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Sales, Marketing, Recruiting and Shop Management Tips for Shop Owners

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Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

It’s only natural that most of your employees would like to take their vacations during the summer. Unfortunately, that’s typically your busiest time, right?

Let’s say you have a technician who typically produces 50 hours a week during your peak summer months, but during the month of February, when your car counts are lower, he typically produces just 38 hours a week. If you bill at $90.00 per hour, and if you are operating at a part to labor ratio of .75 to 1, then those twelve additional hours would represent an additional $1,890.00 in sales! So rather than losing that additional income, do this…

Review your shop’s historical performance to determine the months when your techs typically produce the least amount of billable hours. Compare those months to your peak summer months, and then provide off-season vacation incentives that will work for you as well as your technicians. You can tell them if they take their vacations during one of the off-season months, you’ll be happy to provide them with a ski-pass, an extra day of vacation, etc. Obviously they are not forced to take advantage of the offer, but if they decide to do so, it can be a big win for them, and a win for your bank account at the same time.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

Mistake #1. Have your technicians compete against one another. We all can agree that competition among employees is good, but there is a right way, and there’s a wrong way. The wrong way is to tell your techs that you’re going to post the hours they each flag, and at the end of the pay period the winner will receive a reward. Although that sounds good, you’ll inevitably end up with one winner, and no matter how you cut it, the rest of your techs are going to be losers. Now you might think that’s okay because it’s all in fun, and next week they all have another shot at being the winner, right? But the problem is that unless all of your techs have the same experience, the same skills, the same competencies, the same tools, and the same services to perform; over the course of a few months you’ll discover that one or two of your techs will typically come in first, and the rest of your techs will predictably lose.

Instead, give all of your techs the opportunity to win by having them compete against themselves rather than against one another. Here’s how you do it: let’s say you have tech #1 who has been consistently flagging 40 hours, and you know they have the skill and experience to consistently flag 46 hours. You set their goal at 48 hours. If tech #2 has less skill and less experience than tech #1, and if they typically flag 36 hours a week, then they should be striving to flag 43 hours per week, not 48. If you do this with each of your techs, they can then all be winners at the end of the pay period by reaching their individual goals.

Mistake #2. Show them how the job should be done. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t properly train your employees, and of course there will always be a time for you to help, but when it comes to managing people, sometimes the wrong answer will be the right answer obtained in the wrong way. When managing your techs and service advisors, you need to lead them to the answers rather than providing them with the answers. If you give them the answers, all you’re doing is teaching them to come to you when they have a problem, and validating the things they don’t know. Not only does this ding their confidence, but it’s bad for business too.

So the next time a tech or service advisor is having a problem, or if they come to you for an answer, the very first thing you should do is ask them what they think. They’ll not only be proud they discovered the solution on their own, but you’ll be doing the single most important thing managers should do: teaching your employees how to solve problems.  Years ago, president Nixon was talking about the welfare system here in America when he said, “If you give a man a crutch long enough you create a cripple.” It’s no different with employee management.

Mistake #3. Ignore your intuitions about an employee.  When it comes to managing people you need to have a clear understanding of expectations, you need to pay close attention to the facts, and you need to listen closely to that little voice in your head that we call intuition. If you sense you have someone in your company that is not a good fit, or may be a problem down the road, odds are you are correct. Far too many shop owners ignore their intuition, and it eventually costs them a fortune.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

When car counts aren’t what they need to be, most shop owners will pump more money into their marketing efforts. But before you invest one more dime in your marketing campaigns, you should first make sure that you’re doing a good job of converting your current leads into customers. At Elite, we’ve discovered that the number of phone leads lost by most shops is staggering. They’re lost by not having enough staff available to properly handle the calls, by having poorly trained receptionists or service advisors, by having service advisors who are content with either their workload or their income, etc.  Needless to say, putting more money into your auto repair marketing is not going to fix these problems.

The solution is simple.  Make sure you have clearly defined car count goals, and hold your advisors accountable for reaching them. You should ensure they keep a simple log that shows why they feel they lost each lead. The log options should include: The caller didn’t have the vehicle, they didn’t have the time to bring the vehicle in, they were price shopping, and they were not the decision maker. At the end of the day, discuss these lost leads with your staff, and decide on the appropriate course of action.

Lastly, don’t overlook the value of having a couple of friends call in as mystery shoppers, and recording their conversations. So before you spend one more dime on auto repair marketing, let’s make sure you’re not losing those priceless leads that you already have.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Jim Piraino

Far too many shop owners will set an annual sales goal, and then simply divide that number by 12 to set their monthly goals. However, since this approach does not take the number of work days in each month into account, it is not the way that you should be setting your monthly goals, especially if your service advisors receive a bonus for hitting and/or surpassing monthly goals. With that said, I would suggest setting your shop’s monthly sales goals using the following method….

Grab a calendar and calculate how many days your shop will be open and operating during the year. Typically this number will be about 254 if you are closed on the weekends (365 days per year – 104 weekend days – 7 holidays= 254). You can further adjust for technician vacations if you’d like, but for our purposes, let’s use 254.

Next, divide your annual sales goal by the number of days you’ll be open during the year to calculate a daily sales goal. So if your annual sales goal is $1,200,000, divide that number by the 254 days you’ll be open to arrive at a daily sales goal of $4,724.41. When you’ve arrived at your daily sales goal, it’s time to set your monthly sales goals by multiplying your daily sales goal by the number of work days your shop will be open in each month. 

Calculating your monthly sales goals using this method will give you a much better idea of your shop’s performance each month than if you were to simply divide the annual goal by 12, and will give you a number that’s more fair to base your advisors’ bonuses on, so I would strongly recommend trying out this approach in your shop.

This tip was provided by Jim Piraino of Elite. Jim is the past owner of one of the top shops in the country, and currently helps shop owners reach their goals through the Elite Coaching Program.
 

Elite Worldwide Inc.

We all know that vehicles are being built better, they are lasting longer, and the competition for auto repair customers is heating up. Accordingly, shop owners are constantly looking for ways to add value to their services in order to separate themselves from their competitors. Some owners attempt to accomplish this objective by providing longer warranties, which is a nice feature to offer. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for the competition to catch on, and before you know it, your competitors are offering warranties that are just as long as yours. Some owners will take a different approach by offering extended hours, some will offer shuttle services, some will wash their customers’ vehicles, and some will work really hard to create ways of improving the customer experience. These are all wonderful benefits, too, but it won’t be long before your competitors catch on, and offer the same benefits that you offer. 

We then have yet another group of shop owners who take a completely different approach, and attempt to attract customers by price. Unfortunately, history has taught us that this approach brings short-lived success, because there will always be a competitor that is willing to provide the same service for less. 

In conclusion, if you attempt to add value to your services, your competitors will inevitably match your offerings, and if you attempt to compete on price, it will inevitably put you out of business. Now before you jump to the conclusion that there is no hope, I would ask that you consider this…  

First of all, whenever someone takes their vehicle into an auto repair shop, you can rest assured that they will be anxious, especially if they are a first-time customer. Interestingly enough, one of their greatest anxieties will be whether or not the technician who will be working on their vehicle is qualified to solve their problem in the most cost-effective and ethical way. So do this…

Ensure that all of your service advisors know that when they are writing up a customer, they have to take a minute or so to sell that customer on the tech who will be performing the service. For example, they may say something like “As a matter of fact, Doris, the technician who will be inspecting your vehicle is Jim Piraino. He’s a factory trained ASE Master Certified technician, he’s been with us for 8 years, and I have to tell you, not only is he very gifted at what he does, but he really does care about people.” Once they hear about the technician, and the tech’s qualifications, a number of things will happen. First of all, their anxious minds will be put at ease, and the probability of them authorizing your subsequent recommendations will dramatically improve. This is a powerful technique that we teach our students in our Masters course, and the results have been remarkable. 

