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

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Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

As we all know, the use of illegal drugs has been around for many years. From the early part of the last century, all the way through the mid-seventies, the only illegal drug that was worthy of discussion among shop owners was marijuana. During those times, even cases of marijuana use were few and far between. It was during the early eighties when our nation (and our industry) began to see a number of other drugs emerge, which resulted in many shop owners deciding to implement drug-free workplace programs. I am proud to say that I was one of them, and our objective was quite simple: To protect our employees, and our customers, from the accidents that can be caused by the use of illegal drugs. Interestingly enough, all the top attorneys in America pretty much agreed that drug-free workplace programs would be a gray area, in that we had to protect the employee’s right to privacy, but also had to protect our staff and customers. This meant that we needed to be very careful about how we administered the plan. From that point on questions continued to arise regarding how and when to test, and what we were able to do if someone did test positive.

Now here we are just a few decades later, and not only are there many more types of illegal drugs on the streets, but as you well know, in some states marijuana is legal. Add to that, many users are now abusing prescription drugs with the help of questionable doctors, and the use of illegal drugs is more socially acceptable than ever before. So the question is, what are you going to do in these changing times to effectively safeguard your employees and your customers? And what about your business?  As I am sure you’re aware, an employee’s drug use can lead to injuries and losses that will drive up your insurance rates, it can lead to absenteeism, poor performance, and even theft. If you’re unsure of what to do, then you’re reading the right article.

Let’s start with some basic understandings. First of all, we need to recognize drug use as an illness long before we consider any laws that may be broken, or damage caused to our businesses. By taking this approach, I feel we can not only better understand those that use recreational drugs (both legal and illegal, as well as alcohol), but we can better understand how to deal with those that use drugs.

Secondly, we need to understand that by hiring someone that uses illegal drugs, not only are we running the risks that are associated with employees that use illegal drugs, but we are also knowingly hiring someone with an illness, and that is knowingly breaking the law. This is one of the many reasons you should consider pre-employment testing.

I also realize that laws will vary from state to state, and many states now view drug dependency (including alcohol) as an illness. This means that by employing a drug user, you may not only find yourself involved in a situation where you are unable to terminate the employee, but in some cases you may be responsible (in part) for their rehabilitation.

As a shop owner you need to conclude what type of people you are looking to hire, and the kind of culture you are looking to create in your shop. I sense you would agree that abstinence from non-prescription drugs is not only a testimony to someone’s self-discipline, but it is a reflection of their values as well.

Lastly, I would recommend speaking with an employment law attorney regarding the discrimination considerations when it comes to applicants that use legal, recreational drugs such as alcohol, and in some states, marijuana. You should also discuss a pre-employment drug testing program with them, as well as an ongoing drug-free workplace program that you can implement. 

In closing, by implementing a drug-free workplace program in your shop you will not only be better safeguarding your employees and customers, but you will be sending a very powerful message to your community that you are principle-centered, and that you really do care about people.  Drug use may very well become more common than less common, so I would encourage you to do what your competitors aren’t doing, and take the next steps to solidify your shop’s drug-free culture.

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.


 

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Elite Worldwide Inc.

BY Bob Cooper

Far too many shop owners don’t measure Customer Satisfaction in their auto repair shops. It’s not that they’re not interested in the results, it’s just that they’re not exactly sure how to do it. Unfortunately, the price they pay for not measuring their customer satisfaction is often staggering. To complicate things even further, the Gallup Association released a report which stated that most of the ways used to measure CSI are beyond bad; they’re actually worthless.

As a business owner, I am sure you will agree that your CSI (Customer Satisfaction Index) goal needs to be 100%.  You also need to establish a Minimum Level of Acceptable Performance with your team that is set no lower than 95% (With the understanding that your employees can “begin” to earn CSI rewards on an incremental scale once they pass the threshold of 97%). Now here’s where most shop owners get into trouble: they’re not sure what counts as a point against the CSI score. Now I realize that there are many different ways to measure customer satisfaction, and many of our clients have some relatively well-designed systems in place. But if you’re just looking for a simple, easy-to-use method, here it is…
 
