What people do when they have extra time on their hands often defines how successful they are and will continue to be. To people like 26th U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt, extra time was learning time. He would read a book before breakfast every day, and, depending on his schedule, another two or three in the evening (he was a speed reader). Investor and billionaire Warren Buffett reads five hundred pages and five different newspapers each day. Microsoft founder Bill Gates reads fifty books a year. Mark Zuckerberg, who invented Facebook, reads a book every two weeks. Dallas Mavericks Basketball team owner and entrepreneur, Mark Cuban, reads for three hours every day. Elon Musk, who co-founded PayPal and Tesla Auto, has been known to read up to ten hours a day. 43rd U.S. President George W. Bush has been known to read as many as two books a week, with a high of 95 books in the year of 2006. Since leaving office, he has slowed his pace to about 50 a year, or about one a week.
Although the people above can surely fulfill most of their obligations during the pandemic, they will still be forced to cease some of their normal activities, and I would be willing to bet that they are spending some of their newfound free time reading even more, developing new ideas, and preparing for when the day comes (in the not too distant future) when everything returns to normal.
In politics, it has been said to never let a tragedy go to waste. You can apply the same thought process to you and your business. While I believe that current events have presented many of us with some much needed time at home reengaging with our families, finishing forgotten household projects, and getting caught up on our TV viewing, it is also the perfect time to work on the skills needed for our careers and prepare ourselves for the day when we return to our jobs.
Specifically, as a service advisor or service manager, now is the perfect time to take a hard look at the results you were producing before all of this started and identify areas where you and your team can improve. I recommend you examine five main areas:
- Total sales
- Customer paid hours per repair order
- Effective labor rate
- Survey scores
- Customer retention
Chances are that you can improve in one or all of these areas- we all can. So how do you get yourself and your team up to speed so that you not only are prepared to return to work, but have a significantly higher skill level when you do?
At a minimum, I would set aside at least two one-hour sessions each day (if you are quarantined at home) and at least two thirty-minute sessions each day if you are reporting to work. I highly recommend that you focus on the “people” part of the business and not on the technology side. With you being able to spend ample time with each customer who walks on the drive, I would focus your training on what you are going to say to customers when you get the opportunity to talk to them. Although most underperforming service teams and advisors look down upon word tracks and role-playing, the most successful advisors and managers know that using word tracks, role-playing, and having a consistent process from employee to employee gets them to the top—and keeps them there.
Looking at each of the five categories, here is what you should focus on specifically:
1. Total sales: Since you are likely having to go look for business, you will need word tracks for declined services, missed check-in times, lost customers, and service maintenance or reminder calls.
2. Customer paid hours per repair order: This is generally a presentation and closing issue. Here, you want to focus on word tracks, closes, and ways to handle objections. You should also focus on perfecting your walkarounds and becoming fluent in the six steps that are involved in face-to-face or telephone presentations.
3. Effective labor rate: A low effective labor rate is almost always due to an advisor’s inability to sell value. Here, you should focus on strengthening your presentation skills and rehearsing the many benefits each individual product or service offers. These must be committed to memory. Remember, value should always exceed cost.
4. Survey Scores: One of the quickest ways to elevate your survey scores is to improve vehicle delivery and your overall delivery process. A strong delivery helps smooth over any complications that may have occurred during the visit and helps detect customer dissatisfaction (before they take their vehicle to another shop for their next service). Word tracks and role-playing are a must in this area.
5. Customer retention. The lack of customer retention is mostly caused by a failure to meet a customer’s expectations on some level. In order to set, manage, and exceed customers’ expectations at every turn, you will need to develop word tracks to use on the phone prior to them visiting, when they arrive at the initial writeup, at the end of the write-up, and each time you contact them throughout the day. Retention begins with the first interaction they have with your dealership, so this may include word tracks for the BDC as well.
Now comes the question, where do I find this information or these training techniques? You must consider where your chosen training will come from, as there is a huge difference between FREE training and training you invest in. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest”. Many industry experts, myself included, have been offering webinars or information simply as a means of giving back during this time of crisis. Yet to further that, some of the most successful teams invest in our online training which has over 40 hours of training. Training can be found in the form of books, online platforms, keynotes, or simply in conversation. If you are looking for the specific word tracks and benefit based presentations, an investment into our best-selling pocket guide (merely $20) can get you a head start into the top of your game. Investment or not, your chosen training should always come from an industry expert, have proven results, and be based on professional salesmanship. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, get testimonials, or seek multiple platforms.
In day-to-day routine, I suggest you work on no more than two of the above areas at a time. Since you are going to have two training sessions a day, focus on one area during the first session and the other area during the second. If you choose to work on only one area, still schedule two sessions a day. If you are a team leader, you will want to have a meeting at the end of each day to introduce the area, word track, role-play, or other topic that you will be focusing on the next day. Explain why you are focusing on that area, and explain the technique and how to use it. Tell your team how you will be working on it, i.e., on the phone, face-to-face, as a group, as an individual, etc. Make sure your team members clearly understand what you will be expecting from them by providing examples. Stay on a given word track or technique until your team members have displayed that they have mastered it.
As an individual, you will essentially do the same thing. Focus on one area, word track, or technique at a time. Role-play out loud in front of a mirror and record it so you can play it back and see how well you are doing. You can enlist family members to act as customers in role-plays or connect with another employee online, via Facetime or the like, to practice with each other.
By following my suggestions, you will be doing what the professional athletes, musicians, and other people who are serious about their crafts are doing as you read this. They are securing their future by staying in top form so that when things go back to normal, they are ready. When you return to work, you will do so in one of two modes: in top form because you spent your time wisely and wanted to maximize your every opportunity with every customer, or you will return in “ramp up” mode and waste two or three weeks of opportunity getting back up to speed. Getting “back up to speed” can only put you to where you were before all this started. You can be better than you were. In fact, you can be better than you ever were because you didn’t let this tragedy (opportunity) go to waste.
We know more than ever right now, that having loss will truly teach us the value of things we may have taken for granted. Keep winning and may God bless you all!