In case you are still not quite sold, imagine if you went to a surgery center, and rather than just being told that the procedure would be performed by a surgeon, you heard something like this: “As a matter of fact, the surgeon who will be performing the operation is Dr. Stoll. He really is amazing! He’s a Harvard graduate, he’s board certified, and he has spoken at a number of conferences over the years.”  I suspect you would feel a lot more comfortable after hearing a message like that, wouldn’t you?   

By the way, if you do what I am asking you to do, then a number of things will occur. Not only will your sales and profits go up, but you will be rising well above your competition by offering your customers something that they’ll never be able to get from your competitors, which is the opportunity to have their vehicles serviced and repaired by the superstars… who work with you.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

All great companies have one thing in common: They realize industries and consumers need change, so they follow their customers. Apple provides a great example. As we all know, when Apple started they were a computer company, but when that industry began to decline, Steve Jobs was able to see that his targeted customers were investing in music. This is why Apple Computers became Apple Inc., is why they reached a point a few years ago where their online music sales exceeded their computer sales, and is why today they are in the mobile device business. In essence, they transformed to meet the needs of their customers. IBM and American Express are other great examples. 

Your business is no different. Over the decades the auto repair business transformed from a “we fix anything” business that rebuilt every component into an industry that installed remanufactured parts. We then transformed from a repair industry into a maintenance-driven industry. If you bring hybrids and electric cars into our discussion, the change becomes even more dramatic. As this progression continues you will be seeing your customers, and repairing their cars, far less often. Interestingly enough, most shop owners are not too concerned because they simply believe that all they will need to do is ratchet up their marketing efforts to bring in more new customers. Unfortunately, there is typically a finite number of potential customers in any marketing community, and your competitors have the same plan in place. So rather than fighting the inevitable changes, or doing business the same old way until your business is out of business, here are my recommendations…

First of all, shop owners typically diversify for one of two reasons: They do it out of desperation, or out of inspiration. The ones that do it out of desperation are the ones that take the leap when they are struggling to pay their bills, and are scrambling to find any way to bring in a few more dollars. The ones that diversify out of inspiration are the ones that see the change in the wind, and take the necessary steps to ensure their continued success.

However, there is no one road that is right for everyone. If you are in a specialty business such as transmissions or suspension, you may want to consider transitioning into general repair. You already have the most important part, which is your customer base. Another option is to consider the exploding world of infotainment. As I am sure you will agree, if you walk into any new car showroom today you will find that just about every new vehicle has a wealth of entertainment features, along with navigational and communication features. So the question is: Who is going to not only be servicing these components, but who is going to be offering upgrades, and handling the installation of the newest state-of-the-art components that the drivers of older vehicles would love to have? Someone is going to do it, so why not you?   

I would like to leave you with a story that has a powerful message. It is argued that at one time Bill Gates said, “If Santa Fe Railroad would have realized that they were in the transportation business, and not the railroad business, today we would have Santa Fe Airlines.” This is a message we should all take to heart, because the one thing that is certain is that our industry is going to go through many more dramatic changes. The first to embrace this reality, and make the necessary changes, will become the industry leaders for decades to come.
 

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

Over the years our industry has seen many changes. For example, beyond the changes in styling and efficiencies, today’s vehicles are better built, they last longer, and they require less frequent servicing than they have in the past. But there is one emerging trend that will have a far greater impact on our industry than all the other changes combined. Consider this… 

Electric cars are not new. As a matter of fact, they date back to the mid-nineteenth century. Yet if you step back and look at what has happened with them over the past 10 years or so, if you consider the societal trend toward clean energy, and if you take a really close look at Tesla Motors, you’ll see that the Tesla is not just an automobile; it’s a glimpse into your future. 

Tesla Motors was started in 2003, and in 2004 Elon Musk was appointed as the Chairman of the Board. Since then not only have prominent individuals and world-class business leaders, such as the co-founders of Google, invested in Tesla Motors, but the global powerhouses of Mercedes Benz and Toyota have invested as well. I find it intriguing that so many say Teslas are too expensive, and that because of limited driving distance due to battery storage capacity, the vehicles will never become mainstream. However, here’s why that presumption is the furthest from the truth… 

With rare exception, every new technology will target the most affluent markets first, because they can afford the new technology, and can provide a fertile testing ground. This is why products like airplanes, computers, mobile phones and advanced medical diagnostic equipment are typically introduced to the wealthy before any other market. Once it’s determined that the product is a good one, it is then scaled to the masses. Tesla is following that same developmental path. 

By now you are probably wondering what this means to you. Simply put; our industry has now seen the beginning of the end of internal combustion engines. They will inevitably go the way of the horse-drawn carriages and steam engines. As we move forward battery life will inevitably continue to be extended, and society will continue to show a far greater interest in vehicles that are less of a pollutant, are quieter, and are more dependable due to fewer moving parts.

There is no question in my mind that if you were to close your eyes and open them ten to twenty years later, you would see far more electric vehicles than you would ever imagine. So the questions you need to be asking yourself are; What are your plans to participate in this emerging market, and what will your business model look like when the industry is all but devoid of internal combustion engines? 

In closing, I am not suggesting that you are in any kind of eminent danger if you don’t move quickly, because that’s not the case. What I am suggesting is this: The future is yours if you have the vision, and if you take the appropriate steps to keep yourself at the leading edge of the service industry. And if you want to see what the future looks like, you don’t have to step into a time machine or find a crystal ball.  All you need to do is find a Tesla showroom, and spend some time there. If you do, you’ll see why beyond being an amazing automobile, Tesla really is an omen… for our entire industry.  

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

In building a successful auto repair business, most shop owners feel that what they need to do sell is more parts and more labor. Although both of those items are a part of your business model, one thing is for certain: your customers don’t look forward to buying either of the two, at any price. Yet thousands of shop owners are having sleepless nights trying to find ways to squeeze more money out of their part and labor sales.

While I was still operating auto repair shops I was intrigued by the fact that while my customers had little, if any, interest in the parts and labor they were buying, they were quite interested in the warranty we provided on our repairs. In essence, what they wanted more than anything else was the peace of mind in knowing they would have good, dependable transportation, and that they wouldn’t have to worry about paying again if the repair were to fail.  It was at that very time I realized that what I needed to sell more than anything else was peace of mind. I then did a tremendous amount of homework on the insurance industry, and it didn’t take me long to realize that they are all in the business of selling risk.

The way they win is by factoring the inevitable losses into their premiums. As an example, for every 1,000 people they provide life insurance to, a certain number will inevitably die during the insured period, but if they choose the right customers, and charge the right amount, they’ll have plenty of money to cover those few predicted deaths. Next I evaluated the probabilities of different types of part failures, and the kind of customers I wanted in my shop.  I quickly discovered I could take the repairs that had the lowest probability of failing within five years, price them out as optional services, and completely change the way I was operating my business.

First of all, most of our failures would typically occur within 30 days, so regardless of whether I offered a longer warranty or not, I would be covering that repair. I also discovered that if the repair failed shortly outside of our standard warranty, we would cover the cost for the purpose of customer satisfaction. With this understanding, it became obvious to me that the only additional risk I would be taking would be for any failures that occurred beyond the term of our standard warranty, yet within the time outlined in our extended warranty. In my case, on our targeted repairs we offered lifetime warranties that were non-transferable. Now here is the best part: I discovered that no matter how much someone loves their automobile at the time of repair, odds are that they ‘ll no longer own the car three years later due to lifestyle changes, tempting car sale ads, etc. So my exposure (risk) was more limited than you’d imagine.

