Monday, March 4, 2013

ACG-Eight Habits of Highly Successful Service Advisors

ACG has an exclusive Service Advisor Training Program that gets "tried and true" proven results. I will go into detail on how we achieve higher sales per Repair Order AND Customer Retention. To achieve these "predictable" results, it takes two key fundamentals to get started and they are "People and Process".

As you may have noted, I did not include "technology" as I know from experience that technology is not a factor in building a High Performance Service Operation. In fact, it usually stops you from growing and most often times, gives you a lot of added expense and excuses.

I've  always said that if you can't get them to fill out and use a written "Multi-Point Inspection Form", how do you expect them to fill out and use an electronic version of this same form. Let's go one step further, the same would hold true for menu programs...Electronic Menus versus "Hand Out" Menus. It doesn't make sense to spend money on new technology, when the first priority should be coaching, leading and managing  our people on the service process FIRST!

I believe the "People Process" has to come first and foremost. We have to consider the "human element" of our business by identifying the behavior tendencies of our employees in order to better understand our customers. I prefer to use the D.I.S.C. Profiling Process to identify who my service advisor is and to get a sense of who I'm working with. I want to know if this person is "Direct" or "Indirect" , as this may impact the overall customer perception and experience.

Once an advisor knows what his or her behavior style is, the training has started. I train each advisor to not only identify their own behavior tendencies, they will also better understand the tendencies of fellow employees and most importantly...they will better understand the customer.

 Here's the four dimensions:

There are four basic dimensions which everyone falls into. The intensity level is different for each individual which allows us to determine your specific behavior style. The next illustration is what we use with each advisor to determine the "intensity" of each dimension within 30 seconds after greeting the customer.

 Here's a few "How to Read Your Customer" questions:
  • Does this customer prefer to shoot the breeze? (Influence) 
  • Does this customer want to get right down to business? (Direct)
  • Does this customer want to deal in facts and figures?(Cautious)
  • Is this customer easy going and unconcerned (Steady)?
As you can clearly see, this is an important step in training our service advisors to identify who I'm dealing with so I can build a strong relationship with total trust. The second part of the "People Process" is hiring the right people, making sure I have the right people currently on board before you start to install a "High Performance Service Operation".

Let's move on to the Service Process. Here's a list of the Eight Habits:

Eight Habits 
Highly Successful Service Advisors

1. ACG'S Exclusive Appointment Process: Every eighteen minutes (18-36-54) with no more than 3 customers per Advisor per hour.

2. Daily Action Plan:  Each Advisor reviews History, Recalls, Declined Services, Special Order Parts, Maintenance Needs and makes notes on a Pre-Write R.O. with each Appointment the day before the customer arrives for service. 

3. Meeting & Greeting: Train and prepare each Advisor how to properly Meet and Greet each customer on the phone or in person.

4. Listening Skills/Prime Item: Train each Advisor on the proper listening skills and how to indentify the customer's prime items through asking the right questions. 

5. Walk-Around/Multi-Point/Fluid Analysis: Train each Advisor on the proper Walk-Around, Multi-Point, Analyze "Vital" Fluid Condition as well as finding commonality with each customer to build a relationship with trust. 

6. Menu Presentation: Train Advisors on how to present a menu using features and benefits. 

7. Customer Promise: Train Advisors on how to properly prepare and review repairs or maintenance needed as well as time needed to complete the vehicle. 

8. Close The Sale: Train Advisors on how to properly ask for the sale. 

# 1 Appointment Process

The Appointment Process is the most important of the Eight Habits and without it none of the other seven items I have listed will be implemented on a sustainable level. Simply put, most Service Advisors DON'T have enough time!
 Here's a look at a "Real Dealership" Appointment Process:

As you can see, four customers are scheduled to arrive at the dealership for one of the advisors at 7am. The next round of Appointments are scheduled for 7:30am and so on. If any of these customers are late, the Service Manager goes into what we call the "Fire Fighter" mode and starts to lose "Customer Trust". This usually leads to "damage control" by discounting service items due to an inefficient appointment process.

