Employee Behavior Outside of Your Shop

posted on July 23rd, 2014 posted by Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide

I got a call the other day from a fellow shop owner who needed to vent. He runs a big shop and gives his techs a lunch break every day from noon till 1:00 pm.  His techs got into the habit of going to the local mall and hanging out in the parking lot; smoking cigarettes and often getting a little too loud. They were not causing any real trouble, but it just didn’t look good.

Someone finally called from the mall to complain and said that many of the business owners at the mall were afraid that this was affecting business. The techs were also not too careful about the cigarette butts.

The shop owner was furious, disappointed and embarrassed.  He asked me what he should do.

I suggested that he have a talk with everyone at the shop. Sit them down and explain to them that when they wear the company uniform they represent the company, and everything they do, even on their own time, may affect the reputation of the shop. If that reputation is damaged, business will suffer; especially if the business is in a small community.  Everyone in the company should be accountable to themselves and to the company.

I think this is a lesson for all of us.  We need to be careful of who we hire and how we communicate the culture of our companies.

This article was contributed by Joe Marconi. Joe is the co-founder of autoshopowner.com, and one of the 1-on-1 business coaches who helps shop owners through the Elite Coaching Program.

 
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Booking the Customer’s Next Appointment? Why Not?

posted on July 16th, 2014 posted by Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide

What do doctors, dentists, eye doctors and hairdressers all have in common? Thats right; they all book the next appointment. So why dont we do it? Oh, I know many of you do, and that’s great. But most shops don’t, and I have heard every excuse under the sun why booking the next appointment does not work (“My customers don’t know what they are doing in 4 months”). Well, guess what; when your dentist books your next cleaning, you don’t know if you will be available on the booked date in six months or a year either, do you?

Booking the next appointment will help to smooth out the highs and lows in your workflow. It will keep the customer coming back to you and not thinking of someone else.

But there is a trick to the success of booking the next appointment. What does your dentist do a day or so before the appointment date? Yes, he calls you. And if you cant make it that day? Right again; he books another day. So the trick is to set up a call system to remind customers.

The thing to remember is that every car in your shop today will need future service work, the questions is; will that customer come back to you? The odds are in your favor when you book the next appointment.

This article was contributed by Joe Marconi. Joe is the co-founder of autoshopowner.com, and one of the 1-on-1 business coaches who helps shop owners through the Elite Coaching Program.

 
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The 6 Rules of Maximizing Customer Retention

posted on July 9th, 2014 posted by Bob Cooper

We all know that there are many things you can do when it comes to customer retention. Follow-up calls, sending out service reminder notices, ongoing advertising campaigns that keep your name at the top of the customer’s mind, and scheduling the next visit at the time of car delivery are just a few.  Yet there are some timeless rules that are often forgotten. During these tough, competitive times I feel I can best help you by reminding you of the 6 most important rules when it comes to customer retention.

Rule #1. Create a principle-centered culture. All great companies realize that getting to the top, and staying at the top, is dependent on having a culture that is based on principles. As a business owner you need to ensure that you have a clearly defined Mission Statement, you need to share it with all of your employees, and you need to constantly keep it at the forefront of their minds. Remember, your “goals” are what you are going to accomplish, whereas your Mission Statement is what you will be doing along the way. For example, a Mission Statement could read, “It is the mission of Elite Auto Service to deliver extraordinary service to our customers and opportunity to our employees, while never compromising our ethics or our responsibility to society.”

 Rule #2. Offer and deliver a good value. I am not suggesting that you be the lowest priced, or the highest priced in your community. What I am suggesting is that you deliver a good value in return for the money you charge. Companies that charge more than they should just because they can typically discover that their profits will go up in the short term, but that they lose their customer base at the same time. Great companies are competitive, not greedy, and that is why they become, and remain, great companies.

Rule #3. Hire the Superstars. The success of your company, and your ability to retain customers over the years, will be dependent on the people who work with you. As I am sure you will agree, just being good is no longer good enough, so you need to have employees who truly are superstars. I can only hope you bear in mind that whenever someone buys a product, they will always remember the product, but whenever they buy a service, they will always remember the people providing the service. Simply put, your customers’ impression of your business will only be as positive as their impression of the people who work with you.

Rule #4. Provide consistency in the experience. Great companies such as McDonald’s, Starbucks and Nordstrom all understand the importance of consistency in service. With any of these companies, before you step into their stores you already have an expectation of what the experience will be. The top shops understand this rule, and that is why they have clearly defined procedures for everything they do, from handling the first-time caller, through car delivery. When customers feel there is no consistency in service, they will typically look for an alternative service provider.

Rule #5. Deliver on your promises. Hopefully you can see how this rule ties into your Mission Statement. If you want your customers to continue to return, then make sure that all of your employees choose their words carefully when they are making a commitment to your customers, and then ensure they move the earth to deliver on those promises.