Now let’s talk about profit, and happy customers. Imagine if you were to offer your customer a standard master cylinder for $XXX dollars (with a one year warranty), and at the same time you offered them the option of a premium master cylinder (with a five year warranty) for a small additional amount. If they elect to go with the part that carries the longer warranty, then all those added dollars fall right to the bottom line. When done in the right way, the added profits will dwarf the few additional repairs you will have to perform. If you do the math, not only will you will be amazed at how profitable this can be, but as icing on the cake, the customers that choose to invest in the services that carry the longer warranties will be thrilled with the peace of mind you are providing them with.

If this isn’t all reason enough, consider that Harvard Review reported on a study of what occurs when people are provided with options in a sales environment. They discovered that when test groups were offered one DVD player (Brand A), only 10% would buy. When they added a second player to choose from, 32% purchased brand A, and 34% purchased brand B. The lesson?  People love choices, so offering them the option of a repair with a longer warranty is one that many of your customers will love, and it will put more money on your bottom line at the same time.

Note: Many states view offering different warranties as offering insurance, which requires a license. By offering different parts and services in each of your options, you’ll be good to go.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Jen Monclus

 1. Make sure your advisors schedule car deliveries with first-time customers whenever possible (The point is to try). If an exact time won't work, provide the customer with a window of time. This is considered an 'active delivery', and will allow your advisors to spend a few minutes with each new customer to personally thank them, go over the paper work and sell them on the next visit.

2. Ensure you have backup in place so that your advisors are able to take the time needed for an effective vehicle delivery. This is your last chance to make an impression on your customers, so make sure they don't feel your advisors are too busy for them, or that their business is not valued. Backup must be in place to ensure your advisors have enough time to "wow" each customer.

3. Have your advisors resell the service by telling the customer that they made a really smart decision. Telling the customer that they made a great choice will help reduce buyer's remorse, will reduce their anxiety, and will help your advisors build trust with the customer.

4. Make sure your advisors talk to your customers about the next steps they will need to take. Your advisors should review the service that was authorized and any post service instructions or maintenance brochures, then build value in the customer's next visit by explaining the benefits. Make sure your advisors schedule the next appointment in your calendar while the customer is still onsite.

5. Have your advisors provide each customer with their business card, and thank the customer for their trust. A heartfelt "thank you" and handshake are the finishing touches on a successful vehicle delivery.

This tip was provided by Jen Monclus, one the industry's top sales trainers that heads up Elite's Masters Service Advisor Training Program.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

Many years ago I read an article that featured an interview with Herb Kelleher, the co-founder of Southwest Airlines. In the article he stated that he and his mother (who was a Harvard graduate) would often debate who was more important: He argued that it was the employees of a company, and his mom argued that it was the customers. With all due respect, I would argue; why does it need to be one or the other? From my point of view, this debate is like having two children and being asked which one we love the most, because both your customers and your employees are equally important.  Since it is becoming increasingly difficult to find and hire the superstars, I would like to use this article to help you continue earning the trust of your employees, who at Elite we refer to as our internal customers.

Putting first things first, as business owners we need to recognize that our internal customers are much like our external customers. In your case, your external customers come to you with transportation problems that you solve, and they then pay you with their hard-earned money.  Your internal customers come to you with needs as well. They have needs like being able to save enough money to buy a home, or having the funds available that they’ll need to educate their children. Simply put, you provide them with the right opportunities, and you help them fulfill those needs. In return, they pay you with their work efforts, and their contributions towards your success. 

So the question is; what can you do to keep the stars you have, not just for a few years, but for the length of their working careers? Although there is no formula that will guarantee results, there are a number of things you can do to keep your stars as your stars.  

First and most importantly, never forget this cardinal rule of managing people: We have to keep the hearts of our employees, because once we lose their hearts, their minds will follow. I actually coined this rule long ago, and have lived by it for decades.  Now here is how you can implement it…

With every superstar who works with you, you need to look beyond the employee component of your relationship, and you need to consider them as a person, just like you. This means that you need to truly care about your employees as people, and the things that are important to them need to become important to you. Once they realize that you really do care about them and their families, as well as their goals, they will then care about you, and the goals of your company.  Secondly, you need to be a great listener, you need to pay close attention to their suggestions, and you need to always thank them for their input.

I have also learned that you need to be a shoulder your employees can lean on. By being sympathetic to their personal struggles, you will find that if you have the right people, they will not take your sympathy for granted, but they will go to the ends of the earth for you.  You need to let them know that you recognize their talents and strengths, and you need to give them praise for jobs that are well done. Beyond that, you have to show them the humility that all employees look for. This means you will need to set your pride aside to let them know that they are much more gifted than you in many ways, you’ll need to be able to admit to your mistakes, and you’ll need to be able to give heartfelt apologies at the appropriate times. Lastly, if you plan on keeping their hearts, you will need to constantly share your vision of the future, and paint a clear path to their success in the coming years.

Over the years I have discovered that people don’t leave companies. They never have, and they never will. People leave people, not companies. If you’d like to continue earning the trust and confidence of your employees, then I would encourage you to apply the principles that I have shared with you. If you do, then I will make you a promise: Beyond being a great role model for your employees, the morale of your employees will go up, your shop’s productivity will go up, and any employee turnover problems you have… will disappear.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

A few years ago I had the opportunity to interview over forty people for a panel of customers that I moderated. My intent was to discover what drives their decisions in choosing an auto repair shop, and how they make their purchasing decisions. I spent well over an hour with many of these prospective panelists so walked away with some truly surprising and noteworthy insights, but the most profound discovery was that we as an industry have an expectation of loyalty from our customers, when in reality customers have no sense of loyalty to us.

Now please don’t misunderstand me: I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t work hard to gain the customer’s trust, meet with their expectations, and do what we need to do to turn them into repeat customers. What I am suggesting is that shop owners should never just assume that their customers are loyal, and should instead have the mindset that they need to earn the customer’s trust and business with each and every visit.

 Loyalty, in its truest sense, is something that should be held in the highest regard, and reserved for our patriotism to our country, our commitments to our friends and family, and to the elements of our lives where we have a genuine sense of indebtedness and moral obligation. But our customers? No matter how great our service is or how much we care about them, in reality they owe us nothing, so there should be no sense of moral obligation on their part.

This isn’t a viewpoint that I arrived at on my own, but by listening closely to your customers. Throughout the interview process I discovered that they feel absolutely no responsibility to return to your shop for additional repairs or services, which is why I’m sure many of you have found that your customers will zip into fast lubes for oil services rather than coming back to you.

Now before you let your feelings get hurt, let’s look at another example. Let’s say that you have a local grocery store that you like, and visit on a regular basis. Even though that grocery store offers a wide selection of bread, you may very well go to a local bakery. You may feel that the bread at the bakery is better, that it’s still fresh by the time you get home, or that it just provides a better value in some way. Regardless of why you go to the local bakery, I suspect you wouldn’t feel as if you’re doing something wrong by buying the bread at the bakery instead of the grocery store, right? If that’s the case, do you think the grocery store owner should feel offended by your absence of loyalty, or should view your decision as a practical one? If he does the latter, he has two options: accept the fact that you’ll purchase your bread elsewhere, or learn what he needs to do differently to improve your bread purchasing experience so that you purchase your bakery items while still at his grocery store.

