Earning the Continued Trust of Your Internal Customers

posted on December 17th, 2014 posted by Bob Cooper

Many years ago I read an article that featured an interview with Herb Kelleher, the co-founder of Southwest Airlines. In the article he stated that he and his mother (who was a Harvard graduate) would often debate who was more important: He argued that it was the employees of a company, and his mom argued that it was the customers. With all due respect, I would argue; why does it need to be one or the other? From my point of view, this debate is like having two children and being asked which one we love the most, because both your customers and your employees are equally important.  Since it is becoming increasingly difficult to find and hire the superstars, I would like to use this article to help you continue earning the trust of your employees, who at Elite we refer to as our internal customers.

Putting first things first, as business owners we need to recognize that our internal customers are much like our external customers. In your case, your external customers come to you with transportation problems that you solve, and they then pay you with their hard-earned money.  Your internal customers come to you with needs as well. They have needs like being able to save enough money to buy a home, or having the funds available that they’ll need to educate their children. Simply put, you provide them with the right opportunities, and you help them fulfill those needs. In return, they pay you with their work efforts, and their contributions towards your success.

So the question is; what can you do to keep the stars you have, not just for a few years, but for the length of their working careers? Although there is no formula that will guarantee results, there are a number of things you can do to keep your stars as your stars.

First and most importantly, never forget this cardinal rule of managing people: We have to keep the hearts of our employees, because once we lose their hearts, their minds will follow. I actually coined this rule long ago, and have lived by it for decades.  Now here is how you can implement it…

With every superstar who works with you, you need to look beyond the employee component of your relationship, and you need to consider them as a person, just like you. This means that you need to truly care about your employees as people, and the things that are important to them need to become important to you. Once they realize that you really do care about them and their families, as well as their goals, they will then care about you, and the goals of your company.  Secondly, you need to be a great listener, you need to pay close attention to their suggestions, and you need to always thank them for their input.

I have also learned that you need to be a shoulder your employees can lean on. By being sympathetic to their personal struggles, you will find that if you have the right people, they will not take your sympathy for granted, but they will go to the ends of the earth for you.  You need to let them know that you recognize their talents and strengths, and you need to give them praise for jobs that are well done. Beyond that, you have to show them the humility that all employees look for. This means you will need to set your pride aside to let them know that they are much more gifted than you in many ways, you’ll need to be able to admit to your mistakes, and you’ll need to be able to give heartfelt apologies at the appropriate times. Lastly, if you plan on keeping their hearts, you will need to constantly share your vision of the future, and paint a clear path to their success in the coming years.

Over the years I have discovered that people don’t leave companies. They never have, and they never will. People leave people, not companies. If you’d like to continue earning the trust and confidence of your employees, then I would encourage you to apply the principles that I have shared with you. If you do, then I will make you a promise: Beyond being a great role model for your employees, the morale of your employees will go up, your shop’s productivity will go up, and any employee turnover problems you have… will disappear.

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 December; Are You Prepared for 2015?

posted on December 10th, 2014 posted by Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide

I know that there are many things on your mind this time of the year. With the winter here and the holidays upon us, there’s a lot going on these days. But as a business owner, you need to consider that 2015 is right around the corner. The better you prepare now, the more successful you will be in the New Year and beyond. I have put together a short To-Do list to help you prepare.

1. Review all the numbers for the first 11 months of 2014 and compare those numbers with the same 11 months in 2013 and 2012.
2. Based on the numbers, you can now begin to plan out your 2015 budget.
3. If you have not done so yet, have a meeting with your accountant. Review all the numbers for 2014. You want to know now about projected taxes you may owe; don’t wait until April 15. Also, make sure you get a current checklist from your accountant on what is needed for yearend 2014.
4. Review your inventory. This goes hand in hand with your tax strategy. It will also help you identify dead stock that hurts your cash flow.
5. Are there any tools, equipment, improvements to your facility or any other expenses that you can use in 2015 to reduce your tax liability for 2014?
6. Review all your goals for 2014. Did you achieve all your goals? If you did not, don’t worry; that’s to be expected. Reestablish your personal and business goals now, before the end of the year. Also, start thinking about your future training and equipment needs.
7. Contact your financial adviser and discuss any financial issues and retirement plans.
8. Have an end of the year shop meeting. Outline all the accomplishments of 2014 and outline your goals and objectives for 2015 and your vision of the future. Most importantly, thank each and every team member for their efforts, and make sure you convey to everyone that it’s the efforts of the team that determines success.
9. If you have not done so in a while, have one-on-one meetings with your employees. Do not make it a beat up session. Promote the positive attributes of the employee, ask for feedback on how the employee views the business, and ask for ideas and suggestions on ways to improve the business.
10. Lastly, make sure you set aside time to work on self-improvement. As the leader of your company, all eyes are on you. It’s your vision, your leadership qualities and your positive attitude that ultimately determines your success. Remember, you can achieve what you want in life, if you help others achieve what they want.

