I suppose I’ve been on a rampage about vehicles getting analyzed, tested, and fixed right, particularly directed at driver / passenger safety as well as dependability. The responsibility for taking proper care begins with the ASM position, which is being treated as if it could be done by anyone who could fog a mirror these days.
Maybe it was this tête-à-tête:
Amateur ASM: “The lube guy says you need tires. They’re worn down.”
Uninformed Customer: “Really? How much are the tires?”
Amateur ASM: “Depends on what you want. We have good, better, or best tires.”
Uninformed Customer: “What’s the difference?”
Amateur ASM: “Basically the price. Good is the cheapest and best is the most expensive.”
Uninformed Customer: “How good are the cheaper tires?”
Amateur ASM: “Those are the ones we sell the most.”
Uninformed Customer: “How much cheaper?”
Amateur ASM: “About $370 less than the most expensive ones, installed.”
Uninformed Customer: “So, how much is that?”
Amateur ASM: “Right at $750 in total, including everything.”
Uninformed Customer: “Is that the best decision?”
Amateur ASM: “Most people buy them.”
Uninformed Customer: “I think I will wait a little longer, they got me here ok.”
Or maybe it was this sad dialogue:
Amateur ASM: “The technician says you need a serpentine belt.”
Uninformed Customer: “What’s that?”
Amateur ASM: “It’s the belt in front of the engine.”
Uninformed Customer: “How much is it?”
Amateur ASM: “The belt and labor are $138 plus tax they say.”
Uninformed Customer: “How bad is it?”
Amateur ASM: “It needs to be replaced he says.”
Uninformed Customer: “Can I wait till later and do it?”
Amateur ASM: “I guess. You can do it next time?”
Uninformed Customer: “I think I can wait a while anyway.”
What the …
If you consider yourself a professional automotive service manager / director / guru / sage or likewise, and you don’t see anything missing from these impotent conversations, you need to brush up on the ASM position and the related important responsibilities they carry, not to mention the tremendous liabilities they can create. There are too many barristers masquerading as do-gooders who are really just looking for a fast buck for themselves from a perceived fat cat – there, I said it.
I’m not saying that service department customer managers have to be master technicians, but they have to recognize the importance of conveying at least a morsel of semi-technical safety and dependability information, tied to the benefits and consequences of all types of service and maintenance purchases. Oh, and vital purchases are made comfortably as a result – no buyer’s remorse.
Informative materials are available and attainable at everyone’s fingertips, starting with the “chock- full-of-important-info-which-no-one-ever-reads” vehicle owner’s manuals, tire manuals (in the glove box), manufacture and other service manuals, and literally tons of materials published by parts manufacturers and users. To get a taste, peruse tirerack.com for instance, a bible of usable tire info and data.
Speaking of tires, according to safecar.gov some 11,000 accidents annually are caused by tire failure, and recalls are getting more and more common they stated. Their list of tire issues included poor tire design, tire de-beading, tread separation, shredding, wheel explosions, side-wall zipper failures, poor construction, poor manufacturing, blowouts, and failed tire adhesion. When tires fail or are installed improperly, roll-overs and front-to-rear accidents are common results, along with resulting broken bones, head, neck, and brain injuries, as well as death. Uh, just a minute coach, I need to run out and check mine.
Take a belt to it bro
Today’s snake-looking belts (hence the designation “serpentine”) are extremely important to both safety and dependability. Regarding dependability, in a school I attended, instructors demoed a picture of hundreds of core-alternators piled in a room. None were malfunctioning, and all were replaced because of a slipping serpentine belt which didn’t make a sound and looked like new while the grooves were completely worn out. The only way to test a belt for wear now is to measure the depth of the grooves with a petite plastic measuring tool, which you can get for free at many parts stores. The days of substantial cracking and belt noise are for the most part over we were told.
And what happens when a decrepit serpent sash suddenly bites the dust? Well, consider that they often drive water pumps (burned-up engine), power steering pumps (help, I can’t steer), alternators (help, it won’t start), and other components such as the air conditioner. Keep in mind that when the engine eventually stops, there isn’t much stopping power either.
What to do Batman
I suggest every manager listen closely to the customer presentations of their ASM staff. I am seeing important MPI-discovered needs closed at less than a measly 20% way too often. These are “NEEDS,” not “Wants.” The closing ratio in car selling is better than that. Needs have weighty consequences and few ASMs I am finding are knowledgeable enough to know them, let alone explain them.
Consider doing some research and starting once-a-week 30-minute training sessions with your customer managers. Cover the basics, especially the details of maintenance what, why, benefits, and consequences. Teach them to use the assumptive close, not the clumsy and weak “asking close,” which just signifies that the request was optional all along. Have them be thorough in their review and close with “So, we will take care of that today.” You will be amazed at the positive results, and both the patrons and their vehicles will be far better-taken care of. Remember that consumers do not visit your establishment so that you can ask them what they should do.
Here’s a start Art
To get your short and sweet training regimen cranked up, I have a nifty basic tire training workbook written in Excel for you. I just finished it and used it myself with a great reception. Try a session at least once and you might find it refreshing, enlightening, and your troops will do a better job handling your potential tire liabilities (smarty lawyers will refer to your techs as “the experts”). If you would like a copy of the Excel sheet, just email a request to Ed@NetProfitGroup.com and put on the subject line “Tire Facts-Safety First Lefty.”
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.