Ladies and gentlemen, your business is no different. While I’m sure you have a few customers who can truly be considered “loyal”, if you develop the mindset that your customers should return to you out of loyalty, rather than looking for every opportunity to improve the customer experience, and truly earn their business with every single visit, then you will only be scratching the surface of your shop’s potential.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite (www.EliteWorldwide.com), a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

When car counts aren’t what they need to be, most shop owners will pump more money into their auto repair marketing efforts. But before you invest one more dime in your marketing campaigns, you should first make sure that you’re doing a good job of converting your current leads into customers. At Elite, we’ve discovered that the number of phone leads lost by most shops is staggering. They’re lost by not having enough staff available to properly handle the calls, by having poorly trained receptionists or service advisors, by having service advisors who are content with either their workload or their income, etc.  Needless to say, putting more money into your marketing is not going to fix these problems.

The solution is simple.  Make sure you have clearly defined car count goals, and hold your advisors accountable for reaching them. You should ensure they keep a simple log that shows why they feel they lost each lead. The log options should include: The caller didn’t have the vehicle, they didn’t have the time to bring the vehicle in, they were price shopping, and they were not the decision maker. At the end of the day, discuss these lost leads with your staff, and decide on the appropriate course of action.

Lastly, don’t overlook the value of having a couple of friends call in as mystery shoppers, and recording their conversations. So before you spend one more dime on marketing, let’s make sure you’re not losing those priceless leads that you already have.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite (www.EliteWorldwide.com), a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers one-on-one coaching from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. 

Elite Worldwide Inc.

There are a number of changes that are occurring in our industry, and there is no question, some of them will have a profound, long-term impact. To name just two, automobiles are being built better, and as we all know, service intervals are constantly being extended by the manufacturers. Although this is all good for consumers, better-built vehicles means they’ll need fewer repairs, and extended service intervals means you’ll be seeing your existing customers less frequently in the coming years. The way most shop owners are dealing with this evolution is by trying to convince all of their customers that they need to bring their vehicles in more frequently than the manufacturer recommends. They tell them that their oil needs to be changed more frequently, and that it’s a good policy to have their vehicles inspected every 3,000-5,000 miles. Although I agree with the reasoning, these shop owners are fighting an uphill battle since one of the many reasons people buy new vehicles is because they really like the idea of extended service intervals. So rather than trying to fight this trend, as your competitors do, I encourage you to understand it, and rather than trying to sell each and every customer on the value of coming in more frequently, I encourage you to take a different approach.

First of all, as in any business, you should explore every opportunity to provide additional services to your customers. They already trust you and your recommendations, so services such as door ding removals, tire installations, glass repair services, cabin air duct cleaning services, and detailing services are good examples of other services you can offer. Not only will services that enhance vehicle appearance or customer comfort put smiles on the faces of your customers, but at the same time these services will increase your ARO, which will help offset the fewer number of times you’ll see your customers throughout the year.

The second thing you will need to do is ensure that your service advisors are very well trained. Any services that are not authorized during a visit will more than likely be lost sales, because it may be six months or longer before you see that particular customer again. By then, your service recommendations will either be forgotten, viewed as unimportant by the customer, or if they experienced a subsequent failure, they may very well have it repaired somewhere else. Worse yet, if it’s a safety item that you discover, and if it’s not repaired during their initial visit, the customer will be at an even greater risk. There is no question that the age-old expression, “We’ll take care of that the next time you’re in” is going to vanish from our industry.

Lastly, with the understanding that you will be seeing the majority of your customers less frequently as time goes on, in order to keep your service bays filled you will need to ensure that you have a well-constructed marketing plan in place that will bring in the right kind of customers. To stay ahead of your competitors you need to invest at least 50% of your advertising budget into non-traditional advertising programs, and you should allocate at least half of your non-traditional advertising budget towards programs that are directed to what I refer to as the “emerging market”; the Y Gens and Millennials . These are the people that were born between 1980 and 2004, and there is no doubt in my mind that they are the future of your business.

In summary, I encourage you to avoid fighting the evolution of automobiles or trying to sell your customers on a service schedule that they have little or no interest in buying. Instead, look for other ways you can help them when you do see them, by providing additional services. If the services you offer are cosmetic in nature, or if they provide added comfort to the customer in any way, all the better. You will need to have talented, well-trained advisors, you’ll need well-constructed programs in place that will keep your name in front of your customers, and there is no doubt,  you’ll need to have a marketing plan in place that will bring in even more… of the right kind of customers.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. To learn more about Elite, visit www.EliteWorldwide.com.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

If you want to generate more repeat business, then there are a number of things you will need to do. You’ll need to deliver an extraordinary value, exceed your customers’ expectations at every touch point, and stay in touch with your customers after the sale. Over the years I have discovered that most service advisors have the right intent, and make their best effort to do all of these things. They want to do a good job, and they know that a part of their job is to help their customers see the value in their services. This is why they work hard at building value in their company and services when speaking with first-time callers. It’s also why they’ll build interest and value in their service recommendations, with the hope that their customers will agree with their recommendations, authorize the services, and then ultimately return.

The top advisors in America not only understand this, but they’ll always put a strong focus on the benefits of their recommended services, rather than on the parts and labor. For example, when discussing the benefits of a brake service, they’ll tell their customers that they’ll have smoother and more responsive pedal operation, quieter braking, faster stopping and the peace of mind that they’ll have good, safe, and dependable transportation.

Yet where almost all advisors fail, is at the point of car delivery. We have discovered that this is where they’ll do a good job of reselling the customer on the services that were performed, and they’ll certainly schedule the customer’s next visit, but what they fail to do is this: They don’t discuss the benefits of the next service.

Here’s an example we can all relate to. You go to the dentist for a toothache, and they discover that you need a crown. The dentist then tells you that you have two options, and explains the benefits of each.  You like what you hear, and you make your choice based on the benefits that were shared with you. Then before you leave, the dentist tells you that you’ll be due for a checkup and cleaning in six months, and they schedule you in. Will you return in six months? Well, you might, especially if the dentist met all of your expectations.

But when that reminder card finally shows up in your mailbox, you may hesitate for one simple reason: None of us enjoy going to the dentist, and the dentist didn’t explain the benefits of the checkup and cleaning during your last visit. If they had told you how this visit could save you money, help prevent other painful problems, and reduce the amount of time you’ll ultimately spend with your dentist, you would more than likely be more willing to return. I can only hope you agree that it’s no different with your business. If you want to see more return business, then do this…

At the time of car delivery, take just a minute or two to explain the benefits of the customer’s next service. For example, rather than just telling your customers that they’ll be due for their next scheduled service in six months, say something like this… “As I mentioned to you earlier, Doris, your next service is going to be a maintenance service, and it’ll be due in six months. Now the good news is, that service is going to help you squeeze every mile out of every gallon of gasoline, it’s going to help you maintain your warranty and protect the value of your vehicle, and it’s going to help you save time and money by preventing costly breakdowns.”

Although I can’t guarantee that your customers are going to return if you do what I am recommending at the time of car delivery, there is one guarantee that I can make you: If you take just a minute to explain the benefits of the next service to your customers, there is a strong probability that they’ll want to come back. On the other hand, if the only reason for them to return is because you sent them a reminder card telling them that they need to come in for nothing more than to spend money with you and to be without their vehicles for a day, then you’ve given them a really good reason to toss the reminder card… and not come in.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. To learn more about Elite, visit www.EliteWorldwide.com.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

There was a time in our industry when shop owners were the only ones who knew the cost of their parts. Additionally, the amount they charged for their repairs and services was typically not public knowledge. If customers wanted to know how much it would cost to perform a specific repair, they had limited options; they would have to either call for an estimate, or visit a repair facility. The service advisor would then page through a catalog, find the price, and then share that price with the customer. As we all know, times have changed, and after decades of confidentiality in pricing, technology has now done more than just change how we diagnose and fix automobiles; it’s actually made pricing transparent. The days of holding your prices close to your chest are not only gone, but if you continue to follow that age-old policy, you’ll more than likely struggle in the coming years.