I hope you had a good year, and best of luck in 2015 and beyond!

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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7 Business Building Tips for the Holiday Season

posted on December 3rd, 2014 posted by Bob Cooper

This is an article I’ve posted in the past, but feel I need to share it with you again since these 7 tips are so important to consider during the holiday season.

Now that we are coming into the holiday season, there are a number of things you can do to drive up productivity, sales, customer satisfaction and profits. Each one of the below tips worked wonders for me when I was still in the auto repair business, and they are still effective today for many of our coaching clients, so I know they can work for you as well.

1. End of Year Performance Bonuses – All that you need to do is set a sales goal for the end of the year, and then tell your entire staff that if the goal is reached by December 31st, they will be entitled to a really nice bonus. You can also tell your techs that if they reach certain productivity goals, you will give them a predetermined amount of credit that they can use on their favorite tool truck.

2. Schedule a Holiday Season Charity Drive – Pick a charity (or cause) that is close to your heart, and that will reach the hearts of your ideal customers. Examples would be the US Marine Corps Toy for Tots campaign, food for the homeless, and fundraisers for life-threatening illnesses, local humane societies and the Wounded Warriors Foundation. By raising money for these types of organizations you’ll not only be helping a worthy cause, but you will be connecting with people who may very well be your ideal customers. In my case, we took out full-page ads in local publications notifying our community that we were collecting toys for battered children who were in protected safe houses, and the stream of donors who came through our doors was overwhelming. Nowhere in the ads was there any promotion of our company or services. It was all about the battered children, and how others could help by simply dropping off the much-needed toys.

3. Send the right greeting cards – Identify your top customers, and then rather than sending them one of the typical pre-printed holiday season cards, send them a nice boutique card with a hand-written message inside. All that you will need to do is go to a local card shop that sells really nice cards that are blank inside, and then find the cards that best reflect the holiday season. Then write a short, handwritten message inside that comes from your heart. You have my promise; your cards will be absolute standouts that will send a powerful message to your customers that you really do care about them.

4. Make those phone calls – As we all know, there are certain customers in every business that rise well above all others. You should make a list of those people, and then call them to personally wish them a happy holiday season.

5. Place a ribbon on each computer screen – The reason I did this at the shops I owned was to remind my advisors to wish each and every customer a happy holiday at the point of car delivery. I’m not suggesting a quick “Happy Holidays”, but rather am recommending that your advisors take a minute to pass on a heart-felt message to their customers, and then ask those customers to pass the message on to their families as well.

6. Gifts to key customers – I am not recommending that you give gifts to everyone, but to those customers who are particularly special in many ways. In those cases, you may want to give them a beautiful book that contains images of wildlife, nature, etc. along with a personalized message from you written inside.

7.  Give to those who serve – Whether it be to the police and fire departments, or to the doctors and nurses who work in the hospital ICU’s during the holiday season, by giving those who serve a beautiful gift basket of fruit, candies, etc., you will be rewarding those who have earned it through their service, while sending a powerful message about the type of person you are.

If you apply these tips to your business, you have my promise; not only will your sales, customer satisfaction scores and profits go up, but you will be separating yourself from your competitors in ways that will help you build a more profitable, successful business for years 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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Be Careful You’re Not Making a Sale for Your Competition

posted on November 26th, 2014 posted by Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide

A few years back, my service advisor was speaking to a customer about the condition of her tires. He explained in detail that the tires on her car were worn to the point that she needed to replace them and recommended that she do this before the winter.   He explained all the safety benefits, the differences between all-season tires, winter tires and standard radials, and also gave her a few top brand choices.  He did a great job.  He did everything but sell the job!

Let’s fast forward. On her next visit, her oil change service, my advisor noticed a brand new set of Bridgestone tires on her car. Perplexed, he asked the customer why she did not buy the tires from us.  She replied, “You told me I needed tires, you never once said you could sell me tires.”

She believed my service advisor and was thrilled he took the time to educate her. But, he forgot one important part of the sales cycle; Asking for the sale.

