Better Car People Blog

Remove Anxiety From Your Service Lane: 3 ways to set your customers at ease.

I went to the parking lot with full intentions of getting into my car and driving to lunch.

 

That was not happening.

As I got out there, I realized I had a flat tire. Now, there are many things that frustrate me about my car. The 8 million dings and scrapes that have magically popped up since my daughter started driving. The odd noises that come out of my wheels as I try to stop. The lights that flash on my dashboard because I have work that needs to be done. And now add to this a flat tire. All of these situations could be remedied quickly, but I have been putting off calling the dealership.

Why?

Time and Fear.

Because taking my car in is more nerve wracking to me then going to the dentist. I am always worried they are going to take advantage of me--tell me I need way more done to my car than is truly necessary. That they will see me walking up and start rubbing their hands together in anticipation of the money they will get from me.

And once I get in, I will spend my entire day waiting for my car, even though it was only supposed to take a few hours. So I put off fixing what I know needs to be done.

The problem is, you cannot ignore the flat tire.

And I probably should not ignore the noisy belts or my dash that is lit up like Christmas.

Where did my fear and anxiety of dealerships come from? Why do I always think they are going to swindle me?

This is the stereotype many women have that MUST be overcome in the Service Lanes. Women need to feel comfortable coming into your Service Department. Comfortable, educated, and safe. We need to know that you have our best interest at heart, and not only your wallet.

The funny thing is, I work in the automotive industry. I know that OEMs have my best interest at heart. I know that manufacturers are fighting against the persona of the duplicitous salespeople and service technicians. I grew up around great guys who worked day in and day out in the Service Lane. I taught at a school where young men and women were educated not only in how to fix vehicles, but also the ethics of being a service technician. I know all of this.

And yet I still am apprehensive when I go to get repairs.

I did a little research, and along with my experiences, found some simple ways to increase confidence, security, and education. These do not have to be gender specific. These hints will work on anyone, but--from the perspective of a woman--these would increase confidence in your service station and dealership.

Personalize:

From the moment someone pulls into your service lane, think of how you can give her first class treatment. That means personalization. Welcome her  by name when she  exits the vehicle. Make sure she knows your name and her point of contact. Walk the customer to the waiting room if she is waiting, or walk her to the loaner or shuttle. Many say they do not have time for this, but really you don’t have the money NOT to do this. A few minutes will create a lifetime of loyalty.

Educate:

I want to know what is going on with my car. I don’t want to be treated like the “little lady.” Educate me on what is going on ]. Tell me why I need something-and if it is a recommended maintenance, let me know why this is important.

Also--tell me what I don’t need! I love when this happens. It is a wonderful experience.

I take a kid to the dentist and he tells me my youngest does NOT need braces.

He is now my new favorite person.

Try this out and see if your customer’s demeanor does not change. Tell them what they do not need. Tell them what looks good about their vehicle. This makes you the “good guy” and separates you from the negative stereotypes.


Be Transparent:

Being transparent is an overused buzzword, but we cannot ignore it.Transparency is the key to loyal and happy customers. In all areas, you should inform the customer and keep them in the know, but there are two hot buttons: time and money. If you are transparent with these two things, the majority of your issues will be proactively handled.

  • Time:

Matthew Belk, CEO of BetterCarPeople,  always says to underpromise and overproduce. Don’t promise a short wait time if you know the customer is coming in at a peak time and you are a tech down,. Tell them a longer wait time than generally anticipated, and then if you finish early, it is an unexpected, happy surprise. No one likes to wait, but most like when something is done earlier than planned.

  • Money:

There are always things out of our control. There may be one issue the customer comes in with, but as you begin to work, everything unravels and you see multiple issues as opposed to one. Tell the customer as soon as you know there is additional work. Tell them the price, and then explain WHY it is important. Transparency means excellent communication. Communicate things clearly and specifically. No one wants to spend more money than anticipated, but if things are needed, they must be done. (This is also a great place to discuss equity mining, but that is for another day).

Take Away:

Your customers, especially your women customers, need to feel confident, comfortable, and educated when they come into your service lane. If you personalize their experience, are transparent with them, and make sure to educate them concerning their vehicle and their options, you will win in customer loyalty!

I guess it is time to email my dealership and set an appointment. Gotta put the Christmas lights on the dash to rest.

 

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Published on May 18, 2015 by Better Car People.