As we all know, the web has dramatically changed how you operate your business. It’s changed how you market, how you communicate with your customers, how you order parts, and how you diagnose and fix automobiles. Yet the one thing most repair shop owners are reluctant to accept is that unlike in the past, pricing on every conceivable repair and service is now available within moments online. Now we all know that those prices found online can be as incorrect as often as they are correct, but the reality is this: as we move forward, more people are going to be turning to the web, not just for finding the right repair facility, but for a range in pricing as well.  It’s currently happening in every other industry, so there is no reason to believe that it won’t become even more commonplace in our industry as well. Here are the things I am going to encourage you to consider…

First of all, you should accept the fact that an increasing number of your first-time visitors will have either already searched the web for a range in pricing, or they will do so within minutes after you provide them with an estimate. In many cases, they will do their price comparisons with their Smartphones, and they’ll do it while they are still at your facility.

This brings me to the second point that I am going to hope you consider, which I refer to as integrity in pricing. With the ease of access that consumers now have to pricing information, in the coming years the top shops will be competitive in pricing, and they will be proud of the value delivered. Now before I go any further, I am not suggesting that a shop can’t charge more than its competitors do, but if the prices they charge are viewed as out of line with other well run facilities, there is no question: they’ll lose their customers, and their reputation, both at the same time. The proof is in every other industry, because history has shown us that no matter how good the hotel, airline or restaurant may be, if their customers don’t feel that the pricing is comparable to similar service providers, those companies never survive. 

So here are my recommendations for those of you who want to grow more profitable, successful businesses in the coming years. Start doing what your potential customers are already doing, and survey your legitimate competitors. I’m referring to facilities that offer services and benefits that are comparable to yours. Secondly, ensure you are competitive with your prices. This doesn’t mean you can’t charge more, but you have to be comparable, and you have to believe in the value delivered. 

Finally, I am not suggesting that you should quickly provide a price to every price shopper, or that you should provide a price before you have built value in the service. What I am suggesting is that you need to embrace the fact that your customers are no different than you and me. They have access to pricing info 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and they not only expect transparency, but they demand it. There is no question: transparency in pricing is now a mandate, not an option, for every shop owner, worldwide.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers one-on-one coaching from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. To learn more about Elite, visit www.EliteWorldwide.com.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

We all know it’s getting harder and harder to find the superstar techs, but finding those stars is just the beginning. Once found, you need to interview them like a seasoned pro. Here are some interviewing tips that we share with our Elite Coaching clients: 

#1. Impress the applicant with your professionalism.  When you are interviewing a real superstar, they will be interviewing you at the same time, so you need to really wow them. One way is by being well prepared, and ensuring you have a well-thought-out list of questions that you will ask. In compiling your list, ensure you ask questions about their goals, their interests, and what they feel the hallmarks of a good employer are. The more they realize that you are interested in them, their family, their success and their opinions, the more interest they will have in working with you. 

#2. The superstars look for opportunities, not jobs. There is no question that the superstars can easily find jobs. As a matter of fact, with rare exception they already have one, and have little interest in moving from one to another. On the other hand, the superstars are always looking to advance their lives and careers. This is why you need to not only offer them an opportunity, but you will need to spell it out in very clear terms. Let them know that they’ll not only have some wonderful growth and income opportunities, but they will be a part of a vibrant, growing company that will be good for the industry, and community, for years to come. 

#3. Have a key employee participate in your second or third interview. This will allow you to obtain a number of insights from your employee, will send a powerful message to the applicant that you value the opinion of your employees, and will let the applicant know that you want to ensure they are a great fit; not only for the position, but as a part of your entire team. 

#4. At the conclusion of the second or third interview, ask if you can meet with them again, along with any spouse (partner, better-half, etc.) they may have.  By asking to meet the applicant’s spouse you are sending a powerful message that you care about the family members of all of your employees. Not only will this meeting allow you to learn a lot more about the applicant (and their family), but you will have the opportunity to make a positive impact on someone that will have a strong influence on the applicant’s decision. You should also have a package ready to provide them that contains general information on your compensation and incentive program, your Mission Statement, your team and your company’s accomplishments. This way they will have something concrete to review at home, rather than trying to recall what they may remember from your conversations. If you do your job correctly, you can rest assured that on their drive home the spouse will more than likely be selling the applicant on two things:  You, and the opportunity you are offering. 

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers one-on-one coaching from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. To learn more about Elite, visit www.EliteWorldwide.com.

 

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

Anyone who has been selling service for any length of time will agree that there are two kinds of customers. The first is the customer who has a history of making good decisions, not just with auto repair, but with most decisions. And then we have the other kind of customer: the kind of person who more often than not makes the wrong decisions.

Let’s use maintenance service as an example. When you’re dealing with a relatively intelligent person who understands the value of maintenance, all they need is information presented in a way that builds value in the service. You have then done your job, and if they decide not to buy after you’ve addressed their concerns, they may very well have a legitimate reason for postponing the service.

On the other hand, if you have a customer who has a history of making poor decisions, such as constantly putting off maintenance that has led to costly repairs, then it’s time to step up to the plate and help them with the decision. It’s professional, it’s ethical, and it’s treating people the way they should be treated. Here’s an example…

Years ago I had a young customer who had just lost his job. He was the proud father of a newborn, and his vehicle needed major repairs. When he told me he wanted to fix his car as cheaply as possible, I shifted from vehicle repairs to discussing the more important things he needed to consider. Now that he was a new father, the baby’s safety, in regard to vehicles, was dependent on him. He also needed a dependable vehicle so he could find and keep the new job he desperately needed, and since he was strapped for cash, it would be a mistake to put himself in a position where he would be running the risk of having to fix his car twice. You know what? He agreed, and the way I won had nothing to do with money. I won by helping him make a difficult decision that was good for him and for his family. We can never forget, selling is helping people make the right decisions. Not fixing cars.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite (www.EliteWorldwide.com), a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper of Elite

Without question, it is getting harder and harder to find the really great technicians. We just need to bear in mind that they’re out there, and that they’re more than likely relatively happy where they are. So how do you reach these superstars? Well, you may want to consider what your competitors would never dream of doing, and offer a referral reward that gets the attention of everyone in our industry who resides in your community.

Most shop owners will try offering a referral incentive. These shop owners go to a number of their vendors and tell them that if they refer a tech, and that tech ends up being hired, they’ll give them a check for $100 or so. About a month later these shop owners will typically conclude that since they didn’t receive any referrals, incentives like this don’t work. What they often fail to realize is the reason the vendors didn’t send any leads to them is pretty simple; it’s because $100 wasn’t a powerful enough incentive.

I am unsure what the lotteries are like in your particular state, but here in California we have a weekly lottery, and when the pot is around twenty million dollars or so, not many people seem to be interested in buying a lottery ticket. But as soon as that pot reaches one hundred million, people stand in long lines to buy the tickets. What I find comical is that this behavior suggests that twenty million isn’t enough of an incentive, but as soon as the pot reaches the one hundred million mark, well, in their mind’s eye, now we are talking real money! This same phenomena affects your vendors.

