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  1. 3 points
    Got your attention? Good! Before I start, let’s get something out of the way. Does technician aptitude or attitude affect the productivity of your shop? Absolutely. But this is the exception, not the rule. If your overall production levels are low, that is the sole responsibility of management. Let’s look at a few reasons for low production levels. The first area I want to address is billing. Many hours of labor go unbilled due to not understanding how to charge. This area is most prevalent with testing and inspecting. If your technicians are handed a work order, with no direction and not a clear process of what to do, or when to stop and ask for labor testing fees, there will be a ton of wasted labor hours, never to be recovered again. Next is training. Service advisor and technical training is a key component to high production levels. But let’s not forget in-house training. All policies and procedures must be reviewed often and refined if needed. Your team must follow a process. With no road map, labor dollars are lost. By the way, if you don’t have procedures in place, you need to make this top priority. Every successful organization has a detailed set of workflow guidelines. Let’s look at shop layout. How organized is your shop? Are shop tools and equipment readily accessible? Or do techs tend to wander around looking for the shop scanner or TPMS reset tool. Are stock items such as wiper blades and oil filters fully stocked and cataloged properly? Do technicians have separate access to technical information? Or are techs waiting to use the same computer station? Again, all these things kill labor production, which kills labor dollars. Next up is scheduling. There should be a structured approach to scheduling where the day is balanced with enough opportunity to make profitable sales. Have a process where vehicle history is reviewed before the customer arrives. Any previous service recommendations or notes is any opportunity to make a sale. But the key ingredient is in preparation. A customer that’s scheduled for an oil change may have forgotten that he or she received a recommendation for tires. Informing the customer at the time of scheduling and preparing for the work ahead of time, greatly improves productivity and overall efficiency. Another problem area is with service advisors and their workload. The service advisor, in many situations, handles the front counter, the phone, scheduling, helps with dispatch, part procurement and sales. All these tasks are critical to the daily operations. However, nothing happens in the shop until a sale is made. You need to look at your service staff. Are estimates getting processed quickly and upsells getting back to the technicians in a timely manner? If not, this is another area where production suffers. Carefully analyze your staff and run the numbers. More estimates processed means more sales and higher profits. Adding a service advisor or an assistant may be the missing link in a shop’s production problem. Knowing your numbers is another key component to attaining high production levels. I will refrain from giving you benchmark numbers, since all businesses models are different. With that said, you need to determine your breakeven and establish your labor goal for the week. Then knowing your labor goal, you need to calculate how many labor hours you need per technician. Then, you need to communicate this number to each technician. Having clear expectations and knowing the goals of one’s position is essential for hitting production goals. With regard to the technician’s responsibility, let’s remember one important fact; the technician has control over his or her efficiency. That’s it. If you dispatch a four-hour ticket to a tech, the ability of the tech to meet or beat that time depends on the technician’s skill, experience and training. There are a lot of other factors that influence production, such as the right pay plan and hiring the right people. But perhaps the most important influence is leadership. The shop owner or manager must study and look at the entire operations of the shop. Productivity goals must be established and then a system of monitoring production must be put into place. This includes sales goals, as well. Service advisors and technicians must get continuous feedback on their progress. Improvements in sales and in production, no matter how small, must be celebrated. The bottom line is this: If you’re not happy with your production level, you need to look at every aspect of your company that influences production. Improvements in key areas put technicians in a position to win. When they win, so do you. This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on March 1st, 2019
  2. 2 points