CSI and Customer Loyalty: They are not the same thing.

http://latimerappleby.com/customer-satisfaction-research/

http://latimerappleby.com/customer-satisfaction-research/

I have read much recently about CSI (Customer Satisfaction Index) and Customer Loyalty. There is a school of thought that says these terms are interchangeable--that they indicate the same information about customer feelings and loyalty.

I disagree.

The Customer Satisfaction Index is measuring a moment or an experience. How was that specific oil change? Was that Service Advisor knowledgeable and welcoming. Was that specific service completed in the time they designated?

Customer Loyalty goes a little deeper than that. Loyalty measures the BIG picture of customer service--not just the moment. How do you feel about the dealership as a whole? How have you been treated overall at the dealership?

I purchased a car from a local dealership and had an amazing experience. At that time, my children were younger and had to come with me while I finalized my search options and visited dealerships. As I walked in with my three children (11 and under), the receptionists welcomed them, guided them to the media room with Play Station, X Box, warm cookies, a popcorn maker, and movies. Oh, and unlimited pop--which I had to set boundaries on. This was AMAZING! She told me to go look at vehicles, the kids were good, and she would contact me if she needed anything.

I was sold.

I would find a car to purchase there regardless.

Fast-forward 5 months. I am getting my oil changed and some basic mileage work done. I get there at the appointed time and begin to wait.

And Wait.

The Service Writer came up to me and after quite some time and told me it would not be much longer.

But it was…..

Now I am late for work,  frustrated, and annoyed with the guy that keeps promising me we will be done soon.

When I filled out my satisfaction survey, I was quite unsatisfied with that particular moment in time. However, I was still a HUGE fan of the dealership, the customer service I received on the front end, and how they treated my family as I shopped.

My CSI was low, but my Customer Loyalty was still there.

After they received my survey concerning the service I received, I was immediately contacted by the Service Department. They apologized for the wait and offered the next oil change for free. The call alone made me feel listened to and valued. The moment of poor CSI was erased by great customer service and excellent communication. Measuring customer opinion of a service without taking action is pointless, and may actually hurt your business more than anything else. They must have known this and did an excellent job of reaching out, listening, and offering a solution.

 

Takeaway:

  • Do the little things well. The customer experience I had when purchasing my vehicle made an amazing impression on me. So much so that I still tell friends about it--especially friends with kids. Think about what will make customers more at ease, more able to spend time at the dealership and look around. Those little things make a huge difference.
  • Turn a negative into a positive. My experience in the Service Area was not stellar. But they did try to make up for it. The phone call, the sincere apology and the fact that the person took the time to listen to me made all the difference in the world. Don’t miss those opportunities.
  • Learn from your mistakes. Since the “incident” (as we now call it), I have never had to wait longer than estimated. Make sure that your Service Writer or Advisor is talking with the technicians, creating reasonable estimated wait times, and regularly updates your customer. This not only makes the customer feel valued, but also keeps them in the know.
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Published on May 11, 2015 by Better Car People.

Service BDC's. Two things to start immediately.

Do These Two Things Right Now.

In my previous blog “If you ain’t first, you’re last,” I discussed the importance of Service BDCs and why you must start with the end in mind. If you don’t know the destination, you won’t know where to go. This blog will finish the conversation and discuss two things to implement immediately.

Two additional components of a great service BDC are education and evaluation. Without these, a Service BDC is bound to fail. No one goes into a new endeavor with the mindset of failure. It is never purposeful. But it occurs if the right strategies are not implemented in the correct way. Remember, a BDC culture does not just happen--it is cultivated, modeled, and created through planning, education, and constant evaluation.

Educaton and Training:

Education and training may look similar, but they have different functions. Education is the imparting of knowledge. Training is the practice and implementation of that knowledge.

You cannot expect what you do not model, and you cannot model what you do not know. Knowing what you want out of your BDC is important, but being able to convey those important aspects and train the skills are paramount.

I find it ridiculous when we are told we need to implement X,Y, and Z with little to no direction, instruction, or hands on training. We are just supposed to just do it.

While that worked for Nike, for most it is a recipe for failure. You must have clear expectations and then train and model those expected behaviors until they become second nature. It may not be a normal occurrence for your customers to be greeted as they are exiting their vehicle, but it should be. How does it become a habit? It must be taught, modeled, and repeated.  

