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Everything posted by newport5

  1. So you're going to recommend the oil service while they are in there for the free tire rotation? Why not just convince/educate them on the real-world oil change schedule? And the value of inspections every 7500 miles instead of ??? miles ...
  2. I agree with the right people, but also shop procedures. It's one thing to run a shop when it's slow; the owner or manager can "touch" everything. But when it gets busy and they can't get involved with everything in the shop, that's when procedures pay off. That is, a happier staff and happier customers. If something goes wrong often, create a procedure to lessen the stress.
  3. I don’t think we deliver an expectation, we deliver the experience. The customer has the expectation. I would think their expectations would be: fix their car, at a fair price, a good warranty, with a good explanation of what was done, and kept up to date on the repair and it’s cost. A bonus would be a nice, friendly (maybe fun) interaction with the staff, whether service advisor, owner, manager or receptionist. Too many people “expect” or are afraid of being ripped off, probably more for first time customers. I can’t remember a customer EVER telling me their expectations. I’m not a fan of “exceed expectations.” What is that: coffee, donuts, toys for the kids as mom waits? A ride? A rental car? And then, how do you exceed exceeded expectations the next time??? I’ve even read “shatter expectations,” with no hint as to what that would be. What goes a long way are great 5 Star reviews to put (first time) customers at ease. I answer the phone cheerfully every time. I had a lady customer say: “When you answer the phone, I know everything is in good hands.” A good start on the customer experience.
  4. One more thing. When I started your article, I was hoping you didn’t say, “Do a complete inspection on every car.” And sure enough … It seems vehicle inspections come up every 3 to 6 months in an article somewhere. And I don’t get why. I grew up being a Porsche mechanic (after being a VW mechanic) and every car was given an inspection. If we didn’t, we were in trouble. That was our job: look at the whole car, not just change the oil. We would road test the car first, if safely drivable, to check the acceleration, shocks, alignment, gauges, braking, noises, etc. Once on the rack, with the oil draining, we check out the car from underneath: tie rods, ball joints, brake pad thickness, leaks, etc. It seems so normal to me. Are shops afraid what the customer will say when they tell them they will inspect the car? Then don’t say “inspection.” That sounds like you have a magnifying glass, looking for the tiniest thing to fix and charge more. Instead, something like: “We’ll give your car a once-over.” Or, “We’ll check it out while it’s on the rack.” What some remember though is the customer seeming upset and says, “NO, just change my oil.” After too many of those, the service writer quits checking the cars because he or she hasn’t been taught how to bring that up or make that call with the additional work (a future post). But think back, how many times has a customer asked, after an oil change: “So everything else is ok?” I would like to know why shops don’t check every car. Too many cars to work on to do an inspection and find even more work? And wait for approval. It would put the shop further behind? Uneasy about telling your customer that you are going to do an inspection? Don’t like the call to the customer with the additional work (not taught how?)?
  5. I agree and would like to elaborate on a few things. Re: “Explain what they need now and what to be budgeting for in the near and distant future …” I so agree. May I add that I see it as roughly, 1/3, 1/3, 1/3. Their car comes in for a check engine light and their service is due soon, so do it now – first 1/3. You do an inspection and find several things that need attention - second 1/3. You spot things they need in the future – final 1/3. So … they NEED the first third – very little “selling” (see below for more). The last 1/3 is in the future, so little selling. And the middle 1/3 I say, “Lets come up with a plan.” Again, I’m not selling, I’m explaining and advising. I think the shop owner should be careful expecting a high closing ratio. It would be too easy for the service advisor to write up less in the last 1/3, the future work. Or, “sell” more of the future work. Either way, it’s not taking care of the customer first. “ … always building that personal relationship CONSTANTLY !” Agreed. They trust you now. Heck, I’ve told them what not to do now, the last 1/3. Meaning, I’m not after their money. My aim is to take care of them and their car. I then “explain” the middle third and why they need it. Most times they say yes. “I can guarantee if you build this type of business relationship with your customers in a few visits to your shop they will lay there keys on the counter and say fix it. It happens with every shop I work with and it amazes them.” Again, agree. It’s based on trust, that personal relationship. “I smile and say, it’s just being a people person and we are in the people business.” We are taking care of people, not just cars. “Services advisers should be talking to the customer to become their friend and extract information. Put a comment in the customer info on what he or she likes from your conversation and you will be very happy in the return you will receive.” Agreed. Then, during their next visit, you can ask: How was the camping trip? How was the trip to your son’s/daughter’s future college? How was the big golf tournament?” You are friends talking friend’s stuff. So instead taking time to sell “safety, value and benefits,” you’re talking friend’s stuff and they say yes to the additional work, because they trust their friend. “I have always said a service advisor is NOT a sales person but a problem solver.” Nobody likes to be sold: it’s almost an automatic defense mechanism. “Solve their problems and be friendly.” So simply put
  6. Mathew, Great start to a list of suggestions. Noah, that was generous of him. Body work is way different from mechanical repair. Spray booths are an event to make happen. I've met only one shop owner who was not a former mechanic/technician. Before I knew that, I could tell something was off. I carried that thought to the whole shop, that they were just ok. Elaborate, and a bit more specific.