How can anyone expect this Service Advisor to have high CSI, High Sales per CPRO, and High Customer Retention? This Service Advisor is unable to do his or her job, let alone try and build a strong relationship with the customer! It's virtually impossible! Time Management is the Key!

Let's take a look at the ACG Appointment Process. It all starts with an appointment script that we have created from our personal experience over the last twenty years. The two option closing technique works extremely well and most customers will choose one of the options offered.

Next is our 18-Minute Process which allows our Service Advisors to train their customers not to forget their appointment due to the odd time frame. We only allow three customers per hour (18-36-54) in order to better build a strong relationship. Your customers is also more likely to remember the "precise" time of their appointment.

As you can see from this illustration below, we can STILL write up (15) customers by noon per each advisor. This allows for any walk-ins, or phone calls that need to be attended to. The afternoon  is usually for drop-offs and oil changes. In a nut shell, we have created a "Time Management" system for the Service Advisors.

 Allowing your customers to "Just Bring It In" will never work and cause your customer to defect. Understanding the benefits will allow you to maximize your appointment system from "day before" preparation to "same day" follow through.

Next  we will cover the next three habits that are crucial in building a strong relationship with every customer in depth. We call this the "Communication Process" and review how important it is to the success of your service operation.

# 2 Daily Action Plan

The "Daily Action Plan" will allow you to prepare for each customer and include the following benefits:
  • Less Stress for the Service Advisor
  • More time to build a relationship with each customer
  • Fewer mistakes which will lead to increased customer confidence
Here's a list of what's in our Daily Action Plan:
  • Appointment List
  • Route Sheet
  • Pre-Write Work Order
  • 27-Point Inspection Form
  • Recall or Campaign Information
  • Appropriate Service Menu
  • Customer History
One of the first things we install is a Route Sheet Process for the Service Advisor. This process is followed throughout the day in order to keep the customer informed on the repair process  from beginning to end. It also allows the Service Advisor to see how much time he/she has to sell each day based on carryovers, appointments, and technician availability. I have found it to be a huge piece of the puzzle when it comes to promising customer pick up times.

The big difference between computerized Route Sheets and paper Route Sheets is that it's always right in front of the Service Advisor as a constant reminder for follow up. Computerized Route Sheets require the Service Advisor to pull the Route Sheet screen up in front of them, which usually only happens when the customer is calling, wondering "What's Up With My Car"?.... The one difference with our Computer Version is that it comes with a "Pop Up" on the advisors screen when the status changes.

Here's a look at Both of ACG's Route Sheets:

Computer Version

Paper Version

Next we pull out the appointment list and start reviewing campaigns, recalls, and of course, customer history. We pre-print a work order so we can review the contact information with the customer for correctness, any notes or recommendations we made from our history review, what the customer is coming in for, and any maintenance needs based on time or mileage.

Many times, we have found that even though your customer reviews your computer screen and agrees that the information is correct, often times, it is not correct. By handing the customer the "pre-write" to review, correct customer information can be assured.

We also have either the advisor or cashier call each customer to confirm the appointment and any "no-shows" from the previous day in order to re-schedule those missed appointments.

Next, we staple any information we need to review with the customer (Menu, Recall, Campaign,  History) and put it in a file or work order holder at the time of each appointment. Arranging the files by appointment,  each advisor knows when the next customer is scheduled to pull up, allowing them time to review the customer's information in order to greet them out at their car by name.

# 3 Meet & Greet

When the customer arrives it's time for the "Third Habit" to come into play, the "Meet and Greet" Process. Now you will see why effectively setting up your Daily Action Plan is so important to this third habit.

Could you imagine your doctor walking into the room to visit with you and he/she hasn't reviewed your file or even know your name?

Same goes for the service customer who shows up for their appointment and you ask the customer what's your name? Or better yet...."Let me go get the VIN number and I'll be right back". This is happening in 90% or more of the dealers we visit and many dealers' wonder why their customers defect!

Let's take a look at some research done by UCLA as they looked at how people communicate. The results of the research came up with three main factors:

  • How you look
  • How you sound
  • What you say
To break it down further they found the communication impact percentages of each to be:

So as you can see it's very important to factor in  how we look, what our body language is telling our customers, the tone of our voice, and last but not least, what we say. We can say the same thing, however how we say it can change the meaning drastically.