So, the secret? Make your vendors an offer that will grab their attention, and put sending referrals to you at the forefront of their minds. I can tell you from first-hand experience that when I was in the auto repair business, I found this approach to be extremely effective. This is why when any Elite client is struggling to find great technicians, we will often encourage them to offer a reward of $4,000 - $5,000, not $100. There is a magic number in every vendor’s mind that will get their attention, and when they realize they can earn enough money to buy that boat they’ve wanted for so long by doing nothing more than sending a really good tech your way, your offer will become very attractive.

Now before I go any further, I suspect I know what some of you may be thinking: With this approach you could spend $4,000 just to meet a tech, or to hire someone who turns out to be the wrong employee. So tell your industry contacts that if they send a tech your way, and if you hire that tech, you will give them a check for $2,000 on the very first day of that tech’s employment. If the tech is still with you at the conclusion of their 90-day probation period, you will then pay them the remaining $2,000. I also suspect that some of you are thinking that $4,000-$5,000 is a lot of money to give up, but when you consider what that superstar will produce for you, within a matter of a few months you will be telling yourself that the incentive was one of the best investments you’ve ever made.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite (www.EliteWorldwide.com), a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

If there is one thing most shop owners have in common, it’s that they have big hearts. They typically start their careers as technicians, and as soon as they have their very own shops, they want to help as many people as they can. To achieve this goal, they network through their family and friends, and do everything in their power to get the word out into their communities. And then the inevitable happens; they wake up one morning, and decide it’s finally time to advertise. With little or no education in this field, they typically use whatever media they find to be available at the time. It could be their local newspaper, direct mail offerings they are familiar with, or something that is currently the buzz in their community, such as Groupon. Unfortunately, in most cases these choices not only turn out to be bad business decisions, but the most costly marketing decisions they ever make. Here’s why…

First of all, although blanket advertising campaigns will typically bring in some new customers, in far too many cases they turn out to be the wrong customers. These are the people that are just looking for the lowest price, can’t afford the recommended services, or have little or no interest in preventative services. Yet the list gets even longer, because these wrong customers also commonly have unrealistic expectations, and will never return because they will always be on the hunt for a lower price. We also know that the wrong customers will typically consume more of your time, will spend substantially less money during each visit, will drive down profitability, and will bring far more stress into the lives of you and your employees. When you consider all the costs in totality, it becomes quite apparent that the cost a shop owner pays for bringing in the wrong customers really is extraordinary. The good news is, there is another path you can take to filling up your service bays.

You can never be everything to everybody, so your first step is to identify who your ideal customers are. These are the people that drive the types of vehicles you would like to service, have the financial wherewithal to pay for the services, and see the value in preventative services. Even if you specialize in a certain make of vehicle, you will still need to identify your ideal customers. You’ll need to conclude their approximate age, their gender, their approximate income, etc., and once completed, you will need to discover where they spend their time. For example, you may find that your ideal customers spend their time at school activities, in houses of worship, or at local sporting events.

Secondly, you will need to build your marketing and advertising strategies around your ideal customers, so you will need determine the media you can use to most effectively reach them. Furthermore, I recommend limiting your advertising campaigns to media that will specifically reach those customers. For example, if you discover that your ideal customer is a 30-45 year-old mom, you would want to use media that is directed toward youth activities and schools, along with other media that would specifically target those ladies.

Finally, you will need to create consistent messaging that resonates with your ideal customers, so that the customer feels you are speaking directly to them. If you are targeting the 30-45 year-old moms in your community, you may want to include pictures of children, and focus your messaging on the importance of safety, since this would resonate with them. Tailoring your advertising messages to your targeted customers will lead to a better response, and a higher return on investment.

By taking this approach, you will not only save a tremendous amount of money by not spending your hard-earned dollars bringing in customers you wish you hadn’t, but you will be working towards what every shop owner longs for; the ideal customer standing on the other side of your service counter. Your sales and profit will go up, and you will be able to develop a brand and reputation that is second to none in your community.

The good news is that it’s never too late, because I am pleased to say that over the years we have helped hundreds of shops through the process. While your competitors are struggling with all the wrong customers, you will be saving a fortune, building a more profitable shop, and having the pleasure of dealing with customers that are an absolute joy.

If you are still not sure whether this marketing strategy will work, you may want to look at Apple and Starbucks. I am sure you will agree that both companies know who their ideal customers are, use the appropriate media to reach them, and their messaging speaks directly to them.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite (www.EliteWorldwide.com), a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers one-on-one coaching from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

You don’t have to be in the auto repair business long before a customer asks you if they can supply their own parts. Although there is no one technique that will work in every case, here’s one approach you may want to consider.

First of all, you’ll need to bear in mind that a customer is making this request because they feel it’s a legitimate one. They are simply trying to save as much money as they can, which is perfectly normal. With rare exception, these customers are unaware that you need to make a profit on your parts to stay in business.

The reasoning for not installing a customer-supplied part is really pretty simple: It’s not in their best interest, because if that part fails, the responsibility will be on them. They’ll not only be responsible for the part that failed, but for all the ensuing labor costs, their loss of time when their vehicle is down for the second repair, etc. So rather than telling them something that makes them feel cheap or uncomfortable, the next time a customer asks if they can supply their own parts, you may want to say something like this…

“Well, Mr. Kost, I appreciate your interest in helping, because it’s very kind of you to offer. Unfortunately, here at Elite Auto we’re unable to install customer-supplied parts, and here’s why: The very moment we install any part on your vehicle we become responsible, not just for that part, but for a lot more. If that part were to fail while it’s under warranty, we’re responsible for removing it, paying a tech to determine why it failed so it doesn’t happen again, buying a replacement part and having it delivered to us, and then installing it. We’re also responsible for any towing that may be required, and for any other parts that would be damaged due to its failure. And when you think about it, Mr. Kost, this is the way it should be, and it’s why we have so many loyal customers that send their friends to us. It’s our job to solve problems, and then stand behind our solutions."

"On the other hand, if we were to install a part that wasn’t one of ours, then we wouldn’t be responsible for it, or anything that may occur if it were to fail. I have to tell you, I’d much rather tell a customer that we’re unable to install a part they’d like to provide, than tell them we just installed their part, it failed, and now it’s their problem, not ours. Now here’s the good news for you: If we do the repair, I can have you back on the road by ___o’clock, and you’ll have the peace of mind in knowing that you have safe, dependable transportation, and the entire repair, including all the parts and labor, will be backed up with our full ____ year _____mile written warranty. All that I need is your go ahead, and I can get Mike started on it right away.”

This technique won’t work with every customer, because there is no one technique that will. The good news is, it will work with the kind of people that you would like to have as your customers.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite (www.EliteWorldwide.com), a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers one-on-one coaching from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

Far too many shop owners hire service advisors who they feel are good at what they do, and then prefer to “get out of their way and let them do their thing.” Unfortunately, that’s a mistake. Now I am not suggesting that you need to micromanage your advisors, or any of your employees. However, over the years I have employed many of the top advisors in America, and through our service advisor training courses I have had the opportunity to meet hundreds of the industry superstars, so I can tell you from first-hand experience that if you want to turn your advisors into superstars, then it’s no different from grooming world class racehorses. They unquestionably need proper care and attention. So here are some tips that you can use as a guide to help you turn your advisors into superstars.