  7. I believe we all WISH there was a system that worked! My suggestions: Schedule Mondays and Fridays light, for the breakage over the weekend and the need for their cars for the weekend. When making appointment, look into recommendations: such as, pads at __ % or __ mm. Check mileage for spark plug replacement. Get tentative approval for the above when they drop off their car to keep your tech busy. Include extra time for check engine lights for diagnosis and parts replacement time. Try to get some cars for 2 days so you can juggle.
  8. Is your business down 40 or 50% like many on this forum? If so, I have an idea to help a bit now, but especially in the future. And even help the impression of our industry. You probably have more time available to spend with your customers. It’s the perfect time to build or cement a great relationship, to create that illusive trust with your customer, that’s mentioned in just about every trade magazine, but they never tell you how. May I suggest “The How” that I’ve been using for years? This will be handy now and in the future when this is over. Learn more about your customers. Become “friends.” Talk about everything: the lousy situation we’re in, ask about their job, their kids, their past vacation, their future vacations, their weekend jaunts. Exchange good news. Exchange not-so-good news. Listen. Talk about what comes up. I treat our customers like friends, like former high school friends. And these friends know we have to make a profit (EVERYBODY knows that!) For me, it’s a given that we’re going to take care of their car. If they tell me their dad just went into the hospital or nursing home, we’re done talking about their car. I ask, “How’s dad?” But still do your (digital) inspections. And write down everything, even the stuff that can wait six to nine months. This may affect the service writer or shop’s approval percentage, but so what! Your percentage will be lower, but you will do more work on the car this way. (Notice that I didn’t say you would sell more work. I don’t “sell.”) No decision now on the future stuff, it can wait. If their car came in with a problem, this is what will fix it (there’s no selling: this is the solution). I point out the other thing that needs attention now. There will be some explanation, but no selling: it needs it. No decision for the customer, actually. Their car needs it. Next I say, “Here are the things that can wait six to nine months, but I want you to be aware so there are fewer surprises.” No selling, no decisions on their part. Plus, I’m the trustworthy guy who’s telling them they don’t need everything now. “Now let’s come up with a plan for these other things I found about your car.” I’m explaining, not selling. “You can do these now or in two or three months.” NOBODY wants to come back in two or three months so they are leaning in that direction, but no pressure from you. They will probably ask; “What would you do?” I say, “If you hate bringing your car in, do it now.” (this is where you would bring in a little value, benefits and safety) Again, not selling, suggesting; letting them make the decision. Notice that the first two issues didn’t involve them making a dreaded decision: It needs this, doesn’t need that. If your inspection has 5 things, they will do 2 to 4. If the inspection has 8 things, they will do 3 to 5 – with no selling. You are their friend, you are advising. List everything! Now think about that phone call. There is only a little selling value or benefits: maybe some safety. So there’s no pressure on you, no bad news. You are the car detective, reading the cars clues and helping your friend thru this. When you take care of the customer in this fashion, you come from a place of trust, like taking care of a high school friend. You will be happier because that call back won’t be stressful, you will have more work, and they are more likely to refer your trustworthy, easy-to-work-with shop, which means even more work.
  9. How do you think they are after your customer? Getting info from the VIN and contacting them? Highly unethical, almost stealing. I'd be surprised. too easy to verify, which would be bad publicity. A "fee" seems fair, depending on how much. Is it a shop rate, where you can mark it up? Could it be simply added income for them? And what if the diagnosis doesn't fix the problem? I'm presuming their diagnosis software is much better than ours -- read more expensive, Probably prohibitively more expensive than ours, depending on how many brands you work on.
  10. Alex, did the Chat happen last night, the 16th? I tried to get on, or I did it wrong.

    Please let me know how to join the chat, Wednesday or Sunday night.

    1. Alex


      I replied to your comment here. The chat room is always available https://www.autoshopowner.com/chat/

      I just haven't seen much activity lately.

