into the bucket. What do winning service managers do? Start by looking in the mirror. You have to hold yourself accountable; only then can you start holding others accountable. Be positive Be specific regarding end results, time frames, and expected levels of effort Get a commitment from your team Put it in writing Agree on a plan for monitoring the person’s work Monitor the person’s work Always acknowledge good performance Coach staff and counsel those who need it Seek response and feedback to all communications with the staff Know how to resolve conflicts as they arise and handle negative behavior effectively Listen to concerns and feedback Be responsive to concerns and feedback Control and co-ordinate staff effectively Seek continuous improvement While this is a great list to get you going, there is much more to it. Being accountable means there is a known consequence when one achieves or does not achieve the agreed upon goal. When someone achieves the goal, life is good and they should be recognized for the achievement. However, when someone misses their goal, the appropriate consequence is harder to grasp and act on. The key is to recognize that mistakes or not achieving goals is part of the learning process. At the same time, the responsible party must feel comfortable communicating that they can either handle a situation or they can’t handle the situation. It is the manager’s job to determine their capability. Successful service departments establish a culture of high accountability for everyone in the department. The results come when we get everyone to take accountability for any outcome and establish a culture where people are free to communicate their belief around what they can actually accomplish. This will allow you to actively manage the situation and the individual to ensure achievement of your goals and expectations. Great managers do not stop there. A true leader continually upgrades their team. I know getting technical people in our business is the hardest obstacle we face. That is why we must recruit constantly. Leaders make sure their people not only see the vision-- they live and breathe it. Leaders infect everyone with positive energy and optimism. They have the courage to make those tough calls; they push, pull, probe, and are stewards of change. The most important task in being a successful manager is being a person that others want to follow. Every action you take during your career in an organization helps determine whether people will one day want to follow you. Think Like a Millennial Businesses today in nearly every industry are dealing with the changing expectations of millennials and other on-trend customers who are looking for a new style of customer experience and customer service. Let’s think about what millennials and other customers sharing their mindset are looking for in the customer experience and customer service, and how your service department can scratch these itches. Millennial customers (born 1980ish-2000ish) are the largest generation in U.S. and world history. They, and others who are quickly adapting a millennial mindset (including, more frequently than you’d think, their parents, who are the second-largest generation, the Baby Boomers), share some clearly identifiable expectations that I consulted closely in my work as a Service Manager and Service Advisor. Below are five customer experience preference trends that I have seen while spending time at dealerships across the nation. While being a part of the millennial age group helps in identifying these characteristics, it is very important that you Service Managers and Directors can identify them, as well, and make the needed changes on your service drives to accommodate and make a stellar impression. Five Millennial customer experience preference trends: Peer-to-peer customer service style: A preference for being served in a way that makes the customer feel that those serving and those being served are equals, rather than an older style of service that was sometimes servile and sometimes condescending. Digital parity: Customers expect an experience that is streamlined and hassle-free/friction-free. They want you to be as easy to use as what they've experienced online. Channel shouldn't matter: the info available online should be available in the store, and vice versa, and all channels with which you interact with the customer should be streamlined and integrated. Authenticity: Today’s customers are on a quest for what is genuine, authentic, what feels like “the genuine article.” They’re put off by all that seems false, plastic, scripted and so forth. Transparency: A preference for businesses to be open and forthright in explanations, pricing, quality standards, vendor relations, etc. Adventure and Experience: A feeling that most commercial interactions are improved if there is an element of adventure, excitement, a true “experience” within the customer experience. In order to attract Millennials to your repair shop you should most definitely have web presence, social media (at least Facebook, Instagram and Google) and add your business to Yelp.com and Google. Keeping all of these tips in mind will ensure you have a better chance of marketing to the newer generation. Millennials are more cautious and skeptical than other generations, especially when it comes to an industry with a reputation. In everything you do whether posting on social media, working on your automotive service marketing, or telling friends about your business convince them that you're different. Next time you're taking a stroll around your service department, take a look around, keeping this information in mind, and ask yourself if you're keeping up with the changing times by making your