So greeting your customer at their vehicle, fully prepared with a "professional greeting" provides your service advisor confidence and your customer a "Great First Impression" of your service operation. Wow! What a start to building a strong customer relationship!

Remember a customer is out of their comfort zone if they step out of their car and greet you first in the service drive. We need to make it convenient for them to do business with us as the customer will remember the advisor first, not the dealership or product.

# 4 Listening Skills

Let's move onto the Fourth Habit which is equally important as any other. As you well know, we have been in hundreds of dealerships and one of the things I have found everywhere is how advisors think FOR the customer, instead of thinking OF the customer.

If I had a dollar for every time an advisor said: "The customer won't do that" I could retire! I wish I could see into the future, however I have not found anyone yet in my 53 years on this earth who can! So why do we always think FOR them instead OF them?

Unfortunately, it's one of those habits that's not easy to break. We have to practice more "Active Listening" if we are ever going to scratch this record and record a new one. Let's take a look at some facts how the average person listens and speaks.

  • We speak around 135-175 words per minute
  • We listen at around 400-500 words per minute

Here's some of the things I have witnessed concerning Service Advisors on the Drive over the years:

  • Not Being Prepared
  • No Eye Contact
  • Ignoring The Customer
  • Interrupting The Customer Before They Finish
  • Assuming That They Already Know What The Customer Is Going To Say
  • External Distractions When Listening To The Customer 
 This is a short list, however it covers a lot of ground. A good start to building an "Active Listening" process in your service operation is to have each advisor take a self-evaluation on how well they listen through a series of ranking questions we have available.

As you can clearly see, if we start practicing an "Active Listening" process using "open ended" questions to encourage the customer to explain the problem, we will accomplish a lot in a short period of time.

Being prepared for the customer before they arrive will greatly assist in the listening process. Now you can see that each one of the "Eight Habits" is like a piece of the puzzle. Once you learn and practice each one with a good coach, you can clearly see how we create a "Wow" experience every time your customer visits.

Always remember a "Satisfied Customer" can go anywhere to get service, but  a "Wowed Customer" will always return!

So building a structured consistent approach to each of these "Eight Habits" is crucial to how your customer views your service operation and if he/she will do business with you in the future.

We call it "The Moment Of Truth!"

 We have identified the importance of the Appointment and Communication Process which allows your service advisor the time and preparation needed before your customer arrives at the service department.

Let's dive into the last four habits that are crucial in "First Impressions" and  building strong relationships with every customer. We call this the "Relationship Process" and review how important it is to the success of your service operation.

Here's the glue! The Walk Around Process. I have witnessed so many failed "Walk Around" Processes installed by "Consultants" or Factory Representatives. I finally realized a long time ago they never installed the "Appointment Process" which should precede any "Walk Around" Process, thus allowing the Service Advisor enough time to perform a proper "Walk Around" in the first place.

When preparation meets opportunity, success follows at a very high percentage rate. Here is a small list which is worth repeating if you want a successful "Walk Around" Process:
  1. Appointment Process
  2. Daily Action Plan
  3. Proper Meet & Greet
  4. Listening Skills
#5 The "Walk Around" Process

If you decide to skip one of these fundamental items, your "Walk Around" Process will fail. So let's take a look at what ACG's "Walk Around" Process looks like. First, we want to greet the customer by name at their vehicle and confirm what they are coming in for, or the "Prime Item".

Next, we ask if there was anything else they might have noticed on their way into the shop today that they may want us to look at. The next step is to ask the customer how many miles are on the vehicle to get the customer "engaged" with the process.

We do not want to start recording the vehicle identification number, or ask the customer to "Pop the Hood" before creating the relationship which is crucial to the "Meet and Greet" Process. 

The next step is to perform a light check with the customer by advising them to step on the brake, turn the key to the on position, turn their lights on and put the car in reverse. This sets up the "Walk Around" starting at the left front door. Then, we make our way to the rear looking for any body or wheel damage, engaging the customer in casual conversation as we proceed.