  11. I agree with above: it's not "a sell." (and certainly not an upsell - it either needs it or it doesn't) The service ADVISOR educates the customer about the needed repair or maintenance. If you built up trust, they will say yes - or reschedule. How can they say no? You aren't "selling" anything. They can't say not to the idea of repair, because it needs it (you're the expert). And your advice is coming from a trusted friend, you, the advisor. And everyone knows you have to make a profit -- just like their company. They can say no to doing it now, for several reasons: they don't care enough about maintaining their car, they are cheap, or they really can't afford it now. Oh, the go-to, "I'm selling the car." (That's when I tell them, "OK, don't do that, but do this, this and this, to get more for your car or make it easier to sell.") Re "trusted" advisor, the trade magazines don't tell you how, they just say do it. And the same goes for the "amazing customer service" or the "exceed/shatter expectations." The trade magazine just say do it. Maybe you're supposed to hire the writer and their company to teach you. (And how do you shatter expectations the next time?) Future article coming on the "how."
  12. Briefly, I’m opposed to price matching. Even just the IDEA of pricing matching. That’s not to say that I’ve never done it. But … First, you just taught your customer how to get your price down next time. Second, since you did it this time, you’re somewhat ok with it and you’ll do it next time. Third, think of the time it took to get to the point of comparing “line by line.” The research, phone calls and the actual time going over the “line by line” comparison with explanation. All that to make less money ?? Think of it: your customer takes 15 minutes to a half hour to find and call three shops for quotes and saves $100 with you. That’s $200 to $400 an hour for them. Instead, build up such a relationship with your customers/clients/friends that they trust you are taking care of them (and yourself) at a fair price. If your customer is calling other shops for price comparisons, you are probably “selling” parts and labor. I’m close with Joe, but instead of “selling” Relationships and Trust, I’m Building Relationships and Trust. More later …
  13. This experience taught me a lessen on human nature. As I'm inspecting the paint on a first time customer with a Porsche Turbo, the customer says, "I see you found my 2 nicks." I said I found 4 and pointed them out to him. He was shocked and surprised. Point being: he came in believing he had 2 nicks when he had 4.
  14. I’m not just selling radiators. I’m diagnosing, repairing, inspecting and warranty-ing cars That is, Rock Auto can’t inspect the customer’s car. Nor diagnose their problem. Nor can they replace the part. I’ll bet those same people bitch about $7 for of a beer when hanging with friends. “I can get a whole six pack for that price!” But they don’t think about all they get for that $5 markup. They get the experience of hanging with their friends at a fun place, away from the distractions, worries, and commitments of home (no kids or dogs), with sports on the TV, music, the ability to laugh and joke out loud. No preparation (house cleaning) and no clean up after. Not bad for $5. For our markup, I read we’re supposed to deliver a great “the customer experience,” but most articles leave it at that, with few suggestions. Oh, a comfortable waiting room. If that’s all it took, I’d be calling an interior designer to increase my car count. Or, “exceed expectations,” again with few suggestions. How do you exceed them at the second and third visit? I talk life with my customers, because they know that their car is taken care of: I’m going to fix it, at a fair price for both of us, and check out the rest of their car – like I’ve always done. I ask: “So how are you? And the family? And life?” Which I think is a big part of the “experience.”
  15. I have 2 questions/comments; inspections and waiting customers. First, I don’t understand all the fuss over inspections. I recall an editorial a few years ago about what to do in the slow times: (better) inspections. I remember saying, “No, you do those to EVERY car, EVERY day.” How the heck is that news? That’s our job! I tell brand new customers who come in with a problem, “I’ll give your car a check over while it’s here.” No selling, not pushy. And it’s not thrown at them at the end. When I call them to explain the work needed to fix their car (again, not selling … this is what their car needs), I say, “Here’s what we found when we checked out your car; let’s come up with a plan.” Notice the “let’s” part of that. It’s a team thing. I advise, coach, and gently persuade; they decide. By now they trust me; I tell them what they need now, what can wait a few months and what can wait longer. It’s an easy decision for them. Besides, they usually say yes to the stuff due in a few months – the car is already here. It amazes me that there has to be an article on inspections in the first place, not to mention that it seems to appear every other month in some trade magazine. RE: “Thousands of customers have told us, in waiting areas and at the counters of shops all across the country...” “That they know these inspections are a way for the shop to sell them more services.” That’s because you are bringing up the additional work the old-school way. I recall a customer from around 1980 after we did an oil change on his Porsche. He said: “So everything else on my car is ok?” My first thought: hey jerk, you only wanted an oil change. Then I realized, everyone wants to know about their car, they just don’t care to hear the bad news. But too bad; that’s life. And like a customer told me: “That‘s part of owning a car.” Plus they want to know ahead time so there are no surprises. Personally, I don’t use the word “inspection.” That sounds like you are going over their car with a magnifying glass, trying to find EVERYTHING wrong. Inspection reminds people of a teacher going over a student’s homework/test with a red pen. --------------------- Second, I don’t understand all the effort put into waiting customers. How do you work in the additional work you find from the inspections? Do they stay another 2 or more hours? Reschedule? Maybe that‘s why I hear shops not doing inspections: they can’t be done in a reasonable amount of time, so they have to quote it. Then the customer can take that quote to another shop who will GLADLY do it for less to get a new customer. How do shops get their ARO (average repair order) up if the customer is waiting? Do they wait 4 hours?