    Your lead tech is not performing up to expectations. Shop production is slipping and you’re not sure why. You hear through the grapevine that some of your employees are wondering when they will get their next pay raise. After a few agonizing weeks of pouring through reports, you make the decision to give across-the-board pay raises. Almost immediately, you see a boost in production. The shop is more upbeat and all is well. Your decision appears to be correct. Three months later, your shop is once again struggling to meet its sales and production goals—and morale has slipped, too. I have seen this scenario all too often. And, while there are times that we need to give pay raises, if your shop is struggling to meet its sales and production goals, increasing pay to improve business is not the answer. The reality is you have deeper issues. Let’s address employee compensation first. You must pay people a competitive wage with the opportunity to earn more. There should be incentives in place to reward your employees for reaching their personal and team goals. And, there needs to be a process in place where your employees understand how and when they will get a pay raise. However, in terms of long-term company growth, a focus on pay alone will never be the formula for success. In other words, throwing money at a problem is a short-term fix. It’s putting a Ban-Aid on a more serious injury that requires much more care and attention. About 10 years ago, Mercedes-Benz was struggling with its customer experience at many of its dealerships. In response to this, Mercedes decided to increase pay incentives, implement new policies and training programs. No improvements were realized. Mercedes top executives could not understand why customer service was not up to company expectations. After all, this is Mercedes, a car company that represents quality and sophistication. Why were their dealer employees so indifferent? A senior leader at Mercedes recognized the problem and stated, “Pride in the brand was not quite as strong as we thought, the level of engagement with work was not as deep as we thought.” Mercedes finally realized that until the employees at Mercedes genuinely cared more, no amount of money, policies or training would make a difference. Understanding the need to get front-line people more engaged and take pride in their work, Mercedes began to invite its dealer employees to spend 48 hours with the model of their choice. To experience not only the amazing performance and mechanical attributes of the vehicle, but also that they can turn heads as they drive through their neighborhoods or when they drive into the little league parking lot. Mercedes also built its Brand Immersion Center in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in 2014, where hundreds of employees go each year to spend time getting to know how the cars are built, gain a deeper understanding of the brand, the history of Mercedes and experience the legacy of the company. According to Philippa Green, brand immersion trainer for Mercedes-Benz, “The ultimate goal is to engage their hearts and minds around the brand. We’re teaching them about our legacy.” As business owners, we track KPIs, set goals, work on marketing and refine our business plans. We also ensure that we provide our employees with adequate training and a well-equipped environment. These are the essentials of our business. However, we must never overlook the importance of your employees taking pride in their work. And, pride comes from employees knowing who you are, what you stand for, what you do for your community and for the industry. Giving people pay raises can motivate them. But the bounce you get from that is short-lived. Once people have gotten over the excitement of the raise and made the financial adjustments to their lifestyles, the raise is long forgotten. If there are no other intrinsic motivators, then shop morale, production and employee engagement will fall right back to where it was before the raise. Anyone who knows me and has read my articles, knows how much I preach about leadership. The theme of this article also has its roots in effective leadership. You, the leader of your company, have the power to transform the people around you. Focus on the person, not the position. Recognize when your employees do things that are from the heart. Promote your company’s brand, vision and legacy. These are the keys to a long-lasting company. This is what will improve morale, not a pay raise. This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on March 1st, 2020
  3. 2 points
    Our experience with ADAS has been a truly amazing learning journey. Our learning journey is making us wonder what the direction of the industry is with ADAS and more importantly... how service center goals for growth and profit align with maintaining customer satisfaction while performing precise services with a skilled workforce that is in decline. If you're thinking about ADAS... you should read this first. Another acronym being thrown around is ADAS, short for Advanced Driver Assist Systems. I think everyone is stuck staring at those four letters without understanding the liability that those 4 letters represent for the future of the automotive industry, regardless of how much safer they make vehicles on the road. As one of the first facilities in NJ to purchase and utilize the ADAS calibration system from Autel, we have some really unique experience with it and want to pass on some information you should be aware of when considering whether or not you want to jump in. Facility Is Too Small - Size matters, A LOT with ADAS calibrations and if you have less than 2500 sf of space with a booming business... chances are you don't have the room to perform calibrations. Your exact business configuration will help determine this, but you ideally need a location where you can pick up 10 feet of open space all around a vehicle for most calibrations, but some calibrations may require 20 feet or more. Floor Isn't Level - If your floor is uneven, you can't perform ADAS calibrations, period. Can't Program? - If you are not experienced with programming modules or updating vehicle modules, you will not be able to perform a fair amount ADAS calibrations. Can't Diagnose? - If you don't have a team that can efficiently and accurately troubleshoot the vehicles already coming into your shop, ADAS isn't going to be any easier, it's going to be significantly harder. Who Needs