Rule #6. Never put money ahead of people. All world-class business owners understand that money is the result of doing the right things for the right reasons. When you embrace this rule you will also discover why the world-class businesses will never take their customers for granted. They understand that it’s the trust their customers have in them and their people that is priceless, not their credit cards.

In closing, there are a number of things you can do to improve your customer retention, but the one promise I can make you is this: These 6 rules are timeless ones, and if you apply them to your business, you will not only see more repeat customers, but unlike your competitors, you will be building a business that will last for generations to come.

For additional help building a more successful auto repair business, learn more about the 1-on-1 coaching and customized action plan offered through the Elite Coaching Program.

 
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It’s Vacation Season – Take Care of Your Customers

posted on July 2nd, 2014 posted by Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide

With school ending, the focus will be on summer, and that means vacations. Meet with your techs and advisors and put together a strategy for ensuring that your customers’ cars are prepared for summer driving and for road trips.

Try creating and promoting a “Summer Vacation Road Trip Package”.  Emphasize to your customers the need to ensure that their cars are road-ready for the summer fun.

Areas of concentration:

- Air conditioner
- Coolant
- Tires
- Wipers
- Oil Change
- Air and cabin filter
- Lights
- Fluid levels
- Belts and hoses

Be proactive today. Your customers and your bottom line will thank you.

This article was contributed by Joe Marconi. Joe is the co-founder of autoshopowner.com, and one of the 1-on-1 business coaches who helps shop owners through the Elite Coaching Program.

 
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My Shop is SLAMMED

posted on June 25th, 2014 posted by Jim Piraino of Elite Worldwide

In a typical opening conversation with a service advisor last week I asked “how is the shop doing”. His response was “the shop is slammed… I can’t take another thing in, not even an oil change!”

I asked how he came that conclusion…

“The techs all have work”, was his reply.

“How much work?” I asked.

“Well, they’re buried.”

“So, you would be lucky to get all the work you took in this morning out by closing today?”

“Yup”….

Sound familiar?

As I questioned him more it became obvious that he had no idea of how much work he had taken in for each tech. All he knew was when they opened the doors that morning there was an unusual amount of customers showing up (some with appointments, some not) and he was very busy writing them up. Unfortunately, he based the amount of productivity for the techs on his personal workload at the front counter, and as you may have guessed by now the shop ran out of work by mid-afternoon, leaving unsold labor hours to be lost and never regained.

This experience led me to survey other shops on how they handle loading the technician’s work day. I was amazed to find that most do not have any type of statistical format for doing so.

Some management systems use a scheduler that blocks time for a technician using a brightly colored calendar page. That’s better than nothing, but does little to help the advisor sell and track labor hours per tech and as a total of the shop’s inventory.

Yes, I said inventory. Let’s assume a shop has 3 techs, each available for 8 hours a day. That means you have 24 hours of labor to sell. However, that number should be adjusted for their efficiency (you are tracking their efficiency right?). If all of your techs are great techs and their efficiency factor is 120%, that means you really have a labor hour inventory of 28.8 hours, or 9.6 per tech.

If I were the service advisor I would adjust that number down to reflect any carryover from the day before. Let’s say we had 4 hours of work to be finished from yesterday. That means I now have 24.8 hours to sell today. That number should be continually adjusted downward as sales increase. I know what you are thinking; that’s in a perfect world with no parts hold ups or other outside influences. I agree, but I would much rather deal with an unfinished workload than unsold hours.

How much money are you losing in unsold hours? If your shop is running out of work too early I suggest you take a close look at how you are loading each technician’s day and the shop as a whole. You cannot sell time that has passed.

This article was contributed by Jim Piraino, a past superstar shop owner who now helps other shop owners 1-on-1 through the Elite Coaching Program.

 
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Why Most Auto Shops Fail

posted on June 18th, 2014 posted by Bob Cooper

Over the years I have had the opportunity to work with many of the top shop owners in America, and I have met thousands of owners who are living from day to day, and then unfortunately fail. There have been a lot of discoveries along the way, so I would like to use this article to share what I feel to be the top 7 reasons why most shops fail.

1.  Pride. There is no question that pride plays an important role in a shop owner’s success. It causes them to make sure that their shops are clean, vehicles are properly repaired, and the customers are pleased with their services. Certainly there is a place for pride, and all successful shop owners have it, but they also know when to turn it off. They turn it off by admitting to their mistakes, complimenting their employees for doing a job better than they could, and as Henry Ford did, they accept the fact that they can’t build successful businesses on their own. The shop owners who are unwilling to set their pride aside when it’s appropriate to do so, are the owners who inevitably fail.

