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Elite Worldwide Inc.

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About Elite Worldwide Inc.

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    9225 Dowdy Drive, San Diego, California, 92067
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  1. By Bob Cooper If you what to sell more service, drive up employee morale and productivity, and see higher profits, then this is one article you may want to read. I realize that I just made a pretty substantial claim, but I sense that by the time you finish this article, you will agree... Rudi Rudloff, who is now an Elite Coach, approached me a number of years ago when he was one of our coaching clients here in San Diego. He said that since his shop was only open Monday through Friday, his plan was to have all of his employees come in on a Saturday so that they could spend the entire day together. His objective was to not only learn from his employees, but to allow them all to learn from one another as well. He ran one of the top shops in America and I always admired the way that he thought, but I told him that I felt this was a particularly great idea. He then asked if I had any additional thoughts, and I suggested we invite a few of his customers as well. He liked my recommendation, so here’s what happened… His five techs showed up, along with his two advisors, his lot attendant and his secretary. Shortly after that, the five customers that he invited showed up. The shop was immaculate in every way, he hosted a breakfast, and arranged all of the chairs in a nice big circle. Rudi and I started the session by asking the customers questions about their expectations. Not only were all of his employees taking a lot of notes, but for all of his employees to be able to hear the customer expectations directly from their customers made the entire meeting a huge win in itself. After spending about an hour and a half with the customers, Rudi thanked them for attending and walked them to the door. We then spent the entire day analyzing every single part of the business, from the time a potential customer makes that first call, all the way through the customer follow-up calls. What I found to be the best part about the entire meeting was that every single employee was exposed to every single part of the customer and vehicle process, and what they all learned, was priceless. The technicians were able to better understand what advisors have to go through each and every day, and the recommendations they provided regarding how to make the advisor’s job that much easier were all well received. Additionally, breaking down and analyzing what the technicians go through with each and every vehicle enabled the advisors to provide the techs with their recommendations, while at the same time this process gave the advisors a much deeper appreciation for what a technician goes through every day. The day ended mid-afternoon, and the results from the meeting were no surprise. Over the course of the ensuing weeks their car counts went up substantially, they sold more service, and there was an increase in employee morale, productivity and profits. As a matter of fact, Rudi held his annual shop meetings each and every year until he finally sold his business. Giving each and every employee the opportunity to see and understand the big picture worked for Rudi, and I am confident it will work for you as well. 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 can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.
  2. By Bob Cooper Over the years I have had the pleasure of watching hundreds of shop owners go to the top, and truly become industry leaders. I have also seen thousands of shop owners that struggle from day to day until they finally either try to find someone that is willing to take over their business at any price, or they simply close their doors and walk away. There are many reasons why shops fail, including lack of business skills and the unwillingness to reach out for help before it’s too late, but there is one silent killer that I have seen take even the best shops down. It preys on every small business owner, and if not caught early enough, inevitably puts them out of business. The good news is; if you are aware of it, you can not only side-step it, but you can turn a good business into a really great business at the same time. Some shop owners started their careers as technicians, and others are simply entrepreneurs, but interestingly enough, all shop owners have a number of things in common when they first open their shops. They are excited about what they will be building, and they are filled with passion and energy. They secure a location and equipment, they hire a tech or two, and they get the word out in their communities that they are now open for business. These are the guys and gals that work six to seven days a week, and they happily put in the long hours, because they are making their dreams come true and building a business they can be proud of. But then Father Time steps in, and these entrepreneurial shop owners find that they are no longer building their businesses. Instead, they are dealing with customers, ordering parts, working on cars and putting out fires. Unbeknownst to them, they have transitioned from being an entrepreneur to being a manager, and find themselves managing repair orders, managing checkbooks and managing people. Not only are these tasks uninspiring, but they are the furthest things from the role of an entrepreneur. This is when the excitement and challenge of building a business transforms into a job, and burnout sets in. If this sounds like a place where you reside, or if you feel it’s a place you are headed toward, then I have some good news for you: Not only is there hope, but the bright future you envisioned when you opened your shop can still be yours. The first thing you will need to do is take a good, hard look at where you are with your business, and then set some long-term business goals that will get you excited again. I have counseled hundreds, if not thousands, of shop owners on this process, and after seeing the results first-hand I can tell you with confidence that taking this step will not only have a dramatic impact on your business, but it will have a life-changing impact on you as a person. When you set those long-term goals that are 3 to 10 years out, you will find that you are invigorated again, and you will reignite that entrepreneur inside of you. In closing, all successful businesses are aware of this silent killer, so they never stop growing. I can promise you that ensuring you always have a vision and clearly defined goals will keep that spark of passion alive in you, it will give you a sense of purpose, it will inspire your employees, and it will keep you well ahead of your competitors. 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 can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.
