Better Car People Blog

Mark Franklin Takes Indianapolis by Storm!

Mark Franklin was off again traveling to Indianapolis-- home of a speedway (you may have heard of it), the Colts, and an amazing steakhouse called St. Elmo.

While he did have some interesting experiences, like meeting Andrew Luck's personal coach Pep Hamilton at the airport, he went to Indianapolis to talk automotive.

And he is really, really good at that.

He was there to speak to General Motors Service Managers/Directors/ and Fixed Operations managers about current automotive trends, current issues within Service Departments,  and BetterAppointments for OnStar. The GM reps always love Mark's ability to understand the requirements of the manufacturer while also "getting" what  Service  goes through on a daily basis. 

 

Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis, IN.

Keith Huettl, Professor at Ivy Tech, starts off the Service Club Meeting right!

Keith Huettl, Professor at Ivy Tech, starts off the Service Club Meeting right!

The meeting began in the Ivy Tech Community College Classroom.  So many people ready to learn!

The meeting began in the Ivy Tech Community College Classroom.  So many people ready to learn!

Mark Franklin with some of General Motor's finest. Rhenea Culp (RCRM), Gary Hambelton (DMA), Nicole Black(DMA), Greg Wright(DMA), Mark  Wiegand (DMA)

Mark Franklin with some of General Motor's finest. Rhenea Culp (RCRM), Gary Hambelton (DMA), Nicole Black(DMA), Greg Wright(DMA), Mark  Wiegand (DMA)

Very progressive and cutting edge classrooms . This is where students get a hands on education with a variety of GM vehicles.

Very progressive and cutting edge classrooms . This is where students get a hands on education with a variety of GM vehicles.

Another view of the classroom/training bay.

Another view of the classroom/training bay.

Mark Franklin and Stan Shelton A free Kindle Fire? Yes, please! Stan Shelton won the BetterCarPeople Kindle Fire Give Away. 

Mark Franklin and Stan Shelton

A free Kindle Fire? Yes, please! Stan Shelton won the BetterCarPeople Kindle Fire Give Away. 

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Published on April 01, 2015 by Better Car People.

When Should You Kiss Your Customers?

Yes--KISS your customers.

Would they get freaked out?

Perhaps...

So, thankfully I am talking about KISS as the acronym. Go ahead and put your chapstick away.

KISS

Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Now, I am not in love with the stupid part, but keeping it simple is necessary when talking to customers--especially customers looking to purchase a car.

How many times have we potentially talked a customer out of a car because we sent an email with too much, overly complicated, overly specific information. OR we were on the phone with a customer and over-answered questions which introduced new, more complex questions. It is time to apply KISS to our connections and conversations with our customers.

Here are some steps that will help guide your BDC or Internet Department towards the simple and effective way to communicate with your customers in an honest, transparent, and positive way.

Use Scripts

There is always the discussion of whether scripts make your BDC sound….well scripted. That is why it is so important to have good scripts that are conversational and ask questions. On almost every forum or discussion group I am a part of, there are new as well as seasoned BDC managers looking for quality, interactive professional scripts. They are out there--some much better than others. Regardless of where you get them, you must always:

Make sure they reflect the tone of your dealerships and your customer. If you are in NYC, ya’ll would not fly like it does here in NC

Introduce the script to the rest of the BDC. Don’t only hand the script to your team and say “Go!” Train them on inflection, pace, and tone. And most importantly, train them on the importance of the “pause and listen.” How can you help your customer find the perfect car for them if you won’t listen to their needs and desires?

While scripts are important, it is never good to sound like you are scripted. Sounding natural always trumps reading off a paper. That is why the next step is so important.

Keep Conversation Practiced and Simple

No one wants to hear this, but the most effective way to Keep Things Simple is to practice your craft. If your only job is to converse with potential customers, you need to practice what you are going to say in any scenario. Trying to find words while attempting to set an appointment with a customer is the least effective way to communicate--and it makes you look unprepared. Take time every day to rehearse possible scenarios and conversations that could take place. The more rehearsed, the more confident. And confidence is very evident over the phone.

Practice your script until it becomes part of who you are. Then, practice answering potential questions. Brainstorm with your fellow co-workers to discuss all of the possible objections or questions, and then create excellent responses. This way you are prepared for 80% of all conversations. There will always be that 20% where you have to think on your feet. But the practicing will help prepare you for that as well.

Educate Educate Educate

In a past life I was a teacher. And we had a saying. “You can’t expect students to do it if you don’t teach it. And model it. And teach it again.”