At Elite we recommend that you classify any comeback or customer complaint as a “failure”, and you should count that failure against the car counts for the measured period. For example, if you process 100 vehicles, you should not incur over five complaints, including any comebacks due to mechanical problems that were not properly solved during the initial visit, misdiagnosed, or simply overlooked.  If the vehicle was repaired six months ago, and it fails today, it still needs to be considered as a failure for the current period, even though your existing employees may not have had any control at the time the service was originally provided to the customer. The rationale is two-fold. One, the failure will be offset by any poor work done today that may not fail for months to come. The second reason we need to consider it a failure is because your income statement is blind to what, where and when. All that we do know is that the comeback is a failure “today”. Part failures also need to be counted against the CSI score. Not only is your financial statement blind to part failures, but your overall CSI score should take a reasonable percentage of part failures into consideration.

So warranty claims, mechanical failures that include part failures, customer neglect (i.e. we failed to educate them on their responsibility), etc., are easy to classify as failures with this type of CSI scoring. It becomes more subjective when you are placing your customer follow-up calls. I would highly recommend that you ask every customer, “How did we do?” If their response is positive, and they have nothing to say in the form of criticism, then it’s reasonably safe for us to say that the customer is a happy customer. Otherwise, it’s a failure.

So, what we need to strive for are fewer comebacks, zero complaints (customer returns with dirty carpet, upset that vehicle wasn’t done on time, felt your prices were too high, etc.), and follow-up calls that end with your customers saying they were pleased. Although you may have to massage the percentages and the criteria a bit, this method is a great starting point for you and your company, and is fair to both you and your employees.

You should also ensure that all of your employees know that if there are any comebacks, or complaints that are knowingly not reported, then there will be a substantial penalty toward any reward they may be entitled to. If any employee is guilty of not reporting a complaint or comeback a second time, they go on report. A third failure to report should be considered grounds for immediate dismissal. You need to make sure all your people understand that openness and honesty in reporting are critical to improvement. Also let them know that their income, along with the success of your company, will always be predicated on continual improvement.

Lastly, I would like to leave you with a couple of thoughts.  Far too many companies complicate their methods of monitoring and measuring customer satisfaction. They typically follow up with their customers, and they ask a series of predetermined questions. Rather than asking customers questions that are based on our interests, we should let the customers share their thoughts in any way they would like, and they should be able to address any part of their customer experience.

Many shops feel that anything less than 100% is completely unacceptable, and I have to politely disagree. Here’s why. First of all, the system I just outlined allows for a 4% failure that takes part failures into consideration. Until we have perfect parts and perfect people, we will always see at least some failures. In addition, we know that no matter how hard we try, there will always be some customers who we just can’t satisfy. No one said it better than Bob Lutz, the past Vice President of GM’s European Division and the past Co-Chairman of Chrysler, who once said, “It is our goal to satisfy 100% of the satisfiable customers.” Please note that he said, “satisfiable.” As your next step, take this plan, put it into place, and you will be on the road to building a more profitable, successful business, while generating happier customers at the same time. On that, you have my promise. 

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

If you want to increase your shop's sales and customer satisfaction, these 5 service writer training tips are the most important for you to consider...

#1. In order for people to buy from your service writers, three things need to occur: they need to like your service writers, trust them, and view them as credible experts. Accordingly, the first thing your service writers need to sell to your customers on is themselves. Not your shop, or any repair. The best way to accomplish this goal is by training your service writers to smile, greet the customer with a salutation, provide the customer with their name, then ask a question that invites a response.

#2. Remember, your service writer's tonality is critical to your success. A study performed at UCLA (University of California Los Angeles), concluded that when it comes to what influences people during a sale, 55% is what the customer sees, 38% is the tonality of the salesperson, and the words used by the salesperson account for only 7% of the sale. Since your customers calling in can't see your service writers, tonality becomes even more important with callers. Regardless of whether the customer is walking in or calling in, your service writers need to slow down, smile, and speak with genuine interest and compassion.

#3. Your service writers should always take notes, then repeat back the information the customer provides them with. This not only helps your service writers start a relationship with your customer, but it shows the customer that your service writer listening to them, it keeps them engaged, and it causes them to actively listen, rather than formulating more questions. This is one of the best-kept secrets to controlling the conversation with customers.