Education and training is not for everyone. I remember one of the smartest kids in school trying desperately to teach me a math concept. While it was simple for him, it made no sense to me and he could not figure out why. He was brilliant, but definitely not a teacher. And he definitely did not help me understand calculus. I think I may have walked away a little dumber that before.

Not all are equipped to help others truly understand a concept. Matthew Belk, CEO and Chief of Ideas at BetterCarPeople, always says to play to your strengths. If this is not your strength, let others train your staff to ensure a quality outcome. There are some great face to face and online trainings available.

Evaluate You Process. Adapt and Adjust.

When you run a race, you know you have completed it when you hit the finish line. There is an ending point, and you strive towards that. With a BDC, you need to have a definite goal, and then specific metrics to measure it. There are many ways to evaluate the effectiveness of your service BDC.

  • Have appointments increased?
  • Are retention numbers up?
  • Is your R/O higher than before?
  • Has CSI increased?

These are basic benchmarks to gauge if you have an effective BDC. These elements are how you will know if you have improved, stayed stagnant, or gotten worse. There are many technologies that also help with this, can aggregate the data, and help you find your strengths and weaknesses.

The most important thing is to realize that BDCs are not a fleeting idea. They are a necessity, and many manufacturers are expecting a Service BDC in their dealerships.

But what if you cannot justify a Service BDC?  Some dealerships do not have the volume to necessitate hiring a full time person (or two...or three) to respond to leads, contact customers, and help drive engagement and retention. Here are a few helpful tips to help you become your own Service BDC while not losing your sanity or too many hours in the day.

Create a BDC Culture

You know your staff-- who has interpersonal skills, and who should never have a conversation with a customer. Play to your strengths, and place the best people in the best positions. If they do not have time in their day to take on additional obligations, hiring an additional person may be your only option.

Use the Resources and Technologies Available

It seems like there are many programs and technologies that you are supposed to use on a daily basis, and that can be frustrating. The best suggestion is to focus on one at a time. If ServiceSmart is your focus, learn everything you can about ServiceSmart. After you are comfortable with one, move on to the next. 

Also, there are reputable 3rd party vendors who can help with some aspects of the BDC which would relieve some of the pressure and be more cost effective than hiring a full time person (or people).

Takeaway:

To continue to be competitive in this marketplace, you need a Service BDC or BDC culture. One that focused on the customer experience from start to finish. People expect it, want it, and will find it.

If you are not offering it, they will go somewhere else.

 

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Published on May 04, 2015 by Better Car People.

Three Things I Learned as a First Timer at Digital Dealer 18

As we were making our 10 hour drive home from Tampa to Charlotte yesterday, I was trying to condense all of my experiences and thoughts concerning DD18 into a few succinct words.

It seemed impossible.

So, this morning as I drank my coffee and tried to disseminate all of the information, I came up with a few helpful tips as a first time participant at a Digital Dealer conference.

Take time to see the presentations. I was lucky to get away and see two presentations. The first was David Kain and Todd Smith discussing digital wizardry. Not only was the information spot on--especially when discussing the importance of customer relations and controlling the call-- these two were dynamic, intelligent, and wonderful speakers.                

The next presentation I was able to attend was Matthew Belk. Not only did Matthew take us back to the fundamentals of lead response, but he did it in a humorous, interesting, and engaging way. Throughout his presentation, he encouraged audience questions and personalized his information to the needs of the participants. These two were my favorites of the week.

Bring more than what you think you need.

 Everything.

 Seriously.

Bring more giveaways, more materials, more business cards. I was amazed at the number of people present, and everyone wanted to stop, talk, discuss the business, and take some giveaways. I met dealers, Fixed Ops Managers, BDC Managers, Internet Managers, GMs, GSMs…..I think just about everyone from the dealership hierarchy was there--it was an opportunity to gain insight from every aspect of the dealership.

The networking was unbelievable. I have only been in this business for a little over a year. I met more people--more make it happen, industry leaders--than I ever could have imagined. People that seem intangible were very much present, welcoming, and ready to share their knowledge. These connections are invaluable, I learned things to put into play immediately. I absolutely loved it.

I look forward to continuing this education into the world of the auto industry. It is so much more complex than ever imagined, and I am ready to take on the challenge.

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Published on April 30, 2015 by Better Car People.

Great Service BDCs: Lessons from Talladega Nights

If you ain’t first, you’re last.

