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I've been wrestling with a question about how much technician-recommended maintenance a good service writer should be able to sell.

 

Let's assume a writer who is just an "order taker" (just writes what the customer asks for - no upsell) does $10k a week.

 

Our courtesy check program tells us the approximate value of all "issues" found by techs during their inspections. At our busier shop, it is usually about $95,000 each week. How much of that $95k should you expect a good writer to sell?

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New techs are trained up front in how to perform high quality checks and the results are recorded in the program available at courtesycheckwizard.com. It stores check results and lets your SW recall them any time. It also calculates an approximate value for the issues found in the beta version we are testing. In addition, it give you stats for each tech i.e., number of checks performed and the average value and depth of checks. Techs need to have access to a computer to enter their checks.

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I can't find where I've seen the numbers, but I've read that a good/great service adviser will be able to sell about 30-40% of your recommendations.

 

I've also read a study that said a great service adviser can only sell a maximum of $3k per day or $15k per week (using a national average shop rate of $82) or the equivalent of about 35 times your shop rate.

There just isn't enough time in a day to effectively sell more then that, according to the evidence.

 

Using your numbers, if the base is 10k, then add 30-40% of 95k (28.5k-38k), then good service advisers would be able to sell 38.5k-48k per week, but it would require 2.5-3 good service advisers to do so.

 

PS. How much does that courtesycheckwizard.com program cost? It looks like a nice system, minus the fact that it has to be on a computer/laptop. No tablet/smartphones, which IMO is a biggie...

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Wow, bstewart, I wish we were hitting the kind of numbers you mentioned, but the reality for us is closer to ten percent. I've got a very professional (female) writer in each shop with an assistant doing the grunt work (cores, parts expediting, paperwork, blah, blah). In the past, I have had writers who were higher pressure sales people, but I couldn't stand to be in the same room with them. Our current writers are involved in long-term training for sales technique (ask for the order). Trying to hit a happy medium.

 

The Courtesy Check Wizard is meant to be a no-frills "record the findings and present them to the customer" product. It's currently $295/year. They have no plans to take it to the web or add images, video, etc. You can download it and use it free for a few weeks.

 

We are test driving AutoVitals to see if it's a good fit for us and if their claims about increasing ARO are true.

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Do you use a "show and educate" method of sales, where you use visual aids and have your service adviser act as a teacher? (Fluid comparison trays and cutaway displays are two perfect examples of this)

http://www.customerlink.com/best-auto-repair-sales-technique-show-dont-tell/

http://www.ratchetandwrench.com/RatchetWrench/October-2013/Improving-Shop-Closing-Ratios/

 

http://www.motor.com/article.asp?article_ID=1970

http://www.motor.com/article.asp?article_ID=1657

http://displaysinmotioninc.com/

 

I'm a little surprised that you're using a no-frills software package, every time I read one of your posts I get the impression that you are a "top tier" service shop, so I wouldn't think you'd be using a low-end package like that.

I don't like the no pictures thing either, but that's a great price for maybe a smaller shop with only a couple employees.

Keep us posted on the Auto Vitals thing, it seems like it would be overkill for a lot of even mid sized shops (on features and price), but great for the larger shop that really needs to keep the workflow moving quickly.

For a small to mid sized shop, I like the look of Repair Shop Solutions and Bolt on Technology's software packages. They don't do as much as Auto Vitals I think, but would still be very powerful tools for the price.

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We have a sales coach working with our writers - not automotive sales, just sales techniques. Our SWs are great at presenting maintenance issues the techs find, but they have a hard time closing. For instance, they will say "Mr. Jones, your transmission fluid is discolored and, if ignored could cause some serious problems in the future. Next time you're in we should plan on taking care of that." Easy out for both the writer and customer - no commitment - probably won't ever happen. How about "Why don't we take care of that today so you don't have to worry about any longer?" Sounds simple, but it takes guts. In general sales terms, it's called ASK FOR THE ORDER. The next part is overcoming objections. Customer says they're thinking about selling the car, but we all know they'll be driving that thing three years from now. Our sales coach started with phone skills and we sound a LOT better now.