department stand out and different than the others. Written by Nick Rodgers Parts Explained for Non-parts Management - Part 2 This is Part 2 in a two-part article. Continued from last week (Part 1). Lost Sales This is a tool to log demand for a part that you do not have on hand when a customer needs it. It serves the same value as Traffic Control in Sales, helping the store to develop an inventory that matches customer needs. This is one of the most underutilized tools I see in almost every dealership I visit for the first time. Every person who sells parts has at least two opportunities or more daily to post a Lost Sale, especially if they are selling to Wholesale customers. Reconciliation This is the monthly exercise of matching the value of the Physical Inventory (PAD) to the General Ledger (GL.) This is no different than Floorplan Checks and I’m constantly amazed at how many stores do not perform this basic check and balance. Adjustments are made to the PAD to account for Work In Process, which is equivalent to Contracts In Transit, Returns and Credits Pending; Cores which are not in the PAD but are in the GL; and Appreciation and Depreciation, since the manufacturers change some prices every month, and as soon as the update is run the PAD value changes, but not the GL, unless you report it and make the appropriate adjustments. Daily Perpetual Inventory (DPI) This is the procedure that counts all of the Investment 3 or 4 times annually, but on a daily basis just like your Lot Counts. It is designed to achieve 2 objectives: Ensure that parts are where they are supposed to be, making your parts people more efficient. Provide accuracy in the PAD so the Reconciliation is accurate. As a side benefit, if you do this properly, you can probably avoid the Annual Physical Inventory or at least be prepared for it at any time. Personnel Just like in Variable Operations you have to have enough people in place at any time to process the current business demands, as well as develop growth for the dealership. All too often we simply count heads without taking into account the portion of their time that they are available to perform their duties. Calendar Utilization This term refers to days that a staff member is on hand during a work year. Elements that figure into it are: Vacation Days how many working days are missed due to earned vacation days? This becomes a real issue when a store has a lot of senior employees who have earned multiple weeks off. It also begs the question of the dealership policy relating to whether employees can forgo the time off in return for compensation, or if they are required to take the time off or lose it. Sick Days Much like vacation days a ‘Use it or lose it’ policy can have ramifications on employee attendance. Personal Days A lot of stores will allow, or in some states are required to provide for, days off for things like birthdays, anniversaries, death-in-the-family, and the like. These also come out of the annual total. Training Whether the training is in-house or away at school, it still amounts to time away from their position. Do you allow for this in your determination of total staff? Hours in a Day What constitutes a day in your store? Most dealerships are open 10 to 12 hours in Fixed Operations, some even longer. Things to take into consideration for coverage are: 6- or 7-Day Weeks 6 days are almost mandatory now and we are starting to see 7 days becoming more common in some markets. Scheduling starts to become a serious issue now. Extended or Multiple Shifts Service Operations are often working four 10-Hour Shifts and some are even doing three 12’s. Parts have to be open to serve their needs, too. New Overtime Laws The new Federal OT laws, in addition to already existing ones in some states, may well require additional staff to provide cost effective coverage. There are a lot of details involved in managing a profitable Parts Operations beyond just selling parts and controlling Gross profits, and I hope this has raised some questions in the minds of Dealer Executives as to what else they need to be aware of. There are many solutions and one size never fits all. Written by Jim Richter Communication is the Key to Success During my travels I have seen several stores that still only use “voice calls” as the primary way to communicate with their customers. In this day and age I have found it harder and harder to answer my incoming phone calls. If someone calls and I cannot answer the phone, they may or may not leave a message. I wonder how much business or useful information I have lost because I was unable to answer a call. When booking travel I always use the internet. I am no computer genius, but I do prefer to book all my travel online. I avoid dealing with the airlines over the phone at all costs. It is a waste of my time. Here is an example. A few weeks ago I was traveling from Baltimore to Birmingham. I was scheduled for a four-hour layover in Atlanta. The airline had an earlier flight that I could make but could not change online. I called the carrier thirty minutes before taking off from Baltimore only to hear, “Your call is very important to us but due to the volume of calls your wait time will be approximately thirty five minutes.” I was thinking to myself, "I paid way too much money to be put on hold; this is unacceptable." I held for thirty minutes until the door was closed on the aircraft and was told to turn off my phone. When landing in Atlanta I called again to change my flight. Yes, I received the same message. “Your call is very important to us, but due to the high volume of calls, our current wait time is forty-five minutes.” After holding a total of one hour and fifteen minutes I was told it would cost the full