If you want High School students to learn how to enter a classroom without acting like a pack of wild animals, you teach them how to walk into class. And you keep teaching it until everyone gets it. The same can be said of adults learning new concepts.  How can you expect a behavior without explaining and modeling it first?

After a while, they get it. They know what is expected and they do it without thinking.

Makes sense, right?

We need to do the same in our dealerships. Teach your team exactly what you want them to do, practice it, evaluate it, and then remediate when needed. They are the front line of your dealership--they are the reputation, the voice, and the possibly the first point of contact with potential customers. The conversation they have, and how they react to and with customers, could make an amazing experience or turn a customer away.

Invest in your team--and invest in best practices. This investment almost always comes in the form of training.

Take Away

This may seem overly simplistic, but these are the foundations for our communication skills. With so many new and innovative ways to interact with our customers, there are some basic realities that cannot be ignored. Innovation is awesome and exciting, but the basics are necessary to push innovation forward.

 

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Published on March 31, 2015 by Better Car People.

March Madness: 5 Ways Your BDC Could Go All The Way

Okay, so my brackets, like many of yours, are already a hot mess. UCLA beat SMU; UAB over Iowa State; Georgia State defeated Baylor--and those were just on Thursday! It was the perfect storm for my March Madness experience.

As I was setting fire to my brackets yesterday, I started thinking about how the tournament was similar to dealerships, how we sell cars, and the competition involved. Seriously--there are some pretty solid comparisons between basketball and moving metal. If you want your BDC to perform better than your brackets, here are five hints to help move things along.

Five Ways Your Dealership Could Go All the Way:

5) Keep the game plan simple.

I love watching coaches who know their game plan and stick to it. The players are confident, they know what has to be done and when, and they execute well. Syracuse University's Boeheim is the master of this. Zone defense is his language. And even though he is not in the tournament this year (that rant is for another blog), his excellence has never been in question. He knows his game plan and keeps it simple.

Does your BDC have a game plan? Do they know exactly how to respond, who to respond to first, and what they need to say? You are their coach--make sure the plan is understood, implemented, and practiced.

4) Know your competition.

Coaches and their coaching staff spend copious amounts of time watching, analyzing, and picking apart game film. How else will you get an understanding of your competition’s defense and offense, their “go to” guys, and coaching. Doing this homework helps uncover what to focus on and how to prepare.

Do you know who your competition is? Even if you are a rural dealership, there is competition. My parents live in rural Upstate NY. They have a dealership 15 miles away, but because they did not like how they were treated, they drove an hour away to another dealership to purchase a truck.

An hour.

And I am sure they are not the only ones who do that.

Know your competition. Know how they respond to leads and make sure yours are faster and better.  Make the customer experience as positive as possible so that customers choose to come to you and not to the dealership.

3) Play ‘till the final buzzer.

If you saw Georgia State’s coach fall out of his chair, you know that the game is not over until the buzzer sounds. Especially in basketball, 5 seconds can be the difference between winning and losing. Every moment counts, and each of the moments can lead you to either an amazing victory or a soul crushing loss.

Do you play ‘till the final buzzer? Do you answer those leads that come in late with a personalized response, or do you send in the second string auto response and think that it is good enough? I know that when I played (long ago) and the game was close, the starters were the only ones on the court. Why do you let an inferior response go out to the customer? Play strong until the end of the game. Send out a personalized response which addresses customer questions and provides valuable information. That is how you win the game.

2) The team needs to be coached.

Could you imagine a team making it to the tournament with no coach? It is ridiculous. The players need coaching--they need someone calling the shots and making sure the game plan is followed.

Now think about your BDC. Too often I have heard BDCs talk about lack of training, lack of knowledge and lack of direction. You cannot be a successful team without leadership, direction, and knowledge. Make sure you offer all three to your BDC or Internet Department. I don’t care if your department has two people or twenty, without knowing the game plan, the direction, and the expectations, they will be nothing but a glorified call center.

1) Control what you can, react when you must.

The best coaches and teams control the game. They control the pace, the scoring, and the outcome. There are times, though, when things don’t go quite as planned or scripted. In those moments, the players need to know how to think for themselves and make things happen. Then they know how to think through these situations because they have practiced different situations multiple times.

Does your BDC know how to do this? Scripts are a definite must, but what happens when a customer goes off script? What if they ask questions that requires more than a simple response? The only way to be prepared for these scenarios is to have them practice and practice some more. Think about objections to appointments, how to word responses, and how to seem inviting and friendly over the phone--not pushy and tyrannical. I have avoided dealerships because of poor phone skills and overly pushy appointment setters. Train your department on the art of the question, how to word things in a positive manner, and how to listen.

