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Discipline Versus Fear and Greed

A few weeks ago, I posted a podcast where I cautioned you to be ready for the post coronavirus return of your customers. They would be looking for business to return as close to normal as possible. I advised you to use extreme discipline and stick to the processes that you have in place, to ensure delivery of the absolute highest level of service. For the most part, it seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

As we reach out to more and more service centers around the country, we are learning that most of you are not fully staffed, yet you are taking in a volume that requires all hands on deck.  You are overloading your advisors and their ability to properly work with your customers is greatly diminished.

Prior to the pandemic, most of you seemed to be adhering to the recommended 15 to 18 repair orders being written by each service advisor, each day. We are learning that post virus, you are allowing your writers to write 19 to 23 repair orders. By allowing this to happen, you are killing opportunity for the present and the future.

To prove my point, let me share a story with you that happened recently. A locally owned steakhouse loved by everyone in the area, announced that they would be taking Father’s Day orders for pick-up.  In addition, they also announced that they were going to begin again, taking reservations for limited in-house dining.  The Father’s Day special was meant to offset the reduced capacity rule the restaurant had to adhere to due to the virus.  The restaurant required advance ordering and reserved pick-up times for take-out entrees. This was welcome and exciting news for my family since this is one of our very favorite places.  My wife and I ordered our Father’s Day dinner as instructed and set the reserved pick-up time. We also made an in-house dining reservation for the following week. Our older daughter did the same.

When placing the order, I sensed there might be a problem brewing.  The person taking my order informed me that the response to the new offerings was “blowing them away!”  She said the demand for pick-up orders was greater than they had ever experienced.  This sent off a warning signal in my head.

The next day, when my wife and daughter went to the restaurant at the scheduled time to collect our order, it was not ready. Not only was it not ready, but they were told it had not even been started.  According to my wife, there were at least ten others experiencing the same problem.

Trying to mitigate the inconvenience, the restaurant offered my wife and daughter a free cocktail while they waited.  It ended up being a 35-minute wait.  The free cocktail, although very nice, did not solve the restaurant’s problem.  My wife and daughter observed an overwhelmed staff, rushing around, putting out fires.  This is a total departure for this restaurant.  They are known as much for their amazing service as they are for their world class cuisine. They simply overbooked and were not prepared to handle the volume of the business they generated.  Seeing this, my wife and daughter felt that the restaurant was not ready to re-open and needed a few more weeks prepare for the “new normal.”  They cancelled their reservations for in-house dining.  It was clear by viewing the restaurant’s social media that we were not alone in our assessment of the situation.

Why would the business owner allow this to happen? He established and grew his business in the community dedicating himself and his staff to delivering a fine dining experience with gourmet cuisine and top-notch service.  How did he misread this situation?  I believe it was totally unintentional.  He feared that by not accepting all take-out orders, he would leave many long-time customers disappointed.  Or perhaps, he got a little greedy and pushed his team to do something they were not trained for or prepared to handle. Had he stuck to the proven business model that made his restaurant successful, he could have avoided this misstep.   Never sacrifice quality for quantity.  He needed to calculate the maximum number of orders his team was able to handle, while still being able to deliver the same quality his customers have come to expect. He might have disappointed some customers. However, they would have been no more disappointed, than if they called for a reservation and found that the restaurant was booked.  It would have been fine.

Instead, he put a major ding in his reputation.  A reputation that took a crazy amount of work and dedication to establish.  He needed to be disciplined.  He needed to apply the same discipline he adhered to when he was building his business to the current challenging business environment.  He showed that he was not prepared for the volume of orders he received and that negatively affected the reopening of the dine-in service. He extinguished the fire of excitement for the re-opening.  His departure from following the model that got him to where he is, cost him and it cost him big.

Coincidentally, I recently took my vehicle in for service. When I arrived, the first thing I noticed was the absence of the usual team of greeters and porters who alert my arrival and dress my vehicle. Next, I observed that only two of five advisors were present that day. The two advisors were each working with a customer and there were two customers waiting.  Throughout my write-up, customers continued to arrive, further overloading the advisors.  This caused the advisors to become anxious, which resulted in them rushing the write-up. There was no rapport building, no walk-around conducted, no explanations of any kind, and ultimately, immeasurable opportunity lost.

I am not upset by what I experienced, but had they told me when I set my appointment that I would need to wait a day or two, I still would have taken my car there. There was no risk of losing my business.  As a matter of fact, I would have preferred to wait, especially if it meant getting better service.  This would have eliminated the errors and omissions that occurred during my appointment. I pay a lot of money for my vehicles.  I also pay a lot for service and for repairs. I want value for my dollar.

Consider this, Disney doesn’t allow employees to remove the character heads of their costumes when it is hot outside for one simple reason.  People don’t pay to see Mickey Mouse without his head on.  They pay to see Mickey Mouse look just like he does in the cartoons.

As you reopen, having the discipline to control your fears and deliver on promises, may prove to be one of the hardest things you have ever had to do.   It’s going to be a true balancing act. You need the sales and business, but at the same time, you cannot afford to sacrifice quality and service.  Don’t let the short sightedness of fear and greed rule the day. Give each customer your full attention and deliver the quality they have come to expect and deserve. That is how to gain customer trust and loyalty.  It will always be to your benefit to offer the highest level of service, even if that means servicing fewer customers.  It is important to define the number of repair orders you can handle while still being able to maintain high standards in customer service.

Fifteen to 18 repair orders per advisor, per day will give your advisors the time they need to sell surveys and your products, retain customers, maintain a high effective labor rate, and eliminate heat cases.  If you insist on 19 to 20 repair orders in a day, you will lose in one of the five areas mentioned.  At 21 orders, you lose two of the five, at 22 you lose three of the five, and at 23 or more, you will lose it all. At that point, it quickly turns into a game of survival, trying to get to the end of the day with the least amount of heat and the most money.  The long-term effects of making decisions out of fear and greed will be devastating to your business.

If you don’t’ want to take my advice, take a tip from Mickey Mouse and Disneyland.  Keep your head on your shoulders no matter how hot things get. Do the dance that people came to see and sing the songs they came to hear.  Meeting customer expectations garners customer loyalty.   Don’t allow fear and greed to dictate your actions.  Follow the script and remain disciplined.  Who knows? Your business might just become “the happiest place on earth!” It works for Disney. It can work for you.