  3. By Bob Cooper The top shop owners in America have a number of things in common. They were the first to embrace the incredible value in utilizing exchange rebuilt components, rather than trying to repair all the components themselves. They were also the first to provide their customers with extended warranties on their repairs, and they geared up for selling maintenance service while all of their competitors were still living in the world of repair. You may call them forward thinkers, but one thing for certain is that they embrace the future long before it arrives. Today cars are better-built, they are requiring less repair and maintenance, and the dealerships are continuing their attempt to conquer the service business. So the question is: What opportunities will be available for you in the coming years? Well, the services you do offer will certainly be your personal choices, but considering the current state of our industry, and all the indicators of our future, I see a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for shop owners. In the coming years there will be an absolute explosion that will take place in the vehicle infotainment industry. I am referring to the mixture of onboard data such as onboard diagnostics, guidance systems and vehicle control features, and the entertainment/communication features such as Wi-Fi, voice texting and audio/video systems. Just step inside of any new car showroom, or watch any car company ad, and you will clearly see that the car companies are competing in the field of infotainment far more than for anything that is mechanical in nature. What I find interesting is that the world of infotainment is one space that is virtually void of competition among independent shops at this time, and it is wide open to shop owners who are willing to embrace the future. There is no doubt in my mind why shop owners have not yet shown any interest in this explosive opportunity. Simply put, they feel they don’t need to offer infotainment services today, and they are fearful of the unknown, which in this case is the complexity of the technology. For those of you who may share these feelings, I would like to remind you that there was a time when shop owners were deathly afraid of automatic transmissions, there was a time when they were afraid of fully electronic ignition systems, and there was even a time when they were afraid of things as simple as disc brakes. As we all well know, the shop owners who took on those early challenges were able to build remarkable businesses. So here are my recommendations. Start the process by exploring how you can better help your current customers by installing and servicing infotainment components. The manufacturers are currently filling the streets with technology-laden vehicles, and beyond the opportunity to install additional equipment in today’s vehicles, the components in all of those new vehicles will inevitably do one thing: They will fail. The question is, who will be performing those repairs, and if not you, why not you? In closing, I would like to leave you with this thought: When speaking of investment strategy, at one time the famed billionaire Warren Buffet said, “First come the innovators… then come the imitators… and then come the idiots.” If you embrace this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and if you take the steps to be the innovator in your community, then there is no question in my mind: The world will be yours, and your competitors will become imitators at best. 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 can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.
