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Service Selling Tip May, 2015
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Randy Johnson is the Founder and President of Car People Marketing. 

The 10-Minute Invisible Service Manager

By: Randy Johnson

OK, no matter what you are doing, I dare you to stop right now for 10 minutes. Seriously, take 10 minutes; walk out to your service drive and just look at what is going on. Just watch and observe. Don’t talk to anyone – just pretend you are invisible. I know it sounds silly, but I promise you this 10-minute exercise will be worth it if you force yourself to do it.

And don’t just look, really take note and do a little self-analysis about the look and feel of your service drive. Watch the activities, watch the employees and watch the customers. What do you see? Does your drive seem organized or chaotic? Is it clean and flowing and does it look professional? Are your advisors clean and crisp? Are they attentive? Is your phone ringing too many times without getting answered? Is it not ringing enough? And what about the customers in your drive? Are they standing at their car waiting to be greeted? Can you read their body language - do they look happy or aggravated? Are they standing in line at your cashier window? What else do you see?

Well, if you really did this and if you answered those questions honestly, you probably have a good idea of what to do next. Remember this, you were most likely hired as the manager because someone believed in you enough to put you in charge. They figured you had a good feel for what to do when things go wrong. They probably liked the way you organized things or they liked your enthusiasm or they just felt comfortable with you running that department for them. And most service managers I have met have a pretty good handle on common sense solutions to everyday problems – which makes them even more valuable. 
 
But all too often, I see these talented service managers (maybe you are one of them) end up disconnected from the real service business - oblivious to what is going on in their own store because they end up spending all of their time in their office shuffling paperwork and putting out the all too occasional 5 o'clock fires.

I hear motivational speakers, consultants and trainers constantly talk about complicated step by step instructions on how to fix dealerships when I think, for the most part, we all know how to fix things, that’s how we got the job to begin with - we just don’t pay attention and we often don’t know what we need to fix. Does that make sense?
 
Let me explain further. If during your little observation, you noticed a lot of people standing in line at the cashier window, you know you have a problem. People hate standing in line for anything, especially to pay a bill at a dealership. So if you saw this and if you recognized it as a problem, which I know you did - you know instinctively you need to either jump in and help your cashier, pull someone else in to help or put in a process that is better (my favorite)– like having your service advisors do the cashiering instead of having a separate cashier. 
 
In other words, you would use common sense corrective actions that you already know to solve the problem, right? So the real problem here isn’t that you don’t know how to fix the problem, the problem is you may not know you have a problem – and that is a problem!  And that is because you may not be paying attention to what is going on in your service drive everyday – and that, guys, is where all the money is, where all of the opportunities are and where all of your long term customer retention can be won or lost.
 
Here’s another example. If you hear the phone ringing constantly you can draw from that several conclusions. You probably won’t because you are too busy being busy – but if you stopped for just a minute and really thought about what is going on you would see that the phone ringing is both a good and bad thing. Here’s what I mean, if it is ringing, people are trying to do business with you – and that obviously appears to be good. But it could also be that your advisors aren’t calling customers back to update them on the status of their vehicle – so the customers end up feeling ignored and eventually they call your store to check to see if their car is ready – and that is not good. Question is – do you know what types of calls you are getting?
 
And if you fix the ‘status call’ problem, and the phone is still ringing too much, you can quickly see that your advertising is working – but maybe you are not staffed properly to handle the opportunities you are getting or it could be that you have a poor process in place to help your people maximize those opportunities. Because you know you have a problem, you will fix it, but again, you can’t fix it if you don’t know you have one.
 
We are all service people because we like to fix things. It’s like we all have a little bit of technician in us – we like to fix things that are broken. Take that inherent common sense knowledge you have along with the confidence that someone believed in you enough to hire you for the manager’s job and go to work guys. Do the 10-minute thing. Watch and listen. Ask yourself how you would feel if you were a customer calling your store. Ask yourself if you would do business with you and if you answered no or probably not – then do what you do best – fix it!

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