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

In: sales
 
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A Step-by-Step Guide to Learning from Your Customers

posted on November 19th, 2014 posted by Bob Cooper

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 companywide 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 most dealerships, franchisees and independents ask a series of questions about the behavior of their staff, the quality of repair, promised-times, etc. At Elite 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.

8. Put the information to work. Share all your discoveries with your entire crew, and solicit their recommendations as to what can be done differently based on what you have learned from your customers.  Not only will this allow you to build a more successful shop, but it will show your employees that you value their feedback as much as the feedback you receive from your customers.

If you want to build a more profitable, successful business, there are two rules that will always be at the top of your list: Never put money ahead of people, and listen intently to your customers.

 
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How to Market to Millennials

posted on November 12th, 2014 posted by Elite Worldwide Admin

By Jay Siff

Research shows that Millennials expect marketers to be straightforward with them. They expect honest answers to their questions, and they demand businesses build trusting relationships. Communicating with them is a process. Email and social media play major roles. It’s almost twice as likely that they’ll use Facebook, as opposed to a company’s website, to do research. Running a simple ad no longer does the trick! You need to have a coordinated cross-media campaign to do the job right.

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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Do you Take a Proactive or Reactive Sales Approach?

posted on November 6th, 2014 posted by Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide

34 years ago, when I opened the doors to my shop, I had broken cars lined up in front of the bays on a daily basis. Thank God for GM, Ford and Chrysler. Cars back then broke down at an alarming rate. We didn’t have to be the best salespeople either; broken cars just arrived at our doorstep. We lived in a reactive world, where we repaired one car after the other. Those were the days!

Well, those days are gone. Today, if you wait for cars to come to you, you may be waiting a long time. With extended service intervals, improved car quality, and less maintenance items to service and repair, we need to take a proactive approach.

We need to improve our image, hire the best people, adopt a culture of continuous training, speak to all customers as if they are best friends or family, inform them of needed future services, book the next service, sell preventive maintenance and deliver world-class customer service.

Most importantly; Create a customer experience so memorable, so enjoyable, so rewarding that when they leave your shop, they think to themselves…. “That was a great experience; I’m coming back.”

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

In: sales
 
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The Best-Kept Secret to Generating More Referrals

posted on October 29th, 2014 posted by Bob Cooper

As we all know, the most powerful form of advertising always has been, and always will be, word of mouth. Although every shop owner would like to believe the majority of their customers are songbirds, the reality is, they’re not. I am not suggesting that you don’t have some customers who love to sing your song, but it’s safe to say that they’re a very small percentage of your overall customer base. I feel comfortable making such a strong statement because even if as little as 10% of your customers were telling their friends about you, and if those people were to come in to your shop, then within 90 days you would have to shut down all of your advertising programs, and you would be booking appointments 30 days out. The reality is that regardless of how well you treat your customers, and no matter how pleased they are with your service, when your customers walk out of your shop they’ll step back into their busy lives, and they will forget about you. Will there be a time when they think of you again?  Of course, but it’ll only be when they have a need for your services, or when a friend engages them in a conversation about auto repair.

So here’s an easy-to-use procedure I created years ago that will turn your customers into salespeople, and fill up your service bays with customers who are presold on you.

Start the process by identifying the customers in your customer database who are your biggest boosters.  Ideally they will be good communicators, and they will either work with a lot of other people, or their social lives will put them in constant contact with a lot of other people. Then when they are dropping off their vehicle, or at the time of car delivery, say something like this…

Before you leave, Kevin, do you have just another minute? Great! We’re growing our company, Kevin, and in my perfect world, every customer would be just like you. You are always a pleasure to work with, and everyone here who knows you thinks the world of you.  Now I know birds of a feather flock together, so here is what I would like to do…” While they are in front of you take two of your business cards, and on the back of each card write – “One complimentary oil service”.  Hand the two cards to your customer and say: “What I’d like to do is give you these two cards. Each one of them entitles the bearer to a complimentary oil service, so when you go to work today, if you could be so kind as to take just a moment to give these two cards to a couple of people you work with, it would be very much appreciated.  They’ll get a complete oil service at no charge, and we’ll be able to meet a friend of yours.”

This works so well because if you give the cards to the right people, they’ll be excited to pass them along to their friends, and since you gave them specific instructions on how and when to do it, there’s a good probability they’ll pass the two cards out the very same day. You know as well as I do that they will be singing your praises when they pass along those cards, and there is a good probability the cards will be used. Your cost? The potential cost of two oil services, and the cost of an oil service is meaningless when you consider that you are getting a new customer who is presold on you, and you are giving your best customers the opportunity to give something of value to two of their friends. If you are looking for an immediate increase in car counts, then this is one way to not only bring in more new customers, but to turn your customers into salespeople at the same time.

