For real – overheard by me at a large Honda dealership after an ASM explained to a lady patron limited details behind the current $500 fee for an injection cleaning, throttle body service, transmission service, and a headlight replacement.
Lady patron: “The last time I was here I spent $500 on tires, and now it’s another $500 for these things. I really like everyone here, but I don’t think I can afford to get my Honda serviced here anymore.” Ok my friend, stop and think for a minute. How would you reply to this unfortunate discourse?
“Hey you’re gettin’ off cheap honey, the last customer paid $700 cause I didn’t slip her a couple coupons.”
“Spending a grand on a car this old is nothing. It’s a lot cheaper than buying a new one – have you seen the crazy prices?”
“No problem, Missy. I will keep the cost on the next visit down. I just won’t tell you about the stuff we sell which you can get by without.”
So, what do you think I heard – something pithy? How about absolutely nothing, after a minute-long pregnant pause. After that eternity and his confused look, the ASM simply ignored the retort and moved on collecting funds. I just cringed. I wanted to jump in so badly it hurt my sphincter.
Whatta ya know Bub?
The ASM response told me a lot about this person’s current state of training – NADA (not that one Sam!). He had no words to save this otherwise loyal customer, and yet he presented himself to me as someone who had been doing this “for years,” which made wonder if he knew what a “year” was. Reminds me of the old adage of the person who claimed to have 20 years’ experience; but it turned out to be one year 20 times.
How many times has this conversation surfaced here and at other operations? Are we prepared to respond to such goings on? “No” is the answer in most cases – at least the ones I’m exposed to (I know that’s a preposition). We wonder why seemingly happy CSI customers leave the dealership, and they do – in droves, especially after the initial warranty coverage is done. Hell, in many cases the majority of customers don’t even come back for the “free” oil changes the factory pays for (or rips you off depending on the franchise). One has to wonder why. Are we that pitiful at what we do in service?
Last week I taught some ASM workshops and I had the attendees bring the Owner’s Manual of the most popular model. I could have asked them to bring a dissertation on the Greek revival and got the same response – what’s this? To their credit, they dug in and found all kinds of goodies related to their future conversations, and the “Oh’s” and “Aw’s” were plentiful, along with some “Wow’s.” I asked the group to locate info about brake fluid, tires and related maintenance, wipers, checking the oil, and other important items these lengthy manuals clearly identify. Eyes were opened as well as their minds. They began to understand the importance of knowing this information, and how and why customers depend on them to mentor their many vehicle decisions. I asked, “If not you, who?” I iterated that customers don’t come to service to be asked questions they know absolutely nothing about – “Ya wanna rotate them there tires Suzy?” Rather, “A tire rotation and inspection is required with the basic engine oil and filter service so I will ensure that gets performed also.” Read the freakin’ manuals – end of story.
Let’s pretend that a dealer’s “reputation” in large part depends on the interaction with the people customers deal with – which is likely true – DUH. Considering one ASM deals with, in less than 20 minutes, the same amount of customers sales people deal with in an entire day, which makes them reputation affecters or even reputation managers. If you disagree put your hand up if you are clueless. Good, no hands up. I think it’s fair here to calculate reputation and customer retention go hand in hand. I recently heard of a successful hero Subaru service operation in the Northeast so effective that the high-volume sales department didn’t advertise. I am betting they are damn good at the customer-relationship fundamentals first-off.
So, friend, what is a highly impactful part of establishing the reputation of a medical doctor, a plumber, a dry-cleaner, a local bar, a lawn-care company, and even a politician? The peeps – those we meet and interact with followed by the quality of delivery of course. And, most importantly, if the front-end rep performs like a marginally knowledgeable clerk, rather than a competent counselor, a good end result sometimes isn’t enough. Many things have changed over the years, but the fundamentals of a servicing relationships have remained the same, especially after all the free sh.. has ended, and the customer is now remunerating.
The remarkable effort, on-going energy, and tremendous expense invested into service “fluff” rather than into continuous development of vital front-line personnel who must be first – completely product knowledgeable, second – conversation competent, third – sincerely aggressive in providing satisfaction, and lastly an overall professional always seeking more perfection, is the core of the shabby customer retention dealers enjoy. You can argue with my point and claim that the fluffy applications are more important; but I will just recite the dealer industry’s lousy retention numbers. I am figuring the so-called manufacturing employed retail gurus forcing dealers into the numerous current, expensive, and time-consuming fluff diseases weren’t even gestated when dealers owned the service market – sans fluff (I know you know what the fluff is or you wouldn’t be reading this).
How About This…
I have made a list of capacities each ASM and BDC pro needs to be exposed to, trained, tested, and nurtured. If you will take the time and effort to follow through with this program, you will be surprised at the positive response of your personnel. The smart approach is to conduct the sequence a bit at a time, perfecting steps as you move everyone ahead, taking as much time – a year maybe – to move your support organization to a higher performance level than you ever imagined. The culture of your staff will improve, and tying this educated approach together with encouraging each ASM to build their own book of repeat business, will be a win for employee retention too! Not to mention the reduced stress for the ASM and other management maharishis when consumer relationships are cemented.
Email a request to Ed@NetProfitGroup.com and put on the subject line: ASM-BDC Training-Overdue Bub. I left some areas for you to add you own training thoughts. The only downside I can think of is that some aggressive soldiers may end up knowing more than me and you. I can live with that and I bet you can too boss.
Author: Ed Kovalchick
Ed Kovalchick is the CEO and founder of Net Profit Inc., Alabaster, AL, an international fixed operation consulting and training firm located in Alabaster AL. Mr. Kovalchick and his firm have assisted hundreds of dealers and manufacturers, and conducted workshops throughout the world for thousands of students since 1979. He has written columns for Dealer Magazine since its inception.