OE Information, I have "X"! - Replace X with All Data or Mitchell or even the instructions in your scan tool. What happens when the manufacturer updated the information on the procedures yesterday and they didn't share that information with anyone yet? We've already encountered steps missing from the Autel scan tool... Minimum Insurance Policy Is More Than Enough - We have more than double the minimum and we are worried it's not enough. With lawsuits that settle into the tens of millions of dollars, we're not sure what enough is anymore. Don't Document Your Process? - This is where a lot of people will scoff. Who has the time? Save pictures and files, where am I supposed to do that? Who's gonna pay for this? We've figured this out and more importantly... we get paid for documenting. Do you? Mobile Calibrations? - Besides the fact that you're trying to transport $20,000 of equipment needed for calibrations in a van, this one is so serious... we couldn't give you a 2 sentence paragraph, read below. How are mobile glass services, like Safelite, performing calibrations on the go? We don't know, but we have A LOT of questions surrounding this. A recent calibration of a 2019 Toyota C-HR, after a windshield replacement, has some really interesting requirements. Requirements which we are used to, but we want to know... how is a mobile tech handling this? These are the requirements that must be met prior to starting a calibration: It is our experience that once a windshield has been replaced, the vehicle should not be moved for a period of at least 2 hours (weather dependent) in order to allow the glue to harden properly. So, what's going on? Is the mobile glass tech filling up the vehicle prior to replacing the windshield? How many of you had a windshield replaced and a vehicle calibrated with a fuel tank that was not full? We don't know how many corners are being cut and where they are being cut... but what we do know is that the above requirements have been there in every vehicle we have calibrated at this facility thus far. Lastly, pay particular attention to this requirement in this photo... *Calibration should be performed in a window-less environment with no bright lights or reflective materials. Ensure no other black and white patterns similar to the calibration pattern should be behind the calibration pattern. In a world where reducing liability is at the forefront of most public discussions, there are sure a lot of companies undermining their insurance policy in the field.
  4. 2 points
    Roughly a month ago, two events happened on the same day that reminded me that there are things that are so precious, you cannot put a price on them. Those events also reminded me that some of the things we stress over, really aren’t as important as we think. And in the end, it all comes down to the importance of life itself. I got a call that day from Paul, the person who picks up our scrap metal. He asked if he could speak to me in private. Now, being a seasoned business owner, that’s usually not a good sign. But, this had nothing to do with business. I met Paul in my office a few hours later. He appeared very uncomfortable and upset. After exchanging a few words about business and the weather, he told me that his brother died last year. He was one of three other brothers that died within the past five years. He went on to tell me that none of his brothers had any savings or insurance, so it was up to him to take care of all the burial expenses for all the brothers. As Paul spoke, I could see that he was emotionally drained. Then he said to me, “Joe, I really hate to ask you this. I am tapped out. I cannot support all my financial obligations at this time. Would it be possible to lend me the money to purchase the gravestone for my brother? You can make the check out directly to the gravestone company, not to me.” I have known Paul a long time. He’s one of those hard-working, tough-talking guys that you would never imagine asking for a handout. I didn’t hesitate and wrote out the check and handed it to him. He held back the tears as he shook my hand and told me, “Joe, I will never forget this, and I will pay you back.” About an hour later, the owner of a local tow company walked into my office manager’s office to pick up a check we owed him for last month’s tows. I wasn’t paying much attention until I overheard my office manager say, “Oh, my God, I am sorry, Dave. I didn’t even know you were sick.” Dave is 42 years old, married with kids, and has brain cancer that is not responding to treatment. Dave has a great attitude, but understands the reality of his illness. He’s doing his best while on the treatment, but admitted that, some days, he finds it hard to function. He told us how he started his tow company right out of high school and has worked hard his entire life. As he was leaving, I told him to reach out to us if he needs anything. He told me prayer might help. I told him I would do that. Before the two events that day, I was dealing with a few business problems. And I need to be honest: I was not in the best of moods. After speaking to Paul and Dave, those issues that seemed so daunting before, didn’t seem all that important anymore. I sat back in my chair, looked over at a photo of my grandkids on my desk, and told myself that I need to do a better job at arranging life’s priorities. As shop owners, we get caught up in the day-to-day struggles of running a business—sometimes at a cost to our families, friends and ourselves. We anguish over bad online reviews, disgruntled employees, slow days and declining car counts. We sometimes find it hard to sleep at