#4. As soon as comfortably possible, your service writers need to get on a first-name basis with the customer. By doing so, they will be taking the relationship from one between customer and service writer to one between Bob (service writer) and Mike (customer). It can be trickier to obtain the customer's name if they are calling in, but your service writers should still typically be able to get on a first-name basis after the first two exchanges. An easy way to do so is by providing their name first: “By the way, my name is Bob. May I ask who I am speaking with?"

#5. Your service writer training should emphasize that your team needs to let go of the age-old belief that your customers, and especially callers, are only interested in price. The reason most people ask for a price is because they don't know the questions they should be asking (how long the shop has been in business, whether or not you employ certified technicians, if you are approved by AAA, etc.). Accordingly, most customers calling in ask for a price to get the conversation started, and customers in your shop stay focused on price because they don't know where else their focus should be.

Apply these 5 tips to your service writer training, and watch your sales and customer satisfaction soar!

For help creating more confident and consistent advisors that generate higher sales and happier customers, learn more about Elite’s industry acclaimed Masters Service Advisor Training Program.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

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.

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

1.  When first-time customers approach your facility they’ll typically be anxious, so anything you can do to reduce their anxiety will help them be more receptive to your recommendations. On your entry doors, or in a prominent location they’ll easily see, you should have clear indications of your professional affiliations, and any financing options you offer. 

2. Inside the customer waiting area, rather than having cluttered walls and giving your customers sensory overload, you will be far better served by having your Mission Statement prominently displayed. This will give your customers good insight regarding the type of people they will be working with. For decades we here at Elite have argued that people do business with people, not with businesses, so anything you can do to humanize your company will help put your customers at ease.

In addition to posting your Mission Statement, another great way of humanizing your business is by creating a 10x12 plaque for each of your employees, and putting a photo of the employee in the upper left corner. To the right of the photo, you can list their credentials, certifications, awards, etc. Across the bottom, you can include a brief bio of the employee that addresses their personal life (“Jim is a native of San Diego, has a wonderful wife, three children, and two Golden Retrievers. On the weekends Jim loves to go biking, and camping with his family”). You’ll find that not only will these plaques help your employees feel appreciated, but your service advisors can use them as sales tools when they are telling a customer who will be servicing their vehicle.

3. At Elite we have always preferred service kiosks (stations) rather than counters. Not only do counters and desks serve as barriers between your advisors and their customers, but your advisors need to come from behind the counter to greet the customer. Kiosks also allow your advisors to stand next to their customers when looking at the computer screen. Again, putting your customers further at ease.

4. The clocks, newspapers and current event magazines need to go. The clocks will have your customers timing you and your techs, and the newspapers and current event magazines are filled with both negative news and the ads of your competitors. Instead, you should have magazines that address sports, hobbies, home & gardens and entertainment. You should also have point of sale literature that explains the value of vehicle maintenance, other services you offer, etc. Lastly, you need to have magazines and books for your small “future” customers, as well as self-contained toys that can keep those kids occupied when mom and dad are busy with you. Wi-Fi? Cellular phones are quickly replacing the need for Wi-Fi, but if your core customer base has a strong need for it, you should consider making it available.

5. You need to have fresh coffee available all day long, along with bottles of cold water and soda.  When I still had shops we would offer our customers a cold drink, and it would always be on us. It’s your call, but I feel it’s a small price to pay for the relationship that you can and will develop. 

6. In addition to having signs on the outside of your building, you need to have prominent signs in your waiting area that reflect your professional affiliations, state that you accept all major credit cards, and communicate that you provide financing options, if applicable. I have learned over the years that when customers are under stress, they can easily forget that credit card that they have tucked away for emergencies. You’ll be surprised when you see the relief on their faces after seeing the signs. 

7. Your customers do not have an expectation that the furniture in your waiting area will be top of the line, but they do have an expectation that it will be well maintained and clean. Over the years customer panels have told us that if shop owners don’t care enough about their own furniture to keep it clean and presentable, then why would they care about their customers’ automobiles? Lost sales are guaranteed.

8. Lastly, your waiting room needs to have smiling, well-groomed employees that greet your customers as soon as they arrive.  No matter how clean and well-appointed your waiting area is, it’s the people who work with you that will have the greatest impact on your customers’ decisions, guaranteed. 

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.