~Ricky Bobby


I am not a wealth of knowledge when it comes to NASCAR. I love watching it, but could not tell you why drivers do what they do.

Now, ask me about Talladega Nights, and I go on about the symbolism of the cars and colors, the metaphors ensconced in Ricky and Cal’s odd, but endearing friendship, and the religious aspects of their obsession with the newborn baby Jesus.

However, the one lesson that always hit home was “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” You either come out on top, or you are on the bottom. You either win, or you lose.

In life, I am not sure I completely agree with this, but in regards to relating with our customers, I would have to support it 100%. If you are not the most helpful, the most friendly, and the most invested in your dealership, your customer will find the one who is.

Ricky: “You can’t have two number ones”

Cal: “Yeah...cause that would be 11.”

If you ain’t first, you’re last.

Business Development Centers are the front line for this customer service. And now there is the push, or possibly a need, for dealerships to have Service BDCs. Owners, manufacturer’s and managers recognized that they could be missing out on service opportunities because of missed calls, un-returned emails, and missed appointments. There must be staff dedicated to interacting with, communicating with,  and reaching out to customers. Not everyone wants to do this--nor does everyone have the skill to positively relate to customers. However, it is a necessary and important role in the dealership. Service BDCs, if implemented well,  can be a wonderful development and retention tool which will drive CSI and retention.

3 Key Elements for Implementing a Productive and Functional Service BDC:

Begin with the End in Mind--

We called this back mapping when I was in the education industry. In Talladega Nights, Ricky Bobby’s dad called it driving with a cougar. He knew the end goal (getting Ricky over his fear) and took action towards the goal. You decide where you want to end up, then plan backwards to determine the actions that must be taken to be successful. You must know what your end goal is with your BDC before you begin implementation. What is the expected outcome of your BDC? Brainstorm with your team, read about service BDCs, join forums, make connections with people who are successfully running BDCs --do the necessary research to create an informed outline for your startup. Below is a list of major elements that need to be in the forefront when creating the Service BDC.

  • Staff--Who will make up the Service BDC? The first position to assign is the manager of the new team. Depending on the size of your dealership, this could be a newly hired Service BDC manager, the manager of the Sales BDC, or the Service Director or Manager. Once decided, you must next choose the team. The goal of the service BDC is to free up the writers, managers, etc to do their job and not have their time taken by answering service leads, setting appointments, and responding to customer emails. It makes no sense to take an already overworked employee and assign them as part of the BDC. You may need to choose someone who can be dedicated to answering phones, e-mailing customers, interfacing with customers--essentially the face of the Service Department. If you know it is not possible to have one person dedicated to that job, make sure the person chosen will be able to reach customers and return calls/emails within 10 minutes of receiving the call/email. 0% of calls to dealership service departments either go unanswered or go to the wrong person. Choose people who are customer orientated and quick learners.
  • Increase CSI/Customer Retention-- The need for customer satisfaction is at an all time high. And depending on your manufacturer, it can lead to additional funding (SFE money). A happy customer is a repeat customer. Your BDC must be in the business of customer service, which means they are also increasing retention. How will your BDC team increase CSI and Retention?
  • Increase R/O--The ability to increase revenue through additional services is another function of the Service BDC.  They must have adequate product knowledge to be able to offer additional services in an informative and educated way.
  • Evaluate your progress-- If you begin with the end in mind, you will also need to know the basic metrics you will use to evaluate the growth/ success of the BDC (both individually and as a whole). Metrics are personalized based on the requirements of the dealership--there are very few situations where one size fits all. Plan with leadership, ask questions of people who have already been successful, and move forward.

Check back next week for part two of  “BDC Lessons from Talladega Nights," which will focus on the additional two elements and how to implement these ideas.  I will also include great places to gather quality information and training!.


TakeAways:

A Service BDC cannot just be thrown together and expect success. As with many things in life, vision + plan = successful implementation. Know where you want your Service BDC to go, know the basic metrics you will use to evaluate the success, and start setting more appointments.

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Published on April 13, 2015 by Better Car People.

Does Price Matter?

Does Price Matter?

I know that seems like a foolish question--of course it matters. A low price price evokes the feelings of value. A higher cost may connotate a high quality product.

But price won't come into play if you cannot connect with your customer, begin a relationship,  and show the value of what your providing.

That first response to a customer is one of the most critical in the evolution of the sales process. How you respond, the information given, and the quality of content develops the reputation of your dealership.