  4. Most shop owners have learned a lot from their mentors, including the importance of listening to their customers, fixing cars right the first time, and never putting money ahead of people. Unfortunately, in far too many cases their mentors pass on some information that actually shouldn’t be followed. The most common example, which we see on a daily basis at Elite, is misinformation on how a shop owner should properly advertise. I am not suggesting that their mentors didn’t have good intentions when they passed their advertising guidance along, but it is safe to say that in most cases their advertising knowledge was obtained through their own trial and error, rather than marketing research. At Elite we know there are a lot of people outside of our industry that we can learn from, so reach out to the top universities in America in order to discover what they have learn from world-class companies like Starbucks and Apple when it comes to marketing. While the insights from these experts are usually reserved for our coaching clients, I wanted to pass along one discovery that I feel every shop owner needs to be aware of, as it may very well change the way you market your shop. In the most general sense, in the world of marketing there are two forms of advertising: Brand awareness, and CTA (Call to Action). Examples of brand awareness advertising include key chains, glove box folders, outdoor signs and sponsoring community events, while CTA campaigns like direct mailings, online coupons, etc. encourage immediate action (offering a special price or service package, for example). As I am sure you are aware, the overwhelming majority of shop owners invest almost all of their advertising budgets into CTA campaigns for one simple reason: they will predictably see immediate results in the form of phone calls and new customers. However, most shop owners are unaware that study after study done by leading universities has consistently drawn the same conclusion – You will get a better return on your investment with brand awareness than with CTA ads. The mistake we see most shop owners make is they will start a brand awareness campaign (such as signs at sporting events in their community), but then they’ll pull those signs in a few months because they feel that few, if any, customers have come into the shop because of the signs. What they overlook is how many people saw those signs, and the impact it will have on those potential customers when they are in need of service. While you will not see the results as quickly with brand awareness advertising as you will with CTA campaigns, you will not only see a better ROI in the long run, but the added benefit of brand awareness campaigns is that they put the focus of your potential customer on your brand… rather than on a price. At Elite we encourage all of our clients to embrace brand awareness campaigns, and to wean themselves off of their dependency on costly CTA campaigns. Is there a place for CTA campaigns in the auto repair business? You bet! But please don’t make the mistake that so many shop owners make, and rely solely on CTA ads. So do this: Identify your ideal customer, put together a well-designed brand awareness strategy that will reach your targeted customer, and stick with it. If you do, you will be thrilled with the results. 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 can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.
  5. If you want to build a successful auto repair business, you will need to strongly consider the length of the warranties you offer. First of all, you need to know your failure rate. The top shops in America have extremely low failure rates in both parts and labor. I’ve also discovered that the overwhelming majority of those failures occur within the first 90 days of service, so regardless of whether your warranties are for 90 days or for years on end, you’re going to absorb all but a few of those failures within the first 90 days. The second thing you need to consider is your level of exposure to risk. If you are using high quality parts, and if you have competent technicians, you’ll find your exposure to be surprisingly low. Consider this: If a repair makes it beyond the first 90 days, there is a high probability that the parts are sound, and that they were installed correctly. Outside of wear and maintenance items like brakes, tires, wiper blades and filters, I am sure you will agree that those replaced parts should last for a number of years. If a part makes it past 90 days and subsequently fails within the first year, even if your standard warranty is for only 90 days, you’ll more than likely cover the repair in order to satisfy the customer. This is the primary reason why most shop owners provide a 12 month, 12,000 mile warranty on the majority of their repairs. The more important question for you as a businessperson is, what do you do when a part fails after the first year? Well, I can tell you that the best shops in America have a number of things in common, one of which is that they realize it’s a lot easier and more affordable to keep a customer than it is to replace a customer. So let’s examine the differences in the warranties offered by the average shop owners, and the warranties offered by the true industry leaders. The average shop owner will typically warranty their repairs for one year or 12,000 miles, and if a part fails after that first year, they will tell their customers that they will do the repair at a discounted rate. Now here’s the problem with that approach. With every customer panel we have done at Elite, when asked how long they expect a repair to last, the customers all inevitably say, “forever.” When questioned further, they then tell us that they expect the repair to last at least as long as the original, which is typically four or more years. So if your repair fails after a year, and you offer to do it again at a discounted rate, you may very well have made a few dollars on that second go-around, but you’ll more than likely lose the customer. At Elite we feel that in today’s competitive environment your base warranty should be 2 years, 24,000 miles. First of all, if you have the right part suppliers, and the right technicians, then the added risks are not only minimal, but after a couple of years a good percentage of those vehicles will be sold. Secondly, if you plan on keeping your customers as your customers, you will need to not only meet their expectations, but more importantly, you will need to exceed their expectations. By offering a warranty of 2 years, 24,000 miles your team is going to have a lot more confidence in your services, and more pride in what they do. You’ll also find that a 2 year, 24,000 mile warranty will give you a competitive edge when marketing your services, it will be a great sales tool for your service advisors, and it will help take you out of the price-comparison game with your competitors. Now I realize that you may not be able to warranty some repairs for 2 years or 24,000 miles due to extreme weather conditions, the driving conditions in your community, commercial application, etc., but you can make sure you have the right parts and people, and you can talk to your part suppliers about your expectations. If you do, I am confident you will then do what the top shops in America have already done, and offer warranties that not only show your confidence in your repairs, but that allow you to be the hero with those rare failures that occur after the first year when you tell the customer… it’s no charge. Best of all, providing 2 year, 24,000 mile warranties shows your customers, and your entire community, that you truly do care… about people. 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 can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.