night, reflecting over and over again in our minds, the problems of the day. And we repeat this cycle over and over, year after year. Let me tell you, no business issue is ever all that serious that it cannot be overcome. But, when life throws you a curveball, as in the case with Paul and Dave, those problems are not so easily overcome. There are many reasons why each of us go into business. For many of us, it’s the passion for the work we do. For others, it’s the burning desire to improve the automotive industry. While I cannot say that we are in perfect alignment in every area of business, I do know one thing with certainty: We all need to stop and reflect from time to time on all the things that have nothing to do with business, but everything to do with life itself. Those are the things that no amount of money can ever buy. Those are the things that are priceless. This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on June 1st, 2019
  5. 1 point
    The year was 1980 - the year I founded my company. And, like many new business owners, I didn’t have a clear understanding of what was needed to grow a successful business. I thought that success would be determined by my technical skills and my willingness to wear the many hats of the typical shop owner. It wasn’t until I began to let go of trying to do everything that I realized that success is not just dependent on what I do, but by the collective work accomplished by the team. I eventually discovered that I was not the center of my universe. After a few years in business, I began the transition from simply owning a job to becoming a businessman. And, while technology has reshaped our industry throughout the years—and will continue to do so—there is one constant that will never change: success in business rests largely on the people you have assembled around you. By the late '80s it was obvious that I was doing way too much. I looked at each role I had my hands on: shop foreman, service advisor, shuttle driver, bookkeeper to lot attendant. And, as long as I’m confessing all this to you, I need to disclose that I was also the shop’s maintenance person; making repairs to the bay doors, the slop sink and equipment. You name it, I did it. I was literally too busy to be successful. In order to lead my company, I had to first clearly define my responsibilities. These are working on the business, recruiting and hiring the best employees, becoming a leader of people and making sure that my business was successful. I also needed to fulfill the obligation I had to my employees. I realized that this required a deep understanding that putting people first is the best strategy for success. This was difficult at first because it requires working on things that have no immediate impact on the business. Unlike working in the trenches and having your hands on everything, working as a businessperson means that you need to spend time building for the future. The things that are most important to your success in business are the things that have a payoff down the road. I also clearly defined the duties I should not be doing and assigned those tasks to others. This is a critical step for any shop owner. Warren Buffett says that in order to be successful in whatever you do, it’s crucial to focus on the things that generates the greatest return and that you can’t do it all, and that means sometimes you have to say, “no.” By the late '90s it became clear that the most valuable role I played in my business was that of coach. All the best marketing plans and the best business strategies mean nothing without a team of great people around you all pushing in the right direction. And that takes a strong leader. Not just a boss, but a leader. Leaders inspire people. Leaders get others to reach down deep inside themselves and perform at their best because they are aligned with the leader’s vision. Leaders inspire others through praise and recognition for the work they do. When people feel their work matters, they have a purpose. People are motivated by the heart, not the wallet. That’s not to say earning a decent wage isn’t important. But a focus on money alone is not a strategy for success. Focus on people first and profit will follow. Spend time with your employees. Get to know them as people, not just the role they have in your company. Find out what their dreams and goals are. And then find a way for others to achieve what they want out of life. People cannot be motivated until they realize that what they do every day helps them to achieve what they want in their personal life. There are other people in our business world that we must never forget. And that’s our customers. If you were to ask me, who is more important, my employees or my customers? I would answer, “They are equally important.” You cannot have a successful business without the right employees and the right customers. One last bit of advice I can give you is to focus on your success, no one else’s. Be very clear about the pathways you take and never forget about the obligation you have to others. Build a company culture of teamwork, quality and integrity. Focus on what’s in the best interest of the customer and the people around you. Put people first, and everything else will fall into place. This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on February 4th, 2020
  6. 1 point