For additional help building a more profitable, successful auto repair business, learn about how you can join a team of 90 of the top shop owners in the country through Elite Pro Service

 
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Are Low Car Counts the Real Issue?

posted on October 22nd, 2014 posted by Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide

Car count is a key performance indicator (KPI) that shows you the health of your business. But before we blame low car counts for why we are not achieving our sales goals, we need to take the time to look at all the numbers and analyze labor and part margins, average repair order (ARO), production issues, other critical KPI’s, customer retention and workflow processes. Only after a thorough analysis can we begin to work on the issue of car counts.

This is not to suggest that a shrinking car count is not a problem. Many shops are experiencing declining car counts for a number of reasons: increased competition from dealers and mass merchandisers, improved car quality, less frequent factory scheduled maintenance, and decreasing vehicle visits, among other things.

The key is to track all key numbers and vehicle visits per year, per customer.  If you see your car count trending down, you are not meeting your sales objectives, and all other KPIs are in line, then you need to address this issue.

But, are you really losing customers? You may find that customer visits per year is the problem. With manufacturers constantly increasing oil service intervals and the perception that cars don’t need maintenance, this is a big problem, and it may be the reason for a declining car count.

A more proactive approach through selling preventive maintenance and other services will help. In addition, you should bump up your marketing efforts, especially with your existing customer base. And lastly, make sure you stand out by providing world class customer service.

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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An Auto Shop’s Guide to Handling Web Leads

posted on October 15th, 2014 posted by Bob Cooper

In today’s world your customers have 24/7 access to the web. Whether it be on their home computer, work computer or their smartphone, no matter where they are they can be online within moments. This is just one of the many reasons today’s consumers are turning to the web for answers, and more and more shops are receiving requests for quotes over the web. This simple three-step guide has been developed to help you better handle those web leads in the most professional way, and turn them into customers at the same time.

1. Know your goal. In all cases your goal should be to get the web lead on the phone with your advisor. There is a rule we share in all of our sales training, and it simply states that people buy from people they like, trust and view as a credible expert. Starting with the “like” requirement, when someone first reaches out to you over the web they are attempting to communicate with your shop. The really good advisors know they need to convert that “website visitor – shop” relationship into a “customer Mike – service advisor Bob” relationship.  People do business with people, not with companies, so in all cases the first thing that web lead needs to be sold on is your service advisor to the point where they like your advisor, trust your advisor and view your advisor as a credible expert.

2. Respond quickly. How quickly you are able to reply is going to play a huge role in your success. When someone is reaching out to you for a quote, or any other question about their vehicle, there is a high probability that they are reaching out to other facilities as well. This doesn’t mean the first shop that replies will get the job, but they will certainly have the first opportunity to get the sale. If another shop responds first and handles the customer well, by the time you reply that potential customer may have already made a decision.  Your web leads are expecting a quick and professional reply, so if you want the web lead to like you, it starts with a fast response.

3. Have a strategy in place. First of all, bear in mind that the majority of the people requesting a price are not the price shoppers most advisors believe them to be. Just like with a first-time caller that asks how much, your web leads don’t know the questions they should be asking: questions about how long you have been in business, whether you employ certified technicians, etc. So never prejudge the person that sends a web request asking for price. In all cases, call them if they provide a phone number. If they do not provide a number, as soon as you receive the request you should reply by thanking them for reaching out to you. You’ll need to introduce yourself in your reply, and you’ll need to let them know your position with the company.  In your email you’ll also need to ask a few questions to start the flow of communication we are looking for. Beyond asking year, make and model, you can ask when was the last time they (had the brakes serviced if they’re requesting a quote on brakes, had maintenance performed if they’re requesting a price on maintenance, etc.), the approximate mileage on the vehicle, and why they suspect they need (brakes, maintenance, etc.). If you pose the right questions, and get the communication and a relationship started, your next response should be to let them know you have some additional questions, and ask if there is a phone number you can reach them at.  In essence, you are asking them to take a call, which should always be your goal with a web lead.

In summary, with web leads you need to have a goal of getting them on the phone, you’ll need to reply to each request quickly, and you will need to have a strategy in place that sells them on your advisor and your shop. If you follow this simple procedure, and never put money ahead of people, you have my promise – you’ll bring in more of those web leads that will help you build your business.

For additional help turning leads into customers, learn more about Elite’s Masters Service Advisor Training Program

In: sales
 
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