Once we are at the rear of the vehicle, look for any signage, bumper stickers, roof racks, or a trailer hitch so we can find some commonality to talk about with the customer. Next, we record our findings, such as inoperative bulbs, most common are license tag or brake lamp bulbs.

I strongly recommend not to advise a customer you're walking around the vehicle to inspect for damage. If you find some damage let them know at that time in a positive manner of awareness to the customer. If no damage is noticed, no further words need to be said. 

Then proceed to the front of the vehicle again looking for damage. Once there, ask the customer to turn on the high beams and quite honestly, many times you will find that the customer doesn't even know how to turn them on. This is a great time to start some conversation and continue to build a strong relationship.

The next step is optional, based on how the advisor "reads" the customer and how they are responding to the "Walk Around" Process to this point. Ask them to "Pop the Hood" and join you while the advisor performs the "Vital Fluids" Evaluation.

It's also very important not to say negative things during this fluid evaluation that contain the words "burnt, dirty, poor smell" and so on. Approaching this fluid evaluation with negative words may lead to a negative outcome.

# 6 Menu Presentation

When the "Walk Around" is complete, have the customer join you back at your write up area. This is the time to review the prime item(s), maintenance needs based on time or mileage (Service Menu/Quote), reviewing each item with a one "Package Price".

Also if the customer comes in for a "Prime Item" like a check engine light make sure you inspect the cause and correction of the fix first before you perform any maintenance sold at time of write up.

Then after you tell them how much to fix the "Prime Item" and the additional cost would they still like to perform the maintenance. Lastly, confirm all operations and completion time and don't make the mistake of pricing out each item individually unless asked to do so as it will confuse the customer and kill the sale.

# 7 Customer Promise

 This is the stage were you review everything your going to do and by what time. Don't forget to have the customer review the pre-work order to make sure all contact information is correct.

I can't tell you how many times the advisor just "assumed" that the phone number/e-mail on the repair order was a good contact number or e-mail, only to find out quite the opposite.

We need to ask the customer what time would you like me to contact you for a status on your vehicle? Once we have established the time we need to ask how do you want me to contact you? (text-call-e-mail) and note it down on the pre-write.

The number one thing a customer is waiting to hear is when the vehicle will be completed. If you forget to update the customer throughout  the day,  they WILL call to ask "What's up with my car?"

 We have found at times that 60% of the incoming service calls were to "Check On" my car which in turn interrupts the process and causes poor customer service by not being pro-active. At this point, the customer trust factor is in trouble.

# 8 Close The Sale

We have found that there is no need to learn the top 10 best closing scripts based on how the customer responds to your solution to either fix or maintain their vehicle. The best way to make a customer say "Yes" is to build a relationship through trust, without fancy closing scripts.

At this point, all you need to do is ask for the sale. "Mr./Ms. Customer, my Technician performed the Multi-Point Inspection and found that you need:

  • front brake pads 
  • two front brake rotors
  • an alternator belt

 The total price is $369.95 which includes all taxes and fees, I can have it done by 3:00 PM. All I need is your "OK" (Sign or phone confirmation) to get started".

Nothing else needs to be said until the customer has responded. The more you speak at this time, the less chance you will have to complete the sale.

We have watched to many advisors talk themselves out of a sale because they didn't allow the customer to respond after the presentation.

If you have provided enough value in your presentation, the customer will purchase. If the customer decides not to buy, then ask why because they will tell you.

If it's price the advisor should have an option for the most important item. Once they tell you, you can now provide "new" information to close the sale.

 If you follow these "Eight Habits" consistently, you will be more successful in building customer trust, one customer at a time.

If your serious about making things happen versus waiting for things to happen, call or e-mail us now!

Don't wait till it's too late!

 Make This Year Your Best Year!

Guy Salkeld is the President and Head Performance Coach of Automotive Consultants Group Inc. The only Results Based High Return Training, Coaching, and Consulting company in the world! To learn more go to  Have a question? E-Mail Guy directly at or Call me direct at: 305-331-3373    

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