    To refresh, a business meal includes: meals in your area of business WITH a business colleague, or meals by yourself when you travel out of town for business. The key to making sure any deduction holds up in an audit is DOCUMENTATION. For meals specifically, there are five items you need on a receipt: 1. The name of the restaurant 2. The date of the meal 3. The amount you paid 4. Who you met with and their business relationship 5. What business items you discussed The first three items are already on the receipt so you’re covered there. The last two, a best practice is to jot them down on the receipt right when you make a purchase and then snap a picture of that receipt so you have it! Remember, you want to pay as little tax as possible and also have those deductions HOLD UP if you get audited! Please take the proper steps to document your meals guys. To learn more about this and other tax saving strategies please call 1954-324-0803 or book an appointment at https://calendly.com/markjohnsontaxplanner/45min
  7. 1 point
    “Why are we discussing these issues when the people who need it the most are not here? We’re not reinventing the wheel. We get it. But the ones who don’t get it need to be here, too!” Those were the words spoken by one of my service advisors during a recent meeting. We were discussing quality issues and ways to improve overall production, which, we determined, would improve sales and profit. I listened as Tommy (not his real name) continued for a few minutes. I could hear the frustration in his voice, so I let him speak until I felt he expressed all his feelings to the group. I am a firm believer in holding regular meetings. And, while there are times when the group gives me feedback, rarely does anyone voice their opinion with such passion and intensity the way Tommy did that day. Drawing on experience, I thanked him for his openness and honesty. I also asked him if we could continue this discussion in the morning in private. He agreed. The next morning, I paged Tommy and asked him to come to my office. I thanked him again for his openness and asked him to elaborate more on what he said the night before. Tommy hesitated at first, but slowly began to tell me his frustrations. It really boiled down to the level of commitment from a few techs. Tommy spoke in length about what he would like to change in the shop, and again repeated that we’re not reinventing the wheel. His words were clear and on point, “Joe, we all know what to do. We all know our goals. And we all know when we perform to the level we are supposed to. So, I just don’t understand why all of us can meet those expectations.” Tommy’s insight into the work environment and the dynamics of people’s behavior was perhaps deeper than he even realized. When people within an organization feel that some of their coworkers are not pulling their weight, animosity begins to set in. Essentially, your top employees want to make sure that everyone is committed to the company’s success and doing their very best for the greater good of the team. We also need to remember that people look at things from their own perspective. And their perspective becomes their reality. The key thing is to keep the lines of communication open, learn from each other and try to view different situations from the viewpoint of others. After nearly 30 minutes of discussion, it was time to give Tommy my input on how I viewed the situation. I let him know that, while not everyone will be in total agreement with how he views these concerns, he has made a giant step forward at letting me know the issues we have in the shop. I then asked Tommy, “Out of our 16 employees, how many people in your opinion, without giving me any names, do not live up to the expectations of the company?” Tommy thought for a moment and replied, “Well, when I think about it, just a few. Two, maybe three.” Here was my opportunity to bring logic into a very emotional discussion. “So, what you are telling me is that the majority of your coworkers do live up to the company’s expectations and do a quality job?” Tommy replied, “Yes, I didn’t see it that way.” I let Tommy know that I would take his ideas and implement them into my strategy to improve the work environment. He appreciated the fact that I listened to his concerns. Here’s the bottom line. When a person speaks up like Tommy did—listen to them. Don’t shut them down. They are expressing more than their frustrations over a few of their coworkers. They are giving you real-life, from the trenches information. And although it may be from their perspective, their viewpoint can give you valuable information that will help you and your company improve. Even a few people not pulling their weight can be enough to affect morale. And others may be feeling the same way. What you don’t want are “yes” people who merely agree with you because you’re the boss. No matter how uncomfortable it may be, welcome feedback and criticism from your key people. We also need to listen more and speak less. And most of all, we need to understand that the solutions to our problems don’t always have to come from us. Sometimes, an employee’s outburst is just what we need to put things in the right perspective. This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on January 1st, 2020
  8. 1 point