price of the flight--$431. At this point they could have told me it was going to be $1.00 and it would have been too much. I explained in a very nice way that I had made two phone calls and had been on hold for over one hour “REALLY! YOU ARE GOING TO CHARGE ME FOR THE FULL TICKET? COME ON, REALLY!” The flight is twenty-seven minutes long and that would be about $15.96 per minute, space shuttle rates! I ask to talk to a manager and she explained she was the manager and there was no one else I could talk to. “We'll see about that!” I thought. I thanked her for doing nothing and letting me wait four hours for my flight. In Atlanta I found a representative to help me face-to-face and was booked on the earlier flight. After all my time, and the airline’s time on the phone, there must be a better way to stay in touch with customers and not get them fired up with wait times. Calling multiple times to satisfy a simple request is unacceptable. I am now looking to use another carrier because the process is broken! Everyone did what they thought was their job, but lost the customer because of the process. Sound familiar? Most managers and advisors I talk to do not like to text or email customers. Well, if you want to get hold of a young professional, you had better have a current way to communicate, using a “voice calls” as a last resort. They are the ones we need to survive long term. They find a company that will meet their needs and usually it’s not about price. It’s about how easy it is to set an appointment, get updated on status, make changes, and be notified when the vehicle is complete. During the appointment or write up, do we ask “Can I update you with a text message on the status of your vehicle?” After receiving authorization this is a real time saver compared to phone calls. Pictures or estimates can be sent from anywhere (not just the advisor’s desk). This is a quick way to reach out to the customer, putting them at ease. No information causes the customer to become angry. If thirty percent of the customers agree to text, just imagine how many phone calls into the dealership could be avoided. I understand that some of the older clients do not text, but make no mistake--the younger clients are on their phones all the time but not to answer it, to text from it. Search your app store. There are many free apps that will allow you to text for free without giving out personal phone numbers. Your competitors are using it. Why shouldn’t we? For fast help or assistance with this process, text me at (504) 415-0253 or email me at email@example.com. Feel free to call if you prefer. Written by Joe Carroll Succeeding As a Service Advisor - Part 2 This is Part 2 in a two-part article. If you missed Part 1 you can read it here: Part 1. Here are some ways to help you develop (and maintain) a positive attitude. Some of them may sound cliché, but they are tried and true for a reason. Boost your self-esteem If there is one common denominator about positive people it is a sense of high self-esteem. Appreciating yourself has to come first, and if you think about it, everyone has something they can feel good about. There are many things you can do to work on boosting your self-esteem. Make it a point to feel good about yourself first. Realize that everyone has strengths and weaknesses - it's human nature. Realize that it IS impossible to please everyone, and don’t take it personally! Use failure as an opportunity It is counterproductive to dwell on failure. From time to time it’s an unavoidable part of life. Anyone who ever says they’ve never failed is lying. But just remember, “Success is built on failure.” Use your mistakes and failures to learn. Find your own constructive criticism in failure and learn what to do or not do the next time. It’s a valuable lesson that provides opportunity. We’d never know about a famous product called WD-40 if its creators had stopped on the 39th try! Always do your best Failing as a result of NOT doing your best only compounds failure. A person can hold their head high in the face of failure if they know deep down in their heart they did their best. Failing because you haven’t done your best goes back to making a choice... and probably not a good one! Devote your energy to something good Make sure your actions truly contribute to something worthwhile. Being a good service advisor truly does help people in need. Strive to be innovative, unique, and seek new ways to do better every day. This will only add excitement to the job, and life in general! Do the right thing For most people, knowing what’s right and wrong is not too difficult. Knowing what should be done should be an easy choice; actually doing it is sometimes another story. Doing the wrong thing, may be the easy thing. Doing the right thing may take a little more work and may even mean putting yourself at risk. But in the end, it builds character and others will admire and respect you for it! Know what motivates you Most people really do not know what motivates them. Either they may not have taken the time to consider it or they are not aware of the basic scientific principles of motivation, or rather “what is it I desire beyond food, clothing and shelter” (i.e., Maslow’s motivational hierarchy of needs). “Self-actualization”, which is the realization of one’s potential, is the highest in Maslow’s motivational hierarchy. According to him, people will be frustrated if they are unable to use their talents fully or pursue their true interests. If you don’t know what motivates you, strive to find out. It will help direct your life’s energy in a more satisfying, productive and positive direction! Accept the rules of the game (or not) Every game has rules by which it is played; so does