 

We started using the Courtesy Check Wizard about eight years ago and it's part of our DNA now. We have a close relationship with the developer that allowed us to steer the evolution of the product, but the developer has no plans for incorporating images, which seems to be the main selling point of the new breed of digital vehicle inspection programs. I'm still not convinced that a soccer mom wants to see pictures of her SUV brake pads, but it's not a bad capability to have. My main attraction with the AutoVitals program is the workflow capability that allows the SW to feed work to the techs.

 

As far as being "top tier" there's a lot of competition for that honor, but I would put us among the most improved. I'm fortunate to have a generation under me that is TOTALLY devoted to employing best practices and process orientation to running our shops. We put aside our egos and listen to what our coach tells us and what we learn from our 20 group. When that group gets together, we rank top notch in some aspects of the business and not so hot on others, but we are tackling the issues one by one. Best part is that in spite of the demands we put on our staff for constant improvement, we enjoy working together. Some day I'll tell you about the hard times and dark days we endured to get where we are.

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As for selling a recommendation that needs to be done in the future: Why not actually book the work into your schedule right now? If something needs to be done at their next service, book it in anyways, that way they can't wiggle their way out of it easily.

From what I read, and know about people, men like to know what work that can be put off until the future, while women generally want a safe vehicle now.

With a man, telling him that something could wait until his next service might just sell that job, plus maybe another one on this service that he thought he couldn't afford.

With a woman, it might work the opposite, you might tell her that it could wait until her next service, and she might ask for it to be done now, just so she has a safe vehicle and peace of mind.

 

Like I said, CCW looks to be a great product for the price range, and it's not that hard to snap a photo on your digital camera, smartphone or tablet. While I agree about your soccer mom with brake pads, what about showing that same soccer mom a picture of a seeping shock absorber, a valve cover gasket that's just starting to leak onto her exhaust manifold, or a fluid comparison between her dirty transmission fluid with some nice clean ATF? I'm a firm believer of the "seeing is believing" mantra.

 

I always like to hear a good shop story, seeing as we've all got one and no two are alike. Some have a happier ending then others, and some like mine are just in the opening chapters. I hope you find time to write about your toils. It sounds like you've got a really good thing going.

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

         5 comments
      I recently spoke with a friend of mine who owns a large general repair shop in the Midwest. His father founded the business in 1975. He was telling me that although he’s busy, he’s also very frustrated. When I probed him more about his frustrations, he said that it’s hard to find qualified technicians. My friend employs four technicians and is looking to hire two more. I then asked him, “How long does a technician last working for you.” He looked puzzled and replied, “I never really thought about that, but I can tell that except for one tech, most technicians don’t last working for me longer than a few years.”
      Judging from personal experience as a shop owner and from what I know about the auto repair industry, I can tell you that other than a few exceptions, the turnover rate for technicians in our industry is too high. This makes me think, do we have a technician shortage or a retention problem? Have we done the best we can over the decades to provide great pay plans, benefits packages, great work environments, and the right culture to ensure that the techs we have stay with us?
      Finding and hiring qualified automotive technicians is not a new phenomenon. This problem has been around for as long as I can remember. While we do need to attract people to our industry and provide the necessary training and mentorship, we also need to focus on retention. Having a revolving door and needing to hire techs every few years or so costs your company money. Big money! And that revolving door may be a sign of an even bigger issue: poor leadership, and poor employee management skills.
      Here’s one more thing to consider, for the most part, technicians don’t leave one job to start a new career, they leave one shop as a technician to become a technician at another shop. The reasons why they leave can be debated, but there is one fact that we cannot deny, people don’t quit the company they work for, they usually leave because of the boss or manager they work for.
      Put yourselves in the shoes of your employees. Do you have a workplace that communicates, “We appreciate you and want you to stay!”
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