    What’s wrong with my employees? Why don’t they do what I ask of them? It’s the same thing every day. I say one thing, they do another. It seems as if I am the only person who knows what to do around here. Does any of this sound familiar? Have you said these words, or a variation of these words, from time to time? If so, you’re not alone. Getting people to follow policy or a new marketing strategy sometimes feels as if you are trying to move the earth off its axis. People in high levels of authority are well-aware of the need to get things done. Each member of their team plays an integral part in the success or failure of the organization. In your shop, you are the authority: you are the shop owner. You know that the responsibility of attaining success directly rests on your shoulders. This is a weight you carry around with you each day. Eventually, if your efforts don't attain the results you need to run a successful business, you begin to look around to find out what’s causing the problem. And the tendency is to assign blame. All too often, you find that your employees are not all pulling in the same direction. And you determine that this is the cause of your problems. The following may not sit well with you, but if most of your employees are not engaged and not performing up to your expectations, it’s probably not their fault. You need to take a long hard look in the mirror. The fault may lie with management, and that means you. Assigning blame is destructive. It keeps our focus directed in the wrong areas. This is not to say we can never have a bad employee. But, if we focus on seeking blame, we are directing our attention from where our focus should be; and that’s accepting the responsibility to correct what’s happening and make the necessary changes. In order to really get things done and achieve personal success and the personal success of your employees, it takes the cooperation of each team member. Getting people to work as a unified team involves commitment, not compliance. Compliance is demanding people to do something. And they will—but only up to a certain point and only for a certain period of time. What you need from your employees is not compliance; you need commitment. Surveys have shown that the majority of employees in most businesses are not engaged at work and the primary reason is that most employees don’t know the overall goals and vision of the company. And they also don’t know what’s expected of them. Employees are largely left to react to their situations during the day; never really having a clear understanding of how their role contributes to their success and the success of the company. A business team is no different than a sports team. Every member needs to know the objective and goals. Imagine the coach of a football team who does not let the quarterback—or the other players— know what the play is? He simply tells the players to get out on the field and perform. After all, the players are well-trained, highly capable and all professionals. Shouldn’t they know what to do to win? And when they fail to win, the coach ends up blaming the players. Is this a ridiculous analogy? It may be, but this is what happens every day in shops across the country. Your best employees don’t want to fail. They don’t intentionally ignore what you want from them. It’s more likely that they really may not know what you expect from them. Employees need to know exactly what is expected of them and they need to be motivated and inspired to perform their best. However, the only way your employees can perform at their best is for each of them to know what the company goals are. In other words, what is our overall objective and how we, as a team, are going to achieve it. Each employee also needs to know that when the business wins, they do, too. When employees realize that achieving the company goals is also aligned with achieving their personal goals, you have commitment. And commitment equates to success. Communicate the goals of the company often. Communicate what success looks like and how we are going to attain it. Create a workplace where the goals of the individual are aligned with the goals of the company. If things get off track, just look in the mirror. If you want to blame someone, you might want to start with yourself. This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on December 3rd, 2019
  9. 1 point
    A few years back, my service advisor, Tony, was trying to sell a customer a new battery. Let’s call this customer Ed Jones. Here’s how the conversation unfolded; “Mr. Jones, my technician completed our 21-point inspection on your vehicle and everything checks out fine. However, I do want to discuss the battery. Your battery was tested with our Midtronics digital battery diagnostic tool, which is a very accurate piece of equipment. Your battery is rated at 575 cold cranking amps, and your battery tested at 300. Would you like me to replace the battery today?” Ed Jones looked at Tony, and three seconds later said, “Thank you for the information. Let me think about it.” I know Ed very well. The car we were servicing that day was his daughter’s car, who was home from college for the Christmas holiday. Ed’s daughter is in her first year at Plattsburgh University in upstate New York, which is about a five hour drive and near the Canadian border. I could see the frustration on Tony’s face, so I gave him a little advice; “Tony, ask Mr. Jones who drives the car. After he answers you, ask him what the car is used for. Listen to his answers and then use that information to sell safety and peace of mind, not a battery.” Five minutes later, Tony reported back to me excited and amazed; “Joe, great advice! He authorized the battery! I guess you knew he would buy the battery with the right questions?” I replied, “You were trying to sell Ed Jones a battery by pointing out the technical process we use to determine the health of the battery. What you need to do is reach the customer on an emotional level. The questions I recommended you ask made him realize that it’s the welfare of his daughter he was really buying, not a battery.” Now, let’s clarify something. Tony didn’t say anything wrong with his sales presentation. But he got the process