life and so does business. If the rules are wrong or “unfair,” strive to make them right. If the rules are not right for you, then you have another choice to make: learn to live with them, or find another game to play. If you make the CHOICE to live with the rules, it important to realize and accept the reality that most of the time we have no control over our work environment. This is one of the biggest steps in not only developing, but maintaining, a positive attitude. Realize and accept that it is impossible to please everyone. Realize and accept that it IS possible to please SOME of the people SOME of the time. Realize and accept that rejection shouldn’t be taken personally. In the end, developing and maintaining a positive attitude takes work and persistence. There is no substitute for a “never say, I can’t” spirit. Some of the most unlikely candidates for world-renowned success owe it to being persistent. If you are willing to be persistent and pay the price for your own success, make the CHOICE to start now, this minute, this second.... and go out there and “give me some attitude!” Written by Paula Bliss Succeeding As a Service Advisor - Part 1 This is Part 1 in a two-part article. Be sure to check back next week for Part 2. It All Begins Here “Don’t give me that attitude!” Ever heard that? Or, “You need an attitude adjustment.” I can’t count the number of times someone has spoken these words to me, and they quite obviously refer to a bad, or negative, attitude. The perception of someone having a negative attitude in the workplace can be detrimental. Succeeding as a Service Advisor (and in life in general) is largely determined by how others perceive you in your personal interactions with them. Most of us are simply one of many and to achieve what people regard as “success” means trying to please most of the people most of the time. Not doing so usually results in being labeled a failure, or even a rebel or outcast. This brings with it a negative attitude and all the unhappiness that society can unleash. In our culture, we expect many different things to create “warm and fuzzy feelings” from others and it can get very demanding, especially as a service advisor. Most people expect some the following personal characteristics and qualities from others, and especially from those serving others: Is trustworthy, honest Caring of others A good listener A top performer A healthy skepticism, not cynicism Has Integrity, do what you say you’ll do What others desire comes from a way of thinking, and it all begins with a person’s attitude! It’s Your Choice It’s a proven fact that the wrong attitude is the basis of failure, unhappiness and involuntary employee terminations. In the service department, all the experience, training, coaching, supervision and even pay plans are worthless without the right attitude. More people find themselves in an unhappy job because of the wrong attitude than for any other reason. This is a shame, because everyone has the power to have a positive attitude. Attitude is a CHOICE people make. Attitude comes from within a person. No one person can give another attitude. People make choices every day to be positive or negative in response to the challenges that work life presents. Attitude is really the only thing over which we, ourselves, have complete and total control. As humans, we have the power to make choices every day. Choices to make the best of a given situation, enter into a mode of personal suffering, or be happy or angry. Some people seem to be born with positive attitudes (and at times, may make their co-workers wonder about their sanity), but the rest of us have to work at being positive all the time. Let's Get Positive The first step to developing a positive attitude is to recognize that it's a challenge. Most people who have negative attitudes have them for a reason: it's easier! The next big hurdle is making a deliberate effort to change and not give up. It can be, for many, a big challenge to develop a positive attitude. But remember, you have a choice, and choosing a positive attitude leads to success! Continued next week in Part 2! Written by Paula Bliss Take A Fresh Look At Your Service Department When is the last time you really looked at your service facility? When we work in place every day, it’s easy to get “tunnel vision” and not notice changes in the surroundings in which we inhabit. We become so focused that we do not notice the changes in our environment that have happened slowly over time. One way to get a fresh look is to go to your facility when it is closed. Take a note pad and pen and write down everything that doesn’t meet your standards. It won’t take more than an hour and I promise you that you will be surprised at what you notice without all of the activity of a normal business day. Start as you drive up, is the signage directing the customer clear? Is the parking lot clean and the customer parking area well defined? Keep in mind that the first time visitor has no idea what to do after entering the lot from the road. As you enter the door to the service drive, notice if the hours of operation are clearly posted and accurate. Is the service drive clean and free of any clutter? Check the walls and ensure that all of the advertising posters are up to date and secure, not torn or drooped over. Are the tire displays clean and clearly marked? Take a look at each of your advisors work areas. Are they clean and free of clutter? Do they have a good supply of up to date Menu’s and other handouts such as accessory brochures? Make detailed notes of your findings as you go. As you enter the shop area stop and look in all directions including up. Are all of the lights working or are there bulbs out? Is the drive