1. Make sure you have the right people on your team. When it comes to service advisors, as with all of your employees, you need to look for attitude, aptitude and ethics. If they are missing any of the three, you and your company are going to struggle. You also need to make sure that they have the natural talent to sell. Please don’t confuse talent with skill, which is a learned behavior. Talent is the natural ability to do things exceptionally well. The talents I look for in service advisors are the natural ability to engage people in a conversation, quick-wittedness, and a natural smile. Provide people who have these talents with the training and guidance they need to develop the necessary skills, and they can take you and your business right to the top.

2. Set clear expectations. Obviously you need to have clearly defined monthly performance goals, but beyond that, you need to break those goals down into weekly and daily sales and car count goals. This way your service advisors will know exactly what they need to accomplish by the end of the day in order to view their performance as a success. As with managing any employee, you also need to have clearly defined minimum levels of acceptable performance in place, with deadlines.

3. For advisors to excel, they need to work in an environment that has clearly defined inspection processes in place. These processes should include vehicle inspection procedures, and the documentation of all discoveries. Your advisors should also be required to accurately estimate all of the discovered services, and fully disclose all discoveries to your customers. Any failure in this regard will cost you in lost automotive repair sales, vehicle failures, and ultimately, in damage to the reputation of your business. This is why clearly defined inspection processes are an absolute must.

4. Make sure that you are providing your advisors with the right tools. They need a robust repair shop management software program, feature-rich warranties that they can use as sales tools, point-of-sale items they can use to get your customers visually involved (such as fluid samples), and third party financing options. They also need techs that can produce, daily goal sheets to track their performance throughout the day, and digital voice recorders so they can critique their own sales presentations. In addition, they need to have quick-reference guides that list the benefits of your most common services. This way, your advisors can review the guide prior to presenting their recommendations to your customers. For example, under the “maintenance” heading you would list: protects the vehicle warranty, prevents costly breakdowns, maximizes fuel economy, maximizes the resale value of the vehicle, etc.

5. Service advisors need to have their performances monitored and measured, and they need consistent feedback. At Elite we recommend that owners (or managers) perform a repair order review with their advisors at least once a week. The purpose of the review should be to analyze the declined sales, and have a dialogue about what could have been done differently to close the sales. As a manager, you should also use this time as an opportunity to reinforce your commitment to ethics and customer satisfaction.

6. As is true of all professionals, advisors need ongoing training. In order to stay at the top of their game, they should be sharpening their skills with a sales course at least once a year.

Most importantly, as a shop owner (or manager) you need to make a point of feeding the hearts of your service advisors. By catching them doing things right and providing them with the appropriate praise and recognition, you will be creating happier advisors who are more determined to help you and your company reach your goals.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite (www.EliteWorldwide.com), a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers one-on-one coaching from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

In today's competitive environment you need to make the most of every opportunity that you have at your disposal to generate more sales. Follow these 5 tips to convert more first-time callers into happy customers.

1. While your competitors are trying to sell their first-time callers on the repair, you need to take a different approach, and sell them on you. If the caller doesn’t believe you’re the right person to help them, then regardless of whether or not they believe the repairs need to be done, they’ll go somewhere else.

How do you sell a first-time caller on you? It’s not that difficult. The first thing you’ll need to do is assure you have the right attitude, because that alone will put a smile on your face, and customers prefer to be engaged with people that enjoy helping people. When you pick up the phone you’ll need to immediately provide your name to begin the rapport building process, you’ll need to ask a lot of questions, you’ll need to be a great listener, and you’ll need to make a point of being courteous at all times. Remember, the reason they’re calling you is because another shop has failed with them in the past. This is why they’re anxious, and it’s why selling the customer on you needs to be your first priority.

2. There’s no doubt about it; people love to buy, but they hate to be sold. One way of providing a first-time caller with options is by giving them a choice in appointment times. When people are offered choices they feel as though they are in control, and that’s when it becomes much easier for them to say “yes”. So rather than asking a caller; “Would you like to bring your vehicle in at 9:00?” you should ask, “Would you like to bring your vehicle in at 9:00, or would 11:00 be better for you?” Whenever possible, you should provide your customers with options when your are giving your service & repair recommendations as well (Service A, or Service B with a premium warranty, for example).

3. Don’t be offended when a caller asks you for a price. Far too many service advisors think that these callers are nothing more than price shoppers, when in the majority of cases, this assumption is far from the truth. The reason most customers will ask for a price is to get the conversation started. Since they don’t know what questions they should be asking, they feel that if they ask for a price, most sales people will start talking. When someone asks you for a price you need to be understanding, compassionate and professional.

4. When you’re providing a price on any repair or service, it’s a cardinal rule that you always need to build interest and value first. For example, if a caller asks how much an oil service will cost, rather than just giving them a price, you should say something like, “Well, an oil service on your Camry, which includes ____,____,____ and ___ is only $____, and I can have that service done for you today. As a matter of fact, I can squeeze you in now, or would 2:00pm be better for you?” Remember; always build interest and value before you give a price.

5. Now here’s one of the best kept secrets that we teach all of our service advisor training students: simply put, you can never put money ahead of people. If you sell from your heart, and if you apply these tips I’ve shared with you, then your sales, your CSI scores and your profits will all go straight up.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite (www.EliteWorldwide.com), a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers one-on-one coaching from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper of Elite

Over the years I have seen hundreds, if not thousands of shop owners do irreparable damage to their businesses. This damage occurs when they are mesmerized by the management trainers or consultants who tell them that they can solve all of their problems by raising their prices. At first they are pleasantly surprised to hear that their services are worth more than they are presently charging, because it plays to their ego. They are also told that they have nothing to worry about, because none of their customers will complain. They then jack up their prices and are pleasantly surprised when they discover, as they were told, that not one of their customers objected to the new pricing.

Over the next few months profits typically swell, and the shop owners smile all the way to the bank. Then, unfortunately, in far more cases than you would imagine, 9 to 12 months later these shop owners find that all of their good customers are gone, and the reason is pretty simple: Rather than complain, their good customers just take their business elsewhere. So before you listen to the pied pipers who tell you that you can solve all of your problems by jacking up your prices, I wanted to share a different strategy with you. It’s one that I used to grow some really great shops, so I know it will work wonders for you, too.

First of all, any price increase should be small and incremental. You will find that small increases will not only be considered acceptable by most of your good customers, but they will allow you to monitor your customer’s acceptance. When you move forward with this approach, you need to monitor your lost sales at the point of sale to ensure there is no appreciable increase.

Secondly, you will need to perform your customer follow-up calls to keep your finger on the pulse of your customers, and to enable you to detect any early signs of price resistance.

Lastly, you need to monitor your percentages of repeat customers and referrals. I have discovered over the years that there is only one true judge of pricing, and it’s our customers, so if a customer continues to return to your shop, and if they continue to recommend their family and friends to you, then it’s safe to say that they are comfortable with your pricing.

How often you revisit your pricing is subjective, too, but I would encourage you to do it at least two times a year. Another benefit of small incremental price increases is that they will allow your advisors to feel comfortable with the new pricing. This is critical to your success as a business owner, because as we all know, if your advisors feel uncomfortable with your pricing, it will be hard for them to put their hearts into every sale as they should.

Lastly, in the coming years you will need to make some decisions regarding the gross profit margins you make in both your part sales and your labor sales. With today’s technology, and your customers’ access to information, customers are going to be quick to compare prices. Given the choice of the two, I would much rather defend a higher labor rate than a high part price, and here’s why: Regardless of how skilled your advisors are, when they are trying to defend why they charged a higher price for that alternator than the price the customer found online, it’s going to be a tough sale, because in the customer’s mind, a part is a part. Yet if your labor rate is the highest in town, that’s something your advisors should be able to easily defend because your technicians aren’t just technicians; your technicians are superstars.