2. Fear. As with pride, fear also plays an important role in a shop owner’s success. The fear of not doing a good enough job for their customers, the fear of a new competitor moving into town, and the fear that comes along with investing in themselves and their employees, are all shared by the top shop owners in America. What separates them from those who fail is that they face their fears head-on, and they take the proper action to ensure their success. The shop owners who fail are paralyzed by their fears, they take no action, and then their worst nightmares come true. They lose their key employees, their car counts drop, and their profits disappear.

3. Shop owners not realizing what their jobs are. Successful shop owners know that the best way for them to build their companies, and help their customers, is by doing what they should be doing as business owners: Setting the goals of the company, developing the plan, hiring the superstars, bringing out the best in their people, and ensuring the success of the company. Those who own failed shops typically have big hearts, but instead of doing what they should be doing, they are found under the hoods of automobiles, chasing parts and sweeping their parking lots. These are all things that need to be done, but by other people, not by the owners.

4. Not knowing when and how to invest. Most shop owners are quick to invest in equipment, inventory, and in most cases, their marketing programs. Of course these are all investments that certainly need to be made. Beyond these types of investments, the top shop owners constantly invest in their most important assets: Themselves, and the people who work with them. Whenever I look at the financial statements of a struggling or failed auto repair shop, one thing is almost certain: There is a glaring absence of any investment in their own education, and in the training of their staff.

5. The absence of systems. Successful shop owners have clearly defined procedures for answering every phone call, writing up their customers, inspecting vehicles, recommending and selling services, performing services, car delivery and customer follow-up. The shops that fail rarely have systems in place. I have found that their employees typically have their own ways of doing things, which is a guaranteed recipe for failure.

6. Trying to be everything to everybody. Most shop owners try to please everyone, and that’s good. But the top shop owners realize that bringing in the wrong customers will drive down their profitability, erode morale, and wipe out their profits. They know exactly who their ideal customers are, and they target them with all of their advertising programs. The shops that fail are more interested in filling up their service bays than in bringing in the right people. While they are thinking of vehicles in the bays, the top shop owners are thinking of the right people and the right vehicles.

7. The absence of goals. By having clearly defined goals, the top shop owners are passionate about their mission, they make better decisions, they do a far better job of hiring, they have happier customers and they put more money on their bottom line.  The shop owners who fail operate their shops from week to week, they run up debt, they burn out, and they ultimately close their doors.

In closing, if you want to build a more profitable, successful business, as I am sure you know, there are no guarantees of success. The one promise that I can make is that business, as with life, is all about choices. If you set your goals, and if you put fear and pride aside, you can build an auto repair shop that is second to none. Others have, so I know you can as well.

For additional help building a more successful auto repair business, learn more about the 1-on-1 coaching and customized action plan offered through the Elite Coaching Program.

 
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Want to Improve Customer Retention and Increase Sales?

posted on June 11th, 2014 posted by Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide

Every car that’s in your shop today will need service and repairs in the future. True? So, the question is: Will they come back to you?

Here are a few tips you can apply during the customer visit to increase sales and get your customers to return to you:

-Make sure that you review the service history on all cars coming in for service or repair. If possible, review the history before the customer arrives, so you can review at time of write up.

- Discuss any notes or recommendations made from the last visit at the time of write up.

- Inform all customers at write up that you always give the car a multipoint inspection, and that if it is okay, any discoveries will be presented and discussed with them.

- Make sure that each car gets some sort of multipoint inspection. Think of this as going to your doctor. You may be going because of a pain in your shoulder, but the doctor is still going to check all your other vital signs; blood pressure, your lungs and heart, your eyes and ears, etc.

- Tell the customer everything that the tech finds on the car, good and bad.

- Any recommended  future work, such as a timing belt, should be discussed in detail, and you should give the customer a time frame to get it done. Tell the customer that you will put it on the calendar, and set up a system where the customer receives a reminder call in addition to any service reminder you send.

- Book the next appointment for service. I have heard every excuse from coast to coast that this does not work. That the customer does not know what they will be doing  4 or 5 months from now. Well, it does work. Your dentist, doctor and eye doctor do it. Why? Because it does work. But don’t just book the appointment; set up a system where the customer will be notified by service reminder card, email or text, and also receives a phone call a few days prior to the appointment. Tell the customer that if the day is not good when you call, not to worry, because they can just reschedule. Try this with your best customers first, and take it slow, but do it. It works.

This article was contributed by Joe Marconi. Joe is the co-founder of autoshopowner.com, and one of the 1-on-1 business coaches who helps shop owners through the Elite Coaching Program.

 
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Advertise to One Person at a Time

posted on June 4th, 2014 posted by Elite Worldwide Admin

By Jay Siff

Fairfax Cone, one of the founders of the legendary Foote, Cone, Belding ad agency, is credited with saying, “There is no such thing as a Mass Mind. The Mass Audience is made up of individuals, and good advertising is written always from one person to another. When it is aimed at millions it rarely moves anyone.” So figure out who your ideal customer is, and write your ad copy to talk directly to them… and them alone!

This tip was brought to you by Jay Siff of Moving Targets, a company that offers a number of marketing services to help shop owners increase their car counts.  Click the links below to learn more about these industry acclaimed services.

Loyal Rewards Social Media Marketing Service

Loyal Rewards Email Marketing Service

Moving Targets New-Resident Direct Mail Service

Birthday Connections Neighborhood Direct Mail Service

 
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Marketing Budgets for Auto Repair Shops

posted on May 28th, 2014 posted by Bob Cooper

In the world of auto repair and service, one thing is for certain: You are going to lose customers. They will move, no longer have a need for their automobile, turn to one of your competitors, or buy a new vehicle and then take it to the dealer for service. Accordingly, you need a consistent stream of new customers, and since you more than likely have competition in your community, you need to help those potential customers see that your shop is the right shop. The way that you accomplish this goal is by identifying who your targeted customer is, and then investing in your marketing and advertising programs, along with your customer retention programs. The question is; how much money should you be investing in those programs? Well, here are the guidelines that we share with the top shops in America.

If you have a general repair shop, a good place to start is at 4-5% of your annual sales. If you have a transmission shop, you may find that you need to increase your budget to 6-8%. Bear in mind that your budget needs to be a percentage of your “targeted” sales, not your current sales. For example, if you are currently generating $800,000 in annual sales, but your target is $1,000,000 in sales, then your marketing budget would need to be 4-5% of $1,000,000, not $800,000.

The second thing you should do is something that very few shops do, which is invest at least 50% of your budget into what we at Elite refer to as non-traditional advertising programs. Whereas traditional programs include media like direct mail, TV, radio and websites, non-traditional programs are comprised of media such as fund raisers, social media, car care events held at your shop, and any other advertising programs that are outside of the mainstream marketing channels typically used in your community.

Now here is one of our best kept secrets at Elite. We have long recognized the Y Generation (born 1980 – 1990) as the emerging market. These people are not only your customers of tomorrow, but since this generation was brought up using search and social media on their Smartphones, they are often turned to by older generations that are looking for a good auto repair shop. Accordingly, we encourage all of our coaching clients to invest 50% of their non-traditional advertising budgets into programs that are specifically directed toward the Y Gen’s in their communities. We have to remember that the first to reach this emerging market will benefit the most, so why not you?

In order to get the best return on your advertising investments, there are a number of things you should do. First of all, we encourage you to explore every opportunity to use the strength of other respected brands. For example, using names such as Valvoline, Jasper Engines & Transmissions, and AAA can enable you to build even more customer confidence in your brand. You will also need to monitor and measure the results of your advertising programs. Here’s how…

With all first-time customers, even if they are holding your coupon, you should ask, “By the way, may I ask who referred you to us? When I was still operating my shops, I discovered that this question would send a strong message that we received a lot of referrals, which is a very good thing. In addition, we discovered that many of those customers (even those with a coupon) would respond by saying something like, “I see your ads on TV all of the time.” Since brand awareness media like TV and radio is so hard to monitor, this question would often help us obtain the answers we were looking for. We also discovered that more often than not, customers would tell us that they were referred by a friend, which indicated that while the media (coupons, ads, etc.) were the calls to action that caused them to contact us, the customers were actually sold on us due to recommendations from their friends. We would then call our customers who gave us the referrals, and thank them for their trust in us.

In conclusion, if you want to build a base of satisfied customers, you need to know who your ideal customers are, make the right investments in the right media, monitor and measure the results, and then do an amazing job of turning those customers… into raving fans.

For additional help filling up your service bays with the right kind of customers, learn more about Elite’s auto repair marketing solutions

 
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Want to Increase A/C Sales?

posted on May 21st, 2014 posted by Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide

Have your techs, as part of their preliminary checks, turn on the A/C and see if the system is working.  Is the compressor turning on? Are all the fan speeds working? Is the system getting cold? Is there a smell from the vents?  I am not suggesting to start hooking up gauges and diagnosing air conditioner problems for free. This is just a simple check that gives you a direction, and something you can discuss with the customer.

Oh, just inform the customer that you will do this before you work on the car.

The goal is to spot a problem before that first really hot day when the customer turns on the A/C for the first time and finds only hot air coming from the vents.

Try it and let me know how it works out for you.

This article was contributed by Joe Marconi. Joe is the co-founder of autoshopowner.com, and one of the 1-on-1 business coaches who helps shop owners through the Elite Coaching Program.

 
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