area floor clean? Next, take a look at each technician’s stall. Is it clean and free of clutter? Are there any cores or new parts or warranty return parts lying in the open? Are any of the air hoses “hissing” and in need of repair? What is the condition of the drop lights? How many open fluid containers are sitting around? Are the technician’s benches free of clutter and trash? Is any of the equipment in need of repair? Leaking hydraulic jacks? Are there any shields missing from bench grinders? Make more detailed notes. Next, check the special tool room for organization. Can the special tools be readily identified? From a productivity standpoint, countless hours are wasted in many shops just looking for special tools. Consider putting them under the control of the parts department and having technicians sign them out and back in. Next, let’s check the customer waiting area to look for cleanliness. How is the furniture? Is the upholstery faded or stained? Are magazines and other reading material up to date? Are the displays current and all pricing correct? Let’s take that list and turn it into an action plan. You don’t have to do it all. Delegate items to people you are paying to get these things done. Be sure to follow-up on any delegated chores to insure completion. It’s a good idea to take a fresh look at your service department every three months or so to keep things in order. It’s very easy for things to slowly change over time without us noticing during the normal course of business. Why Do You Think They Call It Waiting? Is there a Service Advisor alive that hasn’t heard these words from a Technician in response to a plea to hurry up on an oil change? I know I have heard it more than a few times while visiting a Dealership. The truth is that it’s rarely the technician’s fault when a simple maintenance service takes longer than promised. The actual time a vehicle is in a Tech’s bay is usually a small portion of the total time involved when a simple oil change, tire rotation and multi-point inspection takes longer than 35 or 40 minutes. How is the “headlights to tail lights” time in your dealership on a wait maintenance service? How long does it take from the time a customer pulls into your drive until they pull out with receipt and thorough multi-point inspection in hand? Have you timed it recently? I have witnessed everything from less than 30 minutes to over 2 hours! Pick any morning during “jailbreak” time and perform a time study. It’s important to perform the study during peak times because those are the times when processes are abandoned and where our opportunity to improve lies. If your total time is over an hour, most often you will find that the vehicle is actually only in the bay 20-25 minutes of that time. In order to move the needle in a positive direction, we must first determine where our best opportunities exist. I suggest breaking your time study down into the following sections: Write up time (including the time it takes the customer to be greeted) Pre-bay time (the time from when the vehicle leaves the service drive until a technician gets into the vehicle) Actual In-Bay time (from the time tech pulls in till he pulls out) Post Bay time (time from when the tech exits the vehicle until the customer shuts the door to leave) Wash bay time - OPTIONAL (If you wash customer’s vehicles, time the wash separately) Perform several of these studies with different advisor/technician combinations. What is your average time? In which area of the process could time be improved? Use the above data to design a written process for all Quick Maintenance services. When writing the process, be very specific in listing each step and who performs it. Look for opportunities to reduce time that vehicle sits idle. Identify ways that will allow everyone who comes into contact with the vehicle to know not only that the vehicle is waiting, but how far along in the process it is. It’s all about accountability. Here is a sample process: Greet customer on service drive using M5 Motors Customer Interactive Process, to include a Menu presentation and permission from customer to perform a multi-point inspection. Service Advisors to designate vehicle as Quick Service Waiter by turning on hazard lights and placing work order under driver’s side wiper blade. Porter/Advisor pulls vehicle ahead into designated “Quick Service Waiter Parking” and turns off hazard lights. Porter/Advisor places work order in Quick Service Rack in next available slot. Next available technician selects work order from lowest slot available in rack OR is assigned work order by Shop Foreman as needed. Technician to make multi-point inspection the first operation completed. (If inspection results in an additional sales request (ASR) - give work order and multi-point inspection to advisor to present to customer while maintenance is completed) Upon completing work order, technician then marks current time on driver’s side windshield, turns work order into advisor for booking and parks vehicle in designated “Quick Service Wash Parking.” Wash bay personnel selects vehicle by oldest time on windshield, after wash is complete, turns keys into Service Advisor and proceeds to hand dry vehicle. Service Advisor then escorts customer to cashier, explains invoice line by line, and reviews multi-point inspection findings while wash bay personnel completes vehicle. After cashiering, advisor then escorts customer to vehicle and thanks them for their business! Give it a try! Find out what will work best in YOUR Dealership. It may surprise you that by following these simple steps, you may drastically reduce the cycle time on quick maintenance services. Put the “quick” back in a Quick Maintenance Service in your shop!