One of the biggest issues I’ve observed on the service drive is that productivity is dependent on people skills. When I say “people skills”, what I’m really talking about is skilled people. Highly skilled people are organized, motivated and are excellent communicators. Highly skilled service personnel know how to build rapport with the customers and how to facilitate customer retention. Highly skilled service advisors produce high parts and service revenues.
In a perfect world, all of your advisors would have the exact skill-set necessary to meet every challenge with charm, professionalism and most of all results! Unfortunately, that is not the real world you live in, is it? Don’t get me wrong, I have encountered a few advisors who truly were “the complete package,” but most folks don’t fit that description.
Most of the training in our industry is centered on expanding people skills. However, I’ve observed that the most successful dealerships put their primary focus on the process.
Processes are simply the action steps necessary to produce the desired outcomes. Once you have a good service drive process in place then the manager’s job is to supervise the people. Managers must track adherence to the process, hold people accountable and provide training when a weakness is discovered.
It is important to help people develop their skills, but if you develop a solid process, then people with limited skills can succeed by adhering to the process, but only if they are held accountable.
Fast food restaurants have made hundreds of billions of dollars using this strategy and they are working with an army of 16 year olds! It is such a simple concept that it is profound: develop a solid process and “hold everyone’s feet to the fire” to follow the process every time.
Just to clarify, when I say “people with limited skills,” I’m talking about all of us in the human race. No one on your service team is perfect and no one can reach their maximum potential on their own. All of us need coaching, mentoring, training and a process to follow.
As an example of developing a process, let’s focus on the service drive. In order to keep it simple, I suggest you require your advisors to follow a three-step process with each customer:
1) Primary concern: The reason the customer came into our dealership today. This is a matter of listening and then writing down the complaint. It is primarily a clerical function.
2) Process of discovery and identification: This is where the advisors and technicians work together to find additional maintenance opportunities. This process uses “tools” such as a walkaround, multipoint inspection, fluid sample plate, tablet PC, or pulling up the service history.
3) Offer and ask: The final step is presenting the customer with their maintenance needs, using a menu to offer your maintenance solutions, and asking the customer if you can perform the services today. The offer and ask process is the most important and most often omitted step in the entire service drive experience. It is the most important because it is the only way to turn the service drive process into cash!
Please note that if a service department is unwilling to include discovery and identification in their process and if management is unwilling to hold everyone accountable to do it every time, then the only revenue source will be the primary concern. Therefore, service advisors will not be needed. All the dealership will need is a service kiosk so the customer can do self-serve data entry of the primary concern.
Likewise, any dealership that won’t insist on adherence to the offer and ask phase of the process needs to fire all of the service advisors (save the expense) and focus on the primary concern.
At the risk of sounding simplistic, let me urge you to formulate a service drive process and simply hold your people accountable to follow it. Make it a condition of employment. I know you have to choose your battles, but if the process is a hill you’re willing to die on, then your people will comply.
If your service department isn’t hitting on all cylinders, it really comes down to two questions:
1) Is the problem caused by a flawed process, lack of training, failure to communicate the vision or a total breakdown of tracking and accountability? 2) Is the problem your people, your processes, your management team or you?
Every month, Dealer magazine is filled with solutions to all of these problems and many others you encounter on a day to day basis. I would suggest you go online to the Dealer magazine web site to access some of my archived articles. Feel free to e-mail me, and I’ll help you or I’ll point you to someone who can.
As I close, let me remind you that 2011 is going to be the comeback year for the automotive business. I predict that 2011 will be the most profitable year your fixed operations department has ever seen! Let me be the first to congratulate you!