  6. When you start to see a pattern in behavioral issues; such as a tech, manager or service advisor coming in late, here are the things you need to consider: 1) If you don't nip it in the bud it will get worse. 2) Employees need to be responsible for their own behavior. 3) Your employees need to know why you have specific policies in place. So the next time an employee starts to develop a pattern of bad behavior, such as coming in late, call them into a private environment and ask them why they were late. When they have given you their explanation, say something like this... “Mike, you've been late four times now this month, and let me tell you what my concerns are. First of all, if you're not here at 7:30am, the first thought that goes through my mind is that you or someone in your family might be sick or injured. My second thought is that your car may have broken down, or you may have been in an accident, and I start to wonder if I should send Larry or Frank out to look for you. To complicate things even further, when you're not here on time, and I'm standing at the service counter, I don't know what to tell customers who ask me when their car's going to be ready. Additionally, I just can't find it in myself to expect everyone else here at Elite Auto Service to be here on time when you're not. Now I know old habits are hard to break, so the next time you're late, I'll ask you why, but it really isn't going to matter because that one's going to be on me. The second time you're late, again I'll ask you why, and that one's going to be on me as well. But if you're late a third time, for whatever reason, it's going to be a difficult day for me, because I'm going to have to give you your final paycheck.” “Mike, I think the world of you, and I would love to be able to work with you for the rest of my life. You're a star, and I don't want to see our relationship end, so please don't put me in a position where I have to let you go. Do we have an understanding?" Now here's why this approach is so effective. First of all, many employees will think, “Gee, what's a few minutes?" They'll tell themselves they often work through breaks, stay late, etc., so you can see how easy it is for them to think you're not only nitpicking, but you're being quite unfair. That's why it's critically important that you let them know it's not the couple of minutes that you're concerned about, but that you’re worried about their well-being, your customers and your other employees. I have also discovered over the years that the keepers will typically apologize, and the behavioral issue goes away. The people who won't be with you very long will typically either ask you “What period of time are you talking about?" for the three strikes, (which tells us they already imagine they'll be late), or they'll make a point to show up each day just minutes before the time they're supposed to be at work. This Elite Three Strikes system takes away all of the excuses and makes the employee responsible for his or her own behavior. Just remember, when you make a promise, you have to keep it, so be ready to hand that employee their final paycheck if the behavior continues. 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 can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.
  7. By Bob Cooper Over the years I have met hundreds, if not thousands, of shop owners who are suffering from burnout. They either tell me they have it, or it clearly shows in their behavior. Ironically, dealing with burnout is no different than fixing cars, in that in order to accurately solve the problem, we have to first identify the cause. So, let’s start by taking a good look at the cause of burnout. The reason most shop owners have burnout is because they spend most of their day doing a job that’s not necessarily aligned with who they are. Look at it like this: technicians and service advisors spend most of their day working in what I call “the moment”. They spend the majority of their time dealing with customers and vehicles that came in that very same day. To put it another way, they’re solving current problems. On the other hand, managers spend most of their time reviewing the past. They look at past productivity, past trends, past results, etc. By the way, this is all good, because we need sharp people who have a good understanding of past performance, and we need people who can quickly and professionally solve the problems that are at hand. Yet the job of business owners is to spend most of their time in the future; not in the past, and not in the moment at hand. Unlike managers, techs and service advisors; business owners are responsible for setting the company goals, developing the plans, hiring the stars, etc. Interestingly, when most shop owners first start their journeys in the world of business, they actually do spend the majority of their time where they need to: thinking about the future. They’re busy securing their locations, getting their signage, putting their marketing plans in place, etc. Yet when their businesses become relatively established, and they’ve reached their initial growth goals, they then find themselves spending most of their time managing their businesses rather than building their businesses. To put it another way, they start off as entrepreneurs, and end up doing something they never imagined they would be doing: working as managers, and spending most of their time reviewing the past rather than building their businesses. If this sounds all too familiar to you, then here’s the guaranteed cure for you: simply put, you need to reevaluate the goals of your company. If you look to the future and set some worthy long-term and mid-term growth goals for your company, not only will those goals get you excited, but they will give you a better sense of purpose. Add to that, your day-to-day decisions will be that much easier to make, and your new-found goals will put that spark back in you that will be seen by all of your employees. Clearly one of the roles of every business owner is to lead by example, and what better example can you set than by having clearly defined goals that will benefit you, your employees, your customers and your community. I’ve shared these conclusions and this recommendation with thousands of people over the years, and I can tell you without hesitation that the people who have taken this advice to heart have seen their burnout literally disappear overnight, and in many cases, their businesses have grown well beyond their wildest dreams. In closing, I’d like to say this: if you are suffering from burnout, and if for whatever reason you decide to pass on this recommendation, then it may be time for you to pick up the phone and call your local business broker. Otherwise, as time goes on you’re going to struggle in business. True entrepreneurs like you all have one thing in common: they have what it takes to build really great companies, but as strictly managers for any length of time, well, with all due respect, they usually struggle at best. 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 can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.