  16. newport5


  17. Here is a scene that hasn’t been mentioned yet. A potential customer calls to find out what you charge for a water pump or radiator. They were told it was bad. You convince them to bring it in to confirm. You check it out and charge them. And then quote the job. But, it’s higher that the other quotes they got (or they don’t like you or the shop) so now they’re sort of stuck. Because when they go to another shop, they will get charged again to check it (no shop is going to fix a car on another shop’s diagnosis). You’ve now created an uncomfortable situation, just ripe for a bad online review, because you didn’t quote a simple radiator with the warning that it may need something else. I don’t see these callers as price shoppers. They are researching a new shop to take their broken car to. And probably just want a fair deal at a fair price, not the cheapest and not the most expensive. (disclaimer: we work on German cars Someone or some repair shop told them they need a water pump. So they call 3, 4 or 5 shops and figure they will eliminate the highest and the lowest and pick from what’s in the middle. And probably eliminate the shop that won’t give a price. It seems you want them to arrange to drop off their car, get a ride or Uber, then maybe pick up their car – all because you won’t quote a water pump? Of course you inform them it may not be the water pump or may need something else. I understand the concern, but in no way am I diagnosing the car to need a water pump. I make that totally clear on the phone (then say it again when they come in). If it’s not the water pump, a simple explanation should take care of that I don’t just give a quote, I will sneak in some shop promotion as I’m looking up the quote and building rapport. People buy from who they know, like and trust. If you don’t give them a quote, but simply tell them to bring their car in for an real inspection, they are wondering why. I say give them a quote: others have. Personally, if I call 4 shops and get water pump quotes, and one shop that doesn’t, why would I go there? What if they are the highest? Do I grind them down and be one of “Those Customers?” I have to waste unnecessary time because I didn’t get a simple quote. UNLESS I get a GREAT reason why they are the best shop to go to. Side note: If you quote list on labor and parts, you probably won’t get the job. But what I think is more important, you won’t get the new customer – who has friends and co-workers, who is not a price shopper, who is looking for another shop, for whatever reason. If you don’t want to quote, at least get them in the ballpark by saying you are either in the middle price-wise, a little below or a little above. Check out my article in Shop Owner magazine on the maligned Price Shopper: https://www.shopownermag.com/converting-price-shoppers-using-a-different-approach-can-win-them-over/
  18. Re “say thank you once in a while,” I think you should say it way more than once in a while. The staff is who make it all work. If a tech is ever within earshot of a customer, they should get praised. If the tech fixes a particularly tough problem, have the customer meet the “magical” technician. In a recent article about the Superbowl-bound LA Ram’s, head coach Sean McVay complimented the players with a unique comment to each one, not some general, “He’s a great player.” I suggest you aim for that. The stand-up shop owner takes the blame for the stuff that didn’t go right, but credits the team for the successes – “I” messed up, “we” did great. You MAY be thinking that with all this praise, you will be hit up for raises. That’s your call. But you will have one heck of a ready-to-please, stellar team. Additional morale tips: A team lunch every once in a while. Team donuts at surprise, random days. More: If a car develops a new problem or a part breaks while you are working on it, stay positive. Display, “I got this!” It’s your turn to shine. Your built-up trust with the customer should pull you through.
  19. Let's take it one step further: do the same thing at your shop. When a technician fixes a tough car problem, walk out in to the shop and compliment the guy loud enough for everyone to hear. You will make his/her day. And the crew will know you are comfortable enough with yourself to not have to be the smartest diagnostician in the shop. Side note: I think the worst thing for an owner to say is: "Ya, that's what I thought it was." You just downplayed their 3 or 4 hours worth of work. Resist the urge to say that, even if you guessed that was the problem. Side/side note: I worked for a guy who would shout out the three typical solutions to a certain car problem and when it turned out to be one of those, would gloat around about how smart he was. Again, deflating to your hardworking technician. Now off my soapbox.