backwards. He was leading with logic. If you’re trying to sell something by using logic alone, you are going to struggle. People make buying decisions based on emotions. To make a sale, you need to connect with the part of the brain where emotions reside, and then back it up with logic. Bombarding the customer first with facts and features tends to confuse the brain as it tries to make sense out what you are saying. That can be difficult because the technical information is usually not fully understood by the customer and the confusion usually results in the customer saying, “No.” Let’s review the conversation when Tony asked the right questions; “Mr. Jones, who drives this car?” Ed replied, “My Daughter.” Tony continued, “And what does she use the car for?” Ed replied, “She uses it to go college at Plattsburgh. She’s home for the holidays and goes back to school on Monday.” At that point, Tony realized why I urged him to ask those questions, and continued with, “So, your daughter drives this car back to college, and leaves on Monday. She goes to Plattsburgh, which is near the Canadian border. Mr. Jones, it’s wintertime and that’s a long, lonely drive. Her battery tested weak and may fail without warning. For peace of mind and your daughter’s safety, wouldn’t it be in her best interest to replace the battery before she leaves?” Ed now makes the emotional decision, “Yes.” Here’s the bottom line. First, know your customer. Build rapport during the write up process and find out all the details of why the car was brought in for service. Second, tone down the technical side of what you do. That’s not to say it’s not important. But, before you give the technical facts, reach your client on an emotional level. Ask questions to find out as much as you can about the customer, and then direct the conversation to the reasons why what you are trying to sell will benefit the well-being of the customer and/or the customer’s family. Remember, decisions are easier to make when it has meaning to them or a family member. In Ed’s case, not replacing the battery would have been unsettling to him. Tony’s recommendation to replace the battery is perceived as the right decision because it promotes the safety and well-being of his daughter. Humans are driven by feelings and make emotional decisions, then justify it with logic. Next time you are trying to sell anything to a customer, ask yourself, “Why should the customer buy what I am trying to sell?” The answer may surprise you. This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on November 1st, 2019
  10. 1 point
    By Bob Cooper When it comes to keeping your employees operating at peak performance, I am sure you will agree that training is critical. Accordingly, I felt it would be appropriate for me to provide you with what Elite feels to be the most important considerations when it comes to training your team. First of all, here in the U.S. both physicians and attorneys are required to participate in continued education, and I feel your team members should be required as well. It is for this reason that I would strongly encourage you to have a policy in place that mandates that as a condition of ongoing employment, each year your technicians will need to complete (as an example) at least 40 hours of training, and your advisors will need to complete at least 8 hours of training. In all cases, the training will need to be company approved. Secondly, as we all know, there is no one right answer for who pays for the training, but you may want to consider this. As soon as the employee has completed their training, they have benefited, because they are now more knowledgeable. On the other hand, as the owner of the shop, you will not benefit (economically) until your employee has applied their new-found knowledge, and the application has increased their productivity. I am sure you will agree, these two reasons alone suggest that an employee should invest in their own training. Additionally, when someone has their own dollars invested in any type of training, they will take it much more seriously. Accordingly, you may want to consider having the employee pay a percentage of the cost of the training, and letting them know that if they are still employed with you XX months later, you will then reimburse them for their contribution. If they are cash strapped, you can always do a payroll deduction spread out over 2-3 pay periods. If you find you have to sell your employees on participating in such classes, you will ultimately discover it’s due to one of two reasons. One, they don’t see the value in such courses, and if you discover this to be the case, you may find that they have taken courses in the past that were sub-par, and they lost interest. In such cases you need to sell them on how you select the courses, and/or have them participate in the selection process. On the other hand, if you find you have an employee that has little or no interest, or if they suggest there is nothing left that they can learn, then clearly you have the wrong employee. Whether or not they are paid for their time taking the courses is subject to state laws, and to your discretion. Just bear in mind that the only thing worse than training an employee and having them leave, is not training them, and having them stay. 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 the industry’s #1 peer group of 90 successful shop owners, training and coaching from top shop owners, service advisor training, along with online and in-class sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can contact Elite at [email protected], or by calling 800-204-3548.