For an industry that was once dominated by males, I am pleased to have watched us evolve to a point where today we have female technicians, service advisors, managers and shop owners that are superstars in every regard. Without question, there are many powerful ladies throughout our industry that are role models for all of us. When I think of all those amazing women and the impact they have had on our industry, I can’t help but also think of a gal that’s not only changing our entire industry at the speed of light, but that has the power to take you and your shop to the top, as well put you out of business. At Elite we have a name for this amazing lady: We call her Mother Google.

As you well know, the people in your community no longer have their auto repair choices limited to a few printed pages in a worn out directory. With just a click of a mouse, Mother Google, who’s on call 24/7, will now provide that potential customer with information on dozens of auto repair facilities. The only limits in place are self-imposed by the consumer: ­­How many pages of results they’re willing to search through, and how far they are willing to travel. So in essence, the consumer’s options are endless.

Mother Google will also help that potential customer decide which shops they should call by scouring each website for relevant information, and then presenting the sites that she feels to be the best choices on the first page of her search results. Even though you could argue her job would then be done, she doesn’t stop there, as she will look at every word on those sites, and she will rank her search results in an order that she feels best serves the consumer. In essence, she’ll tell your potential customer, “This shop is more likely to be able to fulfill your needs than the one I’m showing you below it.” So if you’re not one of Mother Google’s top recommendations for your targeted keywords, you need to talk with a search engine optimization (SEO) expert about how you can move your website up in her rankings.

Please keep in mind that it can be very difficult to evaluate the capabilities of one SEO expert versus the next, so I’d encourage you to ask other business owners you know if they can recommend an SEO expert that has delivered results. In today’s day and age there are many ways you can get your phone to ring, yet as I am sure you will agree, Mother Google will play an incredibly important, if not leading role.

Beyond search results, through Google+ reviews she is now providing a platform that enables people in your community to share their experiences and overall opinions about your shop. The day is rapidly approaching when there will be no secrets due to her diligence and the insights to your customer experience that she makes accessible to the world. So while providing an amazing customer experience has always been critical to a shop’s success, it’s never been more important to ensure you offer a customer experience that’s second to none.

And what about pricing? Not too many years ago it was a task for customers to look for price comparisons, but today she has reinvented that entire process. Not only are there companies like RepairPal that provide community-based price comparisons, but Mother Google will find prices and availability for your customers instantaneously. You can rest assured that when you call a customer with a service recommendation, and they tell you they’ll call you right back, in most cases they’re reaching out to their friend Mother Google for more information they can use to make their decision.

Does Mother Google have weaknesses? Of course. For example, she typically provides more confusion and misdiagnosis than accurate results when it comes to providing diagnostic information. But when you judge her by her strengths, and you consider that she is available to each and every consumer at a moment’s notice, you will then see that she is not only the best friend of today’s consumer, but like many women today she is revolutionizing our entire industry, and she is absolutely critical to the success of your shop in the coming years.

In closing, I hope you consider that people in your community now have far more choices than ever before, pricing transparency is becoming more the rule than the exception, and you have to be at the top of your game if you want Mother Google to recommend you. There’s a good chance those that fail to appreciate her power, that don’t offer an amazing experience for their customers to share and that are unable to get onto page one of her recommendations will ultimately find themselves in front of a bankruptcy judge. But if you stay sharp, and never put money ahead of people, Mother Google will help you take your shop to the top.

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.

One of the most common questions we hear from shop owners is regarding how often they should perform employee reviews. I would like to use this article to not only answer that question, but to provide you with a guide that will enable you to perform reviews that will keep your employees happy and productive.

Putting first things first, let’s start with new hires. With every new employee, during their orientation you should clearly outline the company goals, their personal goals, the goals of the position, the minimum levels of acceptable performance and the relative deadlines. You will also need to let the employee know how you will monitor and measure their productivity, and how you will be reviewing their performance as well as their compliance with company policies.  With every new employee the most critical period will be the first 90 days; it is during this probationary period when you should be evaluating and making your decision regarding whether they are the right fit for your company. This is why we at Elite feel it is critical to review your employees most frequently within the first 90 days.