Your response will also leave the customer asking questions such as:

  • Does the dealership care what I really want?
  • Is there a real person looking at my inquiry, or is it just an automated response?
  • Are they trying to help me, or are they only focused on selling?

With so much transparency online, it would seem needless to make pricing an issue. It is an issue, though, and customers still ask for best pricing--generally within the first contact.

How does your dealership handle direct inquiries and questions concerning pricing?

Pricing  is one element of a response or first contact that generates discussion. Should BDC representatives be allowed to give a "best price" over the phone? When the price is lower than advertised online, does that make the dealership look deceitful? Does pricing bring the customer into the dealership? There are many elements of pricing that could make a deal go terribly wrong or wonderfully right. But pricing should never been seen as the primary focus of any first response.

Here is why:

You may ignore the customer's needs.

When the primary focus is on pricing, you may not pay attention to what the customer is truly looking for. Your BDC is the voice of your dealership--and that voice sometimes needs to stop giving information, start asking questions,  and listen to the customer. Appointment setting is the general metric for gauging the effectiveness of the BDC, you will not set as many appointments without asking questions and evaluating the needs of the person calling. If a customer feels validated and listened to--not bullied or pressured-- they are more likely to continue working with your dealership.  

You lose the opportunity to create value in other vehicles.

When a customer is looking for a vehicle, they may be initially sold on one specific car.  Statistics show, though, that even when most customers come in with a specific vehicle in mind, it is not the vehicle, but rather the features that he/she is looking for.  Over 50% of customers leave with a different vehicle than originally researched.  How you ask questions and guide the customer will open the customer to discussing a variety of vehicles. Pricing can turn someone off, but open ended, engaging questions generally won’t. And when you ask questions--and LISTEN to the response--you will not only know exactly what the customer needs, but will also be able to offer more options to the customer. And more options will increase your chance of setting an appointment and closing the sale.

You lose the value of the relational sale.

Relationships still rule when it comes to sales. People buy from people. While pricing and trade-in value is still a variable, relationships are a constant.  Who is the face and voice of your dealership? Your front line-your sales reps, your BDC--whoever is on the phone when a customer calls. That is the initial issue that needs to be addressed before anything else can be adjusted. One of the biggest trepidations people have when purchasing a car is having to deal with a salesperson whom they don’t trust, and you do not want to lost that trust through mis-information or poorly trained BDC reps.. The most important skill to selling online is perfecting phone skills. And through good phone skills you can improve the trust value.

When Pricing is a Must:

Be industry experts instead of price checkers.

When customers call, your BDC or sales team should be the product experts. When you are shopping for something specific and ask questions, you expect an answer and you expect it to be correct. Why should your BDC be any different? Ensure your front line is the SME. Make sure that when a potential customer calls, they know how to 1) Answer the question or 2) know how to talk with the customer as they find the answer.

With 54% of all sales coming from the internet, and almost 100% of Smartphone users shopping online before going on-lot, you want to make sure you are prepared for your customers because they are definitely prepared for you. There are many options for them--don’t fool yourself into thinking you have a monopoly on car sales in your area. While pricing is a factor, customer service can be a deal breaker.

Don’t lose a sale because of poor customer skills or lack of training.


 

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Published on April 09, 2015 by Better Car People.

Feature Friday: Holiday Scheduling? Yes, Please!

Happy Easter! Happy Birthday! Happy 4th of July!

Whether it's the 4th of July or Thanksgiving, holidays throw a wrench in scheduling and answering leads. Time off, parties, illness, and vacations take valuable employees away from their regular tasks. This can increase the time it takes to answer a lead--or even worse, it can mean unanswered leads.

Overnight BDC works for you 24/7/365 and we never take a vacation. A lead comes in on Easter Morning? We will answer it in 10 minutes or less. New Year’s Eve at 11:45 pm? We've got it.

How about meetings that come up in the middle of the day? Nothing is more frustrating than being in a meeting and having people on their phones answering leads. Or even worse, having the leads unanswered.

We have the solution. You can turn us on and off with a click. Going into a meeting? Turn us on. Have a training session? Turn us on. Then, when everything is over, you can simply log into the dashboard and turn us off.  You have complete control of when you use Overnight BDC and when you answer your leads yourself.

Or you can leave us on all of the time. Regardless, you know your leads are answered professionally, personally, and originally.

 

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Published on April 03, 2015 by Better Car People.