Take Away:

  • The automotive industry is a definitely competition--make sure you are prepared.

  • Be the Coach K of your dealership! Strong leadership and direction are a must.

  • Play till the final buzzer. No matter what the time, respond
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Published on March 23, 2015 by Better Car People.

A BetterCarPeople Photo Essay--Mark Franklin, a GM Service Club, and Lots of Snow!

We are definitely Southerners. We love our sweet tea, our sunshine, and our flip-flops. But when we get a chance to speak at Service Clubs in the north during the winter, we get excited! The beautiful snow, the white-capped mountains, and the ice hanging from the rooftops is beautiful. (And we know we get to go home to 70 degree weather in a few days!)

Mark Franklin, our National Sales Representative who specializes in General Motors Sales and Service Leads, had the opportunity to go to Eagle Mountain this past week. The area was breathtaking, the people were wonderful, and Mark had great things to say about NH and Maine!

MF 4.jpg

The Eagle Mountain House in NH was the location for the Service Club. It looks like a image from a movie.

Another view of Eagle Mountain House

Covered Bridge in Jackson, NH--it's  like stepping back in time.

The GM Service Club was packed with Service Managers, Directors, GM Representatives. The day was filled with discussing the direction of GM service, the future,  and how BetterCarPeople can help! Mark, along with Bethany Gerry, explained BetterAppointments for OnStar and how it saves the service department time and makes them money.

GM Service Club--there was much good feedback from the people in attendance as well as the GM Reps. 

Mark had a chance to grab some pictures on the way out after the meeting. 

Overall, the meeting was a great success. BetterCarPeople's continued partnership with General Motors has been a successful one--and one that continues to grow!

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Published on March 18, 2015 by Better Car People.

Say Millennial One More Time......

Okay--so I admit it. I am incredibly tired of the word Millennial. To the point where I think there should be a drinking game associate with the word: Every time you see the word millennial, you have to pick up your glass.

Kind of like when you heard the song Roxanne…. (Millennials may not get that reference.)

However, Millennials or Gen Y, or whatever the label, are an interesting and challenging subject matter to research in regards to automotive buying habits.  Their presence was not prevalent in the past years when analyzing vehicle purchasing patterns, but numbers are rising and we have been able to gather some real and purposeful data. Buying patterns, platforms, and media usage are all unlike anything we have previously seen. Therefore, to ignore Millennials is to ignore a giant section of the automotive market.

Here is why you cannot afford to ignore Millennials:

How do you look online?

With 95% of people looking online before they shop, you need to make sure that your online presence reflects your dealership tone and image. Clean up your website and remove all of the superfluous distractions. There should never be multiple videos that start playing all at the same time. (It has happened--trust me. And I click off faster than you can imagine.) Make your website easy to navigate, customer friendly, and clean. There is nothing wrong with a little white space.

 

(see larger infographic below)

Grab your customer’s attention...QUICKLY

With 70% of Millennials stating they know little about what vehicle they intend to purchase when they first start looking, you need to grab their attention and grab it quickly with solid information and responses to questions. There will be multiple sites visited, and brand loyalty is almost a thing of the past. Features, mileage, and usability reign supreme. Capture your customers’ attention two ways:

  • Have a great website that is easy to navigate and does not overwhelm you with noises, music, and autoplay commercials on your site.
  • Respond to your customers inquiry quickly with a professional, informational, personalized response once they engage with you.

Regardless of when they are shopping, (and we know that about 30% of leads are coming into your dealership from 9pm-9am) they want a customized response that will address questions and needs. Autoresponders are not the right avenue. If you cannot respond personally, BetterCarPeople can help you out with that.

Make sure your digital space and responses are responsive

With 44% of Millennials using more than one connected device to shop for cars, your website and responses to customers must be responsive--they must format to any screen viewed on. Websites will have a leaner version for smartphones or tablets. Responses should automatically adjust so that the customer never has to scroll left to right. Simple adjustments make a world of difference in the usability of your site and will make it a more pleasant experience for your customer.

Train your front-line and sales people in the art of words.

Finally--we know that Millennials have more screen time than the generations before them. That does not mean they want to abandon face to face relational sales. Research is done online. Purchasing (big ticket items) is generally done face to face. With so many options and lessening brand loyalty, don’t lose a sale because of poor verbal skills or (more frequently) poor listening skills. This is a process that needs to be trained--and anyone dealing  with customers should have this training. In our highly digital world, communication is more important than ever. Make sure you train your staff the right ways to communicate and listen to your customer.