With all new hires, during the first week I strongly encourage you to perform a short 15-minute review at the end of each day. This end-of-the-day review should include a quick discussion about what they have accomplished and learned during the day, you should ask if they have any questions, and you should provide them with an overview of your expectations for the following day. Once the first week has come to an end, you should plan on performing weekly reviews of the employee at the end of each week for the following three weeks. At the end of the first month, you should tell the new hire that you will be performing reviews at the end of each month for the first 90 days. And lastly, at the conclusion of the first 90 days (probationary period), we recommend that you schedule the reviews to occur every 6 months. 

The secrets to performing great reviews? There are actually a number of them. First of all, you need to monitor and measure everything so you can go into each review well prepared, and in a position where you can speak with certainty rather than just communicating your general feelings about the employee’s performance. Secondly, you should advise all employees of their upcoming reviews one week prior to the review date, and you should provide them with a document that outlines what will be addressed during the review. At a minimum, that document should include their specific job goals, the minimum levels of acceptable performance, and all the relative deadlines. Ideally it will also include their documented productivity and historical performance, points of compliance with your company policies and with their specific job description, their personal goals, and their advancement when it comes to their skill set. Lastly, you should have a list of any specific accomplishments that you can recognize and praise, along with your notes from the employee’s last review, which should include points of agreement and action items.

In all cases the reviews should be casual, and you need to ensure that you will be uninterrupted. At Elite we employ our 50/25/25 review strategy, which means that the first half of the review is dedicated to reviewing the employee, 25% of the time is dedicated to the employee reviewing our company, and the remaining 25% of the time is dedicated to the employee reviewing whomever is conducting the review. During your reviews you should always draw information out of the employee by asking them how they feel they are performing in each category, and as appropriate, you should ask them how they feel they can best improve. At the conclusion of the review you should go over your understandings and action items with the employee, and then follow up by providing them with a written copy of your agreed upon understandings, your expectations, the relative action items and the deadlines. 

Does this method take time? It does, but you can rest assured that it doesn’t take nearly the amount of time it takes to deal with employee issues that stem from lack of communication, or to look for new employees when you lose those priceless stars… 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 Bob Cooper

If you speak with most shop owners they’ll tell you that they think their shop is worth x amount of money. Ask them how they came up with that number, and they’ll tell you it’s based on what they heard another shop sold for, or it’s predicated on their annual sales. But if you really want to know what your shop is worth, first of all, forget everything you’ve heard about “goodwill” and the fact that you have thousands of names in your database. That’s icing on the cake, but it’s not something a buyer can take to the bank. And although there is some value associated with some franchise names, there are two things that are most important to a buyer: the “tangible assets” and the “income history.”

Tangible assets are things like real estate, cash in the bank, secured receivables, inventory and equipment. To put it another way, these are the assets that buyers could turn into cash if they had to. When you’re establishing the value of your inventory and equipment, bear in mind that the actual appraised value may very well be far less than what you originally paid. So tangible assets are always number one.

In regard to “income history”, we all know that past performance is no guarantee of future performance, yet the substantiated income history of a company is what buyers can use to forecast earnings. And don’t forget: The amount of money the “company” made does not include any income you’ve drawn out of the company as a salary. The company’s income is the amount remaining after all expenses, including your salary, have been considered.

So imagine you’re looking to buy a shop, and let’s say the tangible assets are worth $400,000. In addition, let’s say the shop has a history of generating $100,000 in annual income after all expenses, and let’s say the owner has been drawing a salary of $80,000. So if you were to buy that shop, how much would you be willing to invest? Well, only you can answer that question, but I hope you take these 6 points into consideration:

1. If you were to liquidate after you purchased, how much could you sell the assets for? I call this the “street value” of assets.

2. How long has the company been in business, how long have the key employees been with the business, and what’s the probability that these key employees will stay on once you buy?

3. What is the probability of the company continuing to earn the same $100,000 in annual profits, and for how long?

4. In regard to the $80,000 salary the owner was taking, would you be willing to do what he or she does for the company for the same amount? Or will you be able to hire someone to do that job for the same or less?

5. If you were to invest the same amount of money in any other business or investment vehicle, would you receive a better return?

6. What are the terms of the purchase price? You may be better off to pay a higher price in return for a lower down payment, good financing rates and a non-compete.

So, how do you establish the value of your business? Not by the icing (goodwill and number of names in your database), but by looking at it through the eyes of both a banker and a buyer.

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

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.



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