  8. By Bob Cooper of Elite As business owners, our best teachers will always be our employees and our customers. They understand many components of our businesses, and in most cases, they really do care about our success. Learning from our employees is relatively simple. All that we need to do is pay attention to their passing comments, and engage them during our employee meetings and reviews. What I would like to do with this article is provide you with a step-by-step guide that will help you do what every successful business owner does; learn from your customers. 1. First and foremost, you need to set customer satisfaction goals, as well as minimum levels of acceptable performance. For example, your goal would be 100%, and the minimum level of acceptable performance would be set at 96%. 2. Let your employees know how you will measure results. It’s your call, but I would encourage you to categorize any type of customer dissatisfaction as a failure, regardless of the cause. For example, if the customer says they felt the price of the repair was too high, it would be a failure because the advisor did not do an adequate job of building value in the service. Now I understand that there will be some occurrences (such as a part failure) where the employees would feel they should not be held accountable for the customer being dissatisfied. It’s those rare occurrences that cause us to set a minimum level of acceptable performance. In essence, by setting a minimum level of acceptable performance at 96%, those rare occurrences are taken into consideration. 3. Implement a company wide reward program that is based on customer satisfaction scores, and make sure all of your employees are able to participate. This will help incentivize the team effort you need. 4. Conclude who will be making your customer follow-up calls. Although there is tremendous relationship-building value in having your advisors follow up with their customers, the downside is that your customers may not be candid with them. Add to that, your advisors will have a conflict of interest if you are providing them with an economic incentive. I have found that the best person for making the calls is someone with the right personality, and who believes in you, your company and your people. When I was still operating shops I found that the perfect candidates were the customers who loved us, and who were looking to earn a few extra dollars a week. 5. Conclude how you will compensate the person you hire, and where the calls will be made. Ideally you will pay your representative a flat hourly rate, ensuring that they will invest adequate time on each call. I also believe, when possible, the calls should be made from your shop. Not only will this allow your customers to see your phone number displayed on their caller ID, which adds to your professionalism, but if the customer has a question or concern, they can be transferred to your staff immediately. 6. Conclude who you will call and when. At Elite we believe that all first-time customers, and all repair and/or warranty customers, should be called within 72 hours. Out of respect for their time, we do not endorse calling repeat customers who had simple maintenance services performed. Although these calls should never be perceived as “sales” calls, if a customer declined a major safety repair, we do encourage you to have your representative ask the customer if they have had the repair performed, to ensure their safety and well-being. 7. Ask the right questions. I realize that most shops ask a series of questions about the behavior of their staff, the quality of repair, promised-times, etc. We look at it differently. Our position is that you should say something as simple as, “I just wanted to follow up with you and ask; ‘How did we do?’” Our reasoning for this approach is really pretty simple. Rather than leading the customer with specific questions, it will allow you to learn what is important to your customer. If it is important enough to be at the top of their mind, then without question, it is exactly what you need to hear. This is how we learn, and how we build really great companies 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 can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.
  9. 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 can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com. Entry Actions Report Entry
  10. 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 can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.
  11. 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.
  12. 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 can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.