  20. One more tip: if your main parts guy takes good care of you, tell his boss how good he or she is. Everybody benefits! The same for the driver. Tell his boss and your parts contact how good he is. My last compliment said how cheerful he is EVERY time and that he takes care of me AND his company.
  21. I neglected to mention my most hated term, upselling. That should be banned from ANY auto repair use – ever! It sounds as if all the shop cares about is a better ARO, not a better repair or better customer relationship You said: “We have a running joke at the shop, roughly 1 out of 3 times we tell a customer to not fix a car... they actually will.” I’ve seen the same thing! I believe it’s because we/you are so darn honest. And you are looking after their budget, while still making a profit for you You said: “But using this approach, we have more of them returning and with positive attitudes about how we handle things here. Which in turn has positive effects when it comes to referrals.” And positive effects for the shop because there is no fear of calling the customer about their additional work, because you are taking care of them, not selling them. And they’re your “friends.” What you said here is beautiful !!! “In short, we don't sell anything. People pay us for a service and we take it seriously. Using our software we educate and inform our customers, using our people skills we teach them how to make better decisions. The combination has lead to a great shop attitude overall, better customer relationships and a reputation that starts to break the mold that society has given this industry for generations.” Re relationships, you are now dealing with friends, not customers. And they know you have to make a profit – they have to make a profit for the company they work for.
  22. What a great series of insightful posts. SO forward looking! Maybe a bit off topic … but … Can you please elaborate on: “by year 7 I started to adapt my selling to advising.” I never liked the idea of “selling” the customer (on value and safety) re a recommended repair or maintenance item. It either needs it or it doesn’t. I take the “advising” one step further. I TELL them what they need – what they need now, what they need in the future and “advise” them on things they could do now or in a month or 2 or more. Nobody likes to be sold. And they don’t want to make more decisions in their lives. If you give them 2 or 3 reasons to encourage them to say yes to 5 items, that’s 10 to 15 things to think about. I believe the trusted service advisor/friend practically makes that decision for them.
  23. Two observations. First: There is a shop near us, in a GREAT location, that often sends us customers with hard-to-diagnose problems. I used to feel arrogant that we were the “go to guys,” but then I started to rethink that. I think they put in a minimal effort and if it leads nowhere, they refer them to us (or sometimes call for advice. I guess they think the advice a fair trade for sending us the (tough) cars.) My best guess re their thinking: why waste time on a potential losing car when the next new customer will be easier, more profitable. Second: Back in the day, I thought the dealer HAD to fix the car – they are the dealer, they made the car! And they had a reputation to maintain. And had access to a national database. But more and more I hear of the dealer not doing heroics to fix a car. Thoughts?
  24. You’ve made me rethink this. I used to think I would take 5 minutes and hope to change their mind to the regular way to repair their car (versus them supplying the part) and get a new customer. As I look back, my success rate is very low. And I’d get a very frugal/cheap customer. Darn. And they probably just call shops until they find one who’ll put on their part. Maybe I’ll aim for 2 minutes next time. 😉 I recall one caller who bought his parts at the Porsche dealer !
  25. This is a touchy and delicate situation. When I get that call asking how much to put on their part, I groan a bit and say, “You know, most shops don’t like putting on customer’s parts. We have to guarantee the part even if we didn’t sell it to you. And the markup on that part is part of the normal profit margin.” Notice I haven’t said no yet. I made it sound like an industry standard, not just me. Then I ask how they know it needs that part. Is it their diagnosis, the car-guy in the neighborhood or another shop? And then the infamous: “Do you want me to just put that part on or fix your car?” (They hate that!). The truly cheap car owners don’t want to hear any more so the call ends soon. But I haven’t been an arrogant jerk and probably won’t get a bad review. If they are still with me, they will ask for a quote. I think you have to quote a price. Here’s why: if they call 5 shops and 3 give a quote, now they have something to work with. Why would they go to a shop where you have no idea how much it will cost? Now we get to the part where you recommend determining the actual problem, where you diagnose it. The delicate part is when you come up with the same diagnosis. How can you charge them for something they think they already knew? You MAY have to eat that to get the job and the new customer – who has car-owner friends. Luckily we don’t get those calls too often.

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