In closing, I would be the last one to say you should or shouldn’t raise your prices, but what I can say is this: If you just listen to the pied pipers, they will scare off your customers and put you out of business. On the other hand, if you implement small and incremental increases, and if you monitor and measure customer acceptance, then you will be on the road to building a more profitable, successful business.


Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite (www.EliteWorldwide.com), a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers one-on-one coaching from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

When it comes to setting your long-term goals, you need to make sure that they all align with your core beliefs and that they are challenging enough to inspire you. As the leader of your company, it’s your job to inspire your entire team, and I’m sure you will agree that you can’t inspire others if you are not inspired yourself.

With the changes in automotive technology, and the explosive growth in onboard vehicle infotainment systems, you can rest assured that vehicles will offer you many opportunities in the coming years.

When setting your short-term goals, don't make the mistake of making them unrealistic, as so many do. In a business environment the purpose of short-term goals should be to bring out the best in people, and inspire them to think differently at the same time. Accordingly, they should be just out of reach but not out of sight. Studies carried out at Harvard University have indicated that short-term goals need to be reached only 50 percent of the time for them to effectively change the way we think, and if they are reached more frequently than 80 percent of the time, they are not challenging enough.

Finally, whenever possible, you should break your annual goals down into quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals. When your technicians and service advisors go to work each day, they should know precisely what needs to be accomplished by the end of the day in order to view their performance as a success.

If you haven’t already done so, now is the time for you to solidify your 2017 goals, and to revisit your long-term goals as well. I realize that many of you may not have taken this step yet, so here's a starter list of 20 categories you may want to consider:

Goal-setting checklist:

1. Long-term growth goals, which may include diversification into other product or service lines, expansion, or additional facilities
2. Long-term real estate goals that may include acquisition or mortgage reduction
3. An annual sales goal that includes the financial growth of your business
4. Monthly and quarterly sales goals that are seasonally adjusted
5. Marketing goals that include the acquisition of both new customers and market share
6. 5-star review goals
7. Average repair order goals that are predicated on complete, ethical vehicle inspections
8. Car count goals that are predicated on your annual sales and annual repair order goals
9. Gross profit goals
10. Productivity and efficiency goals for your technicians
11. Closing-ratio goals for your service advisors
12. Customer satisfaction goals
13. Customer retention goals
14. Personal referral goals
15. Operating expense goals that are predicated on past performance and projected budgets
16. Income goals
17. Debt reduction goals
18. Goals that are relative to any exit plan or succession strategy
19. Career development goals
20. Personal development goals

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite (www.EliteWorldwide.com), a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers one-on-one coaching from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

Looking to improve your service business? Here are 5 practices used by many of the most successful shops in America to dominate their market.

#1. Generating New Customers
The top shops realize that auto repair and service is a community-based business. With that said, I advise shops to invest at least 50% of their advertising budgets into non-traditional marketing campaigns. This includes involvement in charitable events, fundraisers, car care clinics and social media campaigns. They also realize that the Y and Z Generations are emerging markets, so they will typically invest at least 50% of their non-traditional marketing dollars into campaigns that directly target these demographics. Time and time again I’ve seen the implementation of this grass roots marketing strategy help shop owners achieve considerable gains in their market share, even when operating on a limited budget.

#2. The Right Service Advisors and the Right Training
We have found that the top shops embrace our philosophy that when it comes to recruiting, you need to hire for attitude, aptitude, talent and ethics, rather than for product knowledge. They understand that people do business with people, not with companies, so they consciously hire advisors that have remarkable people skills. They’ll also place a heavy emphasis on properly training these advisors upon hiring them, and will have them participate in service advisor sales courses at least once a year. In order to constantly improve their skills, a good percentage of the top service advisors use small digital voice recorders to record their own sales presentations. This way they can self-critique, discover their own weaknesses, and then adjust accordingly.

#3. Bringing in More First-Time Callers
The top advisors recognize that the first and most important step is to sell each first-time caller on their credibility as an advisor; not the shop or service. This is why they prefer to take the incoming calls, rather than having them screened by a receptionist or call center. Secondly, they understand that the overwhelming majority of first-time callers that ask for a price do so in order to start a conversation, not necessarily because they are price shoppers. By having this awareness, these advisors don’t fall prey to prejudging or prequalifying the callers, as most of their competitors do. Lastly, the top advisors in America know that one guaranteed way of driving up car counts, and sales, is by providing their customers with the option to bring their vehicle in now, rather than solely offering a future appointment. This is why shops should staff in a way that allows them to at least perform an inspection for a customer that did not have an appointment. Top advisors realize that if they are able to meet the caller face-to-face, they will have a far greater probability of turning them into a customer for life.

#4. Closing More Service Sales
There are a number of things we encourage shops to do in order to generate good, ethical sales. Yet where the top shops really shine is in their ability to build strong personal relationships with their customers. They do this by consciously engaging their customers when they first come into the shop, asking several fact-finding questions, and selling the benefits of the service rather than parts and labor. These advisors also realize that although people don’t like to be sold, they love to buy, so whenever possible they’ll offer their customers a choice in services. We have found that when advisors are able to offer options, not only does it allow the customer to feel more in control of their purchasing decision, but it leads to substantially higher ARO’s and higher CSI scores. By following these easy-to-implement procedures, many advisors are able to close over 75% of the services and repairs that have been recommended by their technicians, while still maintaining extraordinarily high CSI scores.

#5. Car Delivery
The top shops understand that their customers are going to judge them far more by what happens after the sale than by what happens during the sale, so here is what they will do... First of all, with rare exception, the car delivery process is handled entirely by the advisor. When the customer comes in to pick up their vehicle, the first thing the advisor will do is resell them on the service they chose. This in itself will immediately help quell any buyer’s remorse the customer may have. They will then review the paperwork with the customer, they’ll ask the customer if they have any questions, and they’ll offer the inspection or return of any replaced parts. They will also instruct the customer on how to better care for the service or repair that they just purchased. They will then process the repair order, they’ll use their sales skills to help the customer see the value in scheduling their next appointment while they are still at the service counter, and then they will ask the customer the two questions every customer loves to hear: “Do you have any questions for me?”, and “Is there anything else I can help you with?” These questions not only allow the customer to clear their mind of any lingering questions or concerns they have, but also send a strong message that the advisor genuinely cares about the customer as an individual.

Before the customer leaves, the top advisors will say something along the lines of, “Tom, before you leave, there’s one other thing I’d like to say. I know there are a lot of well-run shops in the neighborhood, so I just wanted to say thanks so much for your trust in us.” When an advisor says this to a customer, three things will inevitably happen... First of all, it will send a message that the advisor is well aware that the customer has choices, and that in itself sends a strong message of appreciation.

Secondly, and on a more personal note, the reason I have spent years encouraging business owners and sales staff to thank people for their trust rather than their business, is because decades ago I discovered that if I were to thank someone for their business, in reality all that I’d be doing is thanking them for the economic exchange. Yet what I find to be priceless isn’t the money a customer is passing on to us. What’s truly priceless, is their trust in us. So by thanking a customer for their trust, what we are really doing is reminding them that they made a decision based on their trust in us, not on price, or on convenience.

And then lastly, and most importantly, a statement such as the one I just shared with you will resonate with the customer, and if it comes from an advisor’s heart, it will resonate beyond just a day or two, but for years to come.

The way all great companies are built is by delivering extraordinary service to each and every customer. It’s a simple principle, and one that without question is followed by the top shops in America.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite (www.EliteWorldwide.com), a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers one-on-one coaching from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses.