Selling Auto Repair in 2014

posted on August 20th, 2014 posted by Bob Cooper

As our industry continues to evolve, there are a number of changes you need to consider. Cars are being built better, so they are lasting longer, and with service intervals constantly being extended, you will see your customers less often. Additionally, as the competition continues to heat up, your advisors will need to be razor sharp from that first call through car delivery. So here are some tips that can help you be more successful when it comes to driving up your sales and customer satisfaction.

1. With first-time callers just a mouse click away from contacting another shop, you will need to ensure that your advisors are at the top of their game when it comes to selling themselves, and your company, to the caller. Remember, customers have to feel comfortable with your advisor before they will be open to recommendations. You should sit down with your entire crew and create a list of the top 5 reasons people should choose your shop. Rather than listing the same features your competitors would list (equipment, warranties etc.), your list should include items such as your culture of never putting money ahead of people, the fact that you’re AAA approved, you’ve been serving the community for over XX years, have 5-star ratings on review sites, etc.

2. With vehicles lasting longer, your advisors need to be really good at selling maintenance. Most advisors make a fatal mistake by focusing on the parts and labor rather than the benefits of the service. Instead of trying to sell the sparkplugs and filters that your customers don’t want to buy, your advisors should be telling your customers how the maintenance will help squeeze every mile out of every gallon of gasoline, protect their vehicle manufacturer’s warranty, maximize the resale value of their vehicle, etc.

At Elite we have every student that goes through our sales training meet with their coworkers to create a “benefit list” for their more popular services, and review that list prior to presenting the sale. The results have been outstanding, so I would strongly encourage you to do the same.

3. When customers need a major repair like a replacement engine or transmission, make sure your advisors don’t jump to the conclusion that the vehicle is not worth fixing. For example, if a customer needs $5,000 worth of work to put their vehicle back into good shape, in many cases it may very well be a really great investment for the customer. As we all know, when someone buys a used vehicle they are buying two things: a lot of unknowns, and someone else’s problems. On the other hand, if they invest in their own vehicle they’ll know exactly what they have, those repairs will be warrantied, and they won’t have to go through the exercise of selling their vehicle and buying a replacement. You should have an in-depth conversation with your entire staff about major repairs, and how in many cases they are the perfect solution for your customers. You should then discuss how you can help your customers cost justify the investment. For example, if a customer in need of a major $3,000 repair were to keep their vehicle for just 3 years, the investment would be less than $100 a month. There is no way they would be able to purchase a replacement vehicle for anywhere near that low of an amount. Your advisors need to help your customers through the math, because not only is it their job, but they have an ethical responsibility to help your customers make really good decisions.

4. Never stop the self-improvement process. You should have your advisors record their sales presentations in a way that meets with all applicable laws, then once a week you should review some of those recordings. This will give you the opportunity to congratulate them on most of their sales, and have a conversation on what could have been done differently on the ones that were lost.

If you do the things that I have recommended, and if you never put money ahead of people, then you have my promise: Your sales, and your customer satisfaction, will go straight up.

For additional help increasing your shop’s sales and CSI scores, learn more about Elite’s industry acclaimed Masters Service Advisor Training Course.

In: sales
 
share: Bookmark and Share

Be Consistent With What You Say and Do

posted on August 13th, 2014 posted by Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide

As shop owners, what we say to our employees and how we act is important in how others view our ability to lead.  It’s crucial to be consistent with your policies and with everyone you employ. Never show favoritism and follow through on all promises and commitments.

The morale of the shop starts at the top. The shop owner, the leader, sets the tone. We all know how hard it can be to remain positive and find the good in people and that silver lining each and every day. But, if we are poor leaders, inconsistent and convey a negative demeanor, the results will be damaging not only to morale, but to the success of the company.

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.

 
share: Bookmark and Share

Should Your Shop be Open December 26th?

posted on August 6th, 2014 posted by Jim Piraino of Elite Worldwide

Merry Christmas!

What? Christmas? Yup, it’s not that far away, and if you haven’t looked at the calendar it falls on Thursday this year. So what? Well, if you’re a shop owner you will probably give little thought about the Friday after Christmas until sometime late in December when an employee asks, “Hey boss, are we open or closed on the Friday after Christmas?”. At that point it will be too late to make a good decision. If you decide not to close you will most likely aggravate some, if not most, of your employees (who will forever label you as “Scrooge”). Your customers will not have had enough warning and many will expect you to be closed. Your vendors will not know what your needs will be for that day and your entire staff will be irritable that day. 

On the other hand, if you decide to close you will be faced with another quandary.  Do you pay or not pay your staff for the time off? Some employees would like the day off either way. However, some may be on a tighter budget and closing without pay could present a hardship. These are the employees who will tell you to stay open.

Some of you will be open no matter what, and I respect that. However, if you are on the fence, I have a suggestion that actually takes the decision and stress out of your hands, and all it takes is a little effort on your part now. A simple calculation to determine an average day’s sales will give you a number that represents the sales loss if you choose to close. Agree? Then what you can do is take that number and add it to your sales goals for the months of September, October and November (so if an average day’s sales is $6,000, you would add $2,000 to the September sales goal, $2,000 to the October sales goal and $2,000 to the November sales goal).  If you hit those sales goals, and have essentially covered the cost of closing, on December 1st you can announce to your staff and your customers that you will be closed on December 26th.  If the sales goals are not met, then the shop will be open on the 26th.

The other holidays do not have the same seasonal effect. No one really minds coming in on Thursday when the 4th of July is on Wednesday. Of course, New Year’s day will be on Thursday also, so should you close on that Friday????? Hmmm.

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.

 
share: Bookmark and Share

Selling Multiple Repairs – Guidelines for Success

posted on July 30th, 2014 posted by Bob Cooper

In today’s market, service advisors are facing a number of challenges. One of the more complex challenges is when a skeptical first-time customer comes in for an oil service, and the advisor discovers that this customer needs a long list of repairs. This is what most advisors refer to as the proverbial “laundry list.” Unfortunately, what most service advisors will do is either hold back some of the recommendations because they are afraid they’ll scare the customer away, or they’ll struggle through their presentations. So here is what I am going to recommend that you do…

#1. With every first-time customer you need to do a lot of fact finding. Beyond the standard questions you ask, you need to ask them how long they have owned the vehicle, and whether they bought it new. You also need to ask when was the last time the vehicle was in a shop, what it was in for, if anyone else drives the vehicle, and what their plans are for it. In essence, you need to discover if they plan on keeping it, and if so, for how long.

#2. Have a conversation with every first-time customer about your vehicle inspection process, and how they’ll win. Take a moment to tell them about the qualifications of the technician who will be inspecting their vehicle, and let them know the inspection service is being performed for two reasons: to ensure there are no safety concerns, and to establish a baseline for what services may need to be done, and when.

#3. When you build your estimate, always bundle all repairs and services that are relative to each system on the vehicle; the brake system, suspension system, cooling system, etc. This way you are prepared with a price for taking care of everything that needs to be done in each of the systems.

#4. We all know that when we start a sales presentation, and the customer senses they will need a number of repairs, they’ll get anxious. They’ll then immediately ask for a price, or they’ll tell you they just want the oil service done. The secret? Always ask for permission to talk about the price after you’ve reviewed your discoveries with them. For example…

“First of all, Mr. Smith, when you brought your car in this morning, you said you were concerned about a couple of different things, so tell me if I am missing something here. You said the brake pedal was going down quite a bit, and you also said you needed to have your Mustang back by 4 o’clock.  If I remember correctly, something about an anniversary dinner; is that right? Well look, I have some really great news for you. When it comes to your brakes, and being able to have you out of here by 4 o’clock, we’re going to be able to solve both of those problems for you. As I mentioned this morning, the gentleman who inspected your Mustang is Jim Piraino. He’s an ASE Master Certified technician, he’s been with us for 12 years now, and I have to tell you; he’s really gifted at what he does. Now we’ve taken a look at all of your service records, and I’m actually looking at a copy of Jim’s inspection report, so let me tell you what we discovered. First of all, I’d like to say congratulations on taking good care of your automobile because your battery, your tires, your suspension, and your drive train all appear to be in good, operable condition. Now, in addition to the brakes, there are a couple of other things that I’d like to chat with you about, so if it’s ok with you, let me tell you what Jim’s discovered, we’ll have a conversation, then I’ll be more than happy to answer any questions you might have, and we can go over the prices at that time as well. Are you onboard with this approach, Mr. Smith? Terrific!”   

#5. If they can’t authorize everything, and you need to prioritize, always start with what they brought their vehicle in for, followed by anything that has to do with their personal safety, then the safety of others, followed by vehicle maintenance and comfort items.

#6. Never compromise your ethics. If you do the right things for the right reasons, and if you never put money ahead of people, it will show through to your customers. Combine your shop’s ethics with the above guidelines and you have my promise: you and your customers will be thrilled with the results.

For additional help increasing your shop’s sales and CSI scores, learn more about Elite’s industry acclaimed Masters Service Advisor Training Course.

In: sales
 
share: Bookmark and Share

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.

 
share: Bookmark and Share

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.

 
share: Bookmark and Share

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.

 
share: Bookmark and Share

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.

 
share: Bookmark and Share

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.

 
share: Bookmark and Share

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.

 
share: Bookmark and Share
Sales, Marketing and Management Content
for Your Auto Repair Business.
800-204-3548