  11. 1 point
    “Your labor rate is too high. If you can’t negotiate your labor rate, I will have the car towed from your shop to another shop in your area that will do the work at the labor rate we want to pay.” Those were the words spoken to my service advisor a few weeks ago from a claims agent at an extended warranty company. The name of the company doesn’t matter. What does matter is what would you do when faced with this situation. Here’s another scenario you’re probably familiar with: After diagnosing a failed steering rack, the customer informed us that she had an aftermarket warranty policy. She asked me if I could find out if the steering rack is covered. I said, “Sure, I will be happy to help. But, just to let you know, most of the extended warranty companies I deal with have their own labor and parts pricing policies, which may not be aligned with our pricing. So, whatever they don’t pay, you will be responsible for. Are you OK with this?” My customer said, “Absolutely. I understand. I appreciate anything you can do for me.” I thought the hard part was over. What came next was bizarre. The insurance adjuster I spoke to authorized the repair, told me the labor dollars they will pay and then said, “OK, it looks like I have a used rack in a salvage yard in South Carolina. I can have that rack to you in two days.” I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t in a weird dream. Used steering rack? Salvage yard? Is this guy for real? I quickly shot back and said, “Let me ask you a few questions. First, where does is state in the contract that your company will supply a junk yard part for your insured? And why in the world would I remove an old worn-out steering rack from my customer’s car and put back an old used rack from a junked vehicle? Is that really in the best interest of the customer?” The claims adjuster replied back, “Well, shops do it all the time.” I said, “I don’t think so, and I won’t do it either. Let me tell you how this is going to go. I am replacing the rack with a quality part, and I will make sure that my customer gets the best job possible. So, please give me the authorized amount and I will let the customer know what the balance is that your company will not pay.” He said, “You can’t do that.” I said, “Yes, I can. My customer is already briefed on the situation.” He reluctantly gave me the authorization number along with the dollar amount. I relayed the story to the customer. My customer then called the insurance company and gave them hell. They did end up authorizing additional money for the part I installed. Before we continue, I want to be fair and balanced. There are some extended warranty companies that try to offer their customers a peace-of-mind policy, and do pay a good portion of the repair. However, far too often, it’s a struggle to get an extended insurance company to agree to our labor and part prices. Here’s the deal. If you’re like me, you have spent countless hours understanding the numbers of your business. You’ve also spent a great deal of time and effort to put the right people in place, develop the right pay plans and have created the systems to run an efficient business. You know the balance between being competitive and profitable. When you consider all this, we need to carefully consider how negotiating our prices will affect our bottom line. I understand the reality too. Sometimes, you really need the work. You don’t want to lose the job. And settling for something is better than losing the job. I have been there. But the truth is that negotiating your prices, in the long run, will not only hurt you, but will also hurt our industry across the board. By the way, my service advisor never did negotiate our labor rate. He simply told the agent, “Our labor rate is non-negotiable. Do you have any other questions?” The agent eventually backed down and paid us the job at our labor rate. Be upfront with your customers. Clearly explain to them that their warranty policy may not cover the entire repair and come to an agreement with your customer before you call the warranty company. Lastly, make sure you know what it takes to earn a profit. Profit is needed to pay your expenses, put a little money aside for the future, pay your employees a decent wage and also pay yourself the salary you deserve. When you really analyze the bottom line and what’s really left over, do you really want to negotiate your prices? This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on May 1st, 2019


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