Take Aways:

  • Millennials ARE buying cars
  • They are researching online, but shopping on lot. Be prepared for both!
  • Your online presence should mirror your dealership’s tone and values.



Reference:autotrader.com: goo.gl/MgrVHP

Aimi Gundersen is an Automotive Lead Specialists, Blogger, Speaker, Educator, and a Project Manager for BetterCarPeople. Aimi has her masters in communications and her doctorate in Higher Education and Adult Learning. Her life is dedicated to making people smarter, stronger, and more efficient in any capacity of work. Contact her at aimi.gundersen@bettercarpeople.com or connect with her on LinkedIn.






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Published on March 17, 2015 by Better Car People.

Friday Feature: Overnight BDC Text Alerts!

unlock leads with Texts.jpg

Where is your phone right now? Odds are it is within arm’s reach. The majority of people (85%) keep their cell phones close by….much closer than their computer. That is why Overnight BDC offers SMS/Text Alerts that go directly to your phone. Gone are the days of having to log into a computer and craft a response to a customer. We not only send the lead directly to you, but also answer that lead as you, for you. And if the customer replies to a question within the e-mail, you will get a text of that response as well.

The only thing you are left to do is tap that number of the customer and call, which we also send you in that text.

Instead of spending too much time typing the perfect response, let us handle the first hello. And you can do what you do best; get on the phone and contact the customer!

Unlock the power of your BDC --BetterCarPeople Overnight BDC

 

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Published on March 13, 2015 by Better Car People.

Welcome Complaints--Don't Hide From Them

People are going to complain regardless--wouldn't you rather control the environment?

Most people complain about something. It is human nature. We complain when the weather is too hot or too cold. We complain when traffic is too slow or too fast.

And we definitely complain when we have a bad customer experience.

When I was a waitress, we used to cringe when someone complained. It meant that we did something wrong--that there was bad service. Or they were just plain unhappy. The complaint never led to change--I just tried to pacify the customer. 

Now that I am older, I realize that complaints may not be all that bad. Especially in the automotive industry. How can you fix something if you don’t know it’s broken?

And according to Forbes and the BBB, our industry is broken.  Forbes listed the automotive industry as #1 in customer complaints in 2014. The BBB list of top customer complaints for 2014 listed the automotive industry with three of the top ten spots: one for service, one for used cars, and one for new car sales. There is already a prevalent distrust of this industry, and it is reinforced with these statistics. This is an indicator that something needs to be fixed, or changed, or taught differently.

Why complaints are good for business

Complaints are an information gathering tool. When someone complains, they are telling you something that is not being done well in your dealership. Whether it revolves around phone skills or knowledge or full disclosure, there is an inevitable breakdown in skills or communication.

Welcome these complaints! They are excellent knowledge. You cannot fix what you don't know is broken.

Complaints add value and insight to current processes. We may think a process is seamless and perfected, but when customers consistently state otherwise, there needs to be a change. And the complaints are usually specific enough to see if there is a trend in patterns of behavior.

Training is Important

Use these complaints to direct us towards change. And the change should come by way of education. Education and training are priceless in the automotive industry. We need to train our employees how to interact, speak with, and listen to our customers so that they leave with a feeling of value and worth, not of being duped or defensive.

80% of complaints are handled by the front-line reps. The secretary, the BDC rep, or the salesperson is generally the one who will hear the complaint first--especially if the person is looking for a resolution, not just an opportunity to complain. If someone just wants to complain, they will do that regardless--online, in person, to anyone who will listen. But if a resolution is what they desire, they will look for that from your front line workers.Train them in the ways of diffusing the situation and conflict resolution. And if the issue cannot be resolved in that moment, train them in the proper steps of escalation and who to go to next.

Find training that works for your dealership. It will cost some money in the beginning, but will definitely save or even make you money in the long term. When you invest in your employees and decide to do this with excellence, the excellence will be mirrored by your staff and evident to your customers.

Finally, make sure there is a process in place to record the complaints so that management can review them and find areas that need change. Only 5% of all complaints make it to upper management. How can processes be corrected if only 5% of them are evident to the agents of change?

Takeaways:

  • Don’t shy away from complaints--welcome and listen to them

  • Train your front line employees in conflict resolution and how to communicate with all customers--not just the ones who complain.

  • Make sure there is a process where the complaints are transparent. That is where change will occur and  training will develop.
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Published on March 10, 2015 by Better Car People.