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Tag Archive: Customer Service

Joe Basil

Stop “Unselling” Your Customers!


How many used car deals have you “unsold” lately?

Yes, exactly: unsold. Take a look at your used car closing ratio. Chances are it’s between 25 to 35% … maybe even 50%. That means you aren’t closing half—even up to 75%—of your opportunities. So, what happened to the customers who came in for a specific used car and left without buying?

I have a guess: They got “unsold” at your dealership.

Sales decisions are faster than ever

Remember the old days? Back when we had showroom traffic logs on hand-written sheets and phone messages on pink slips? I kept our entire used-car inventory on a sheet in my pocket! And customers would visit four or more dealerships, on average, before closing a deal. They’d visit to collect information on availability, pricing and selection. It’s during those times that we’d take a car on trade, put a price on it and “let’s see what happens.” Well, those days are long gone!

In today’s used car world, customers are making slightly more than one dealership visit before purchasing. Instead of coming into the showroom, the internet gives them a portal for instant access to all of their pre-purchase research on model availability, pricing, dealership reputation and geographic proximity. The majority of used-car customers come into our showrooms knowing what cars we have and what our prices are. Typically, they’ve already selected the car or truck they want to purchase. With so many customers submitting web leads, hitting the “call now” button or just showing up on the lot informed and ready to purchase, we should be closing 100% of our used-car traffic.

Why aren’t you closing more leads?

As Dave Anderson has frequently pointed out, we have total control over two differentiating factors in our dealerships: our people and our customer experience. Based on the fact that most customers come into our showroom with a vehicle selected, there’s clearly some disconnect between these two factors that causes customers to become “unsold.”

Inspect what we expect

When disconnects happen, it’s a good time to inspect what we expect! It’s time to audit your customer experience. Shop your own store online, on the phone, listen to the phone calls and mystery shop in the showroom

Consider whether or not you have the right people in the right position. Do your employees express your dealership culture and values to each customer, every time?

Take a look at the customer handling process. Is it a one-size-fits-all approach, or do you adapt to the customer’s purchasing preferences? Customers should have an experience that earns you rave reviews in reputation management. If that’s not happening, ask yourself if your salespeople are trained properly on how to deliver an outstanding customer experience. Spot check, too, to see if they can even describe it accurately.

Sure, the sales process has changed. But thanks to the internet, many people come onto the lot informed and ready to purchase—meaning we have more opportunities than ever to close more deals. Take advantage of this new reality by making sure your staff and customer handling process is up to the task.

Do you have a problem with customers becoming “unsold” at your dealership? Comment below and tell us how you’ve solved this issue. 

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Tom Hopkins

Characteristics of a Pro


There are many traits or attributes common to those who can be called professionals in the field of automotive sales. A particular quality that separates the average from the great can be expressed by one simple word: discipline.

Years ago, I used to teach that one of the top qualities separating the average from the great was desire. However, I have since met and observed many students who had the overwhelming desire to succeed, but lacked the discipline required to lay out the specifics of their paths to success, stay on track, and ultimately fulfill their potentials. So, now I teach that your desire to achieve must be tempered with your ability to discipline yourself to do what’s necessary at all times.

Most of the great ones in business and in life have an overwhelming desire to prove something to someone. They know they can be the best in their fields and are out to prove it to the world, or maybe just to themselves and their families. This desire burns so strongly within them that it keeps them moving in the right direction. It keeps them positive on days when things don’t go just right. It keeps them cheerful to their clients and fellow salespeople. It makes them more efficient and professional in their day-to-day activities. It’s the fuel that keeps their personal engines running in top condition.

The desire they have to succeed is not wholly selfish. In their quest for success, they sincerely want to find those people looking for dependable new vehicles and fulfill their needs in owning them. Their success is brought about by delivering happiness to those people they come in contact with and serve.

I can’t tell how much desire you have to make it in this field. Only you know that. The answer comes in knowing how much stress, anxiety, and pain you can tolerate before you call it quits. Are two rejections and three No’s enough to send you looking for another profession? If so, you have a low threshold of desire and a high one for rejection. Think about what you’re willing to give or do to achieve what you really want.

Desire without discipline leads to disappointment, disillusionment and despair. Don’t let yourself be disappointed. Develop the discipline you need to succeed.

Professionals pay close attention to details.

They ask questions that help them get a better understanding of exactly what their clients are looking for in a vehicle. They have their paperwork in order — properly filled out, recorded, and filed. They return phone calls promptly — even if it’s just to leave a quick message that they’ll be in touch later. They keep their promises and have answers ready when questions are asked. They never say, “I don’t know.” When they don’t know the answer to a question, they say, “I’ll find out for you.”

They are highly goal-oriented.

They are striving for a certain number of vehicles sold each month, a certain income, a trophy or an award. They know exactly what they’re working for and have a plan detailing when and how they’ll achieve it.

Do you have your goals in writing? If not, you are a wisher, an undisciplined dreamer. You haven’t really committed yourself to achieving anything. You’re like those average people in your office who say, “Sure, I want to make more money, but after the day I had yesterday, I’m not calling anyone today!”

You see, the successful ones, the true professionals begin where the failures stop. They do what the failures are afraid or too lazy to do.

The great ones understand that they must strive daily to improve their skills.

They have jumped in with both feet and are willing to pay the price of learning what they have to know to be successful in this business. They’ve committed to the automotive industry as their career path. They are constantly striving to improve themselves by attending training, listening and reading auto industry material and staying abreast of new technology that will assist them in serving their clients more efficiently.

They live by this motto: “I must do the most productive thing possible at every given moment.”

Those twelve simple words literally changed my life and my sales career over 40 years ago. Whenever I felt doubt about what I was doing, I would glance at these words hung by my desk, get re-focused, and do the next most important thing.

I hope you’re not one of those people who is “just giving sales a try.” People with that attitude have a plan of action for when they fail. You’ve heard it, I’m sure. “If I don’t make it in this, I can always …” They have a plan for failure. They’re anticipating it, and will probably get it. Planning to succeed is so much more exciting than planning to fail.

Another characteristic of the top people in sales is that they deliver excellent service.

They know they are paid in direct proportion to the amount of service they give to their clients. They understand that they are in the people business. They don’t sell cars and trucks. They get people happily involved in owning vehicles that satisfy their needs.


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Tom Hopkins

How to Handle an Angry Client


Too many people, when faced with clients who range from dissatisfied to downright angry, choose the loser’s path by postponing handling the situation. Worse yet, they handle it inappropriately.

Postponement doesn’t make the problem go away. It results in one of two things happening:

  1. The angry client decides the problem isn’t worth the aggravation and cools down.
  2. The client gets so angry that the next time you hear from him or her is through some sort of official (and possibly legal) manner. Worse still, you’ll see your company named on the local news channel in one of those consumer protection segments.

If you’re the business owner, you may think it’s ok to lose one client who’s unhappy, but it’s not. You see, when we have a good experience with a company we tend to tell three to five other people about it. Positive word-of-mouth is great for business. However, someone who is displeased with a situation tells, on average, 11 people about it. Can you see how your business could be hurt by that?

Naturally, no one wants to walk into a lion’s den and face an angry client. Yet, you must consider the value of this client to you, your reputation and the company. In most cases, I would guess that it will be worth your while to face that angry customer and get the situation resolved as quickly as possible. As the sales professional, it’s your reputation at stake, as well as that of your company.

Here are nine steps I’ve developed for facing and dispelling another person’s anger. They work well in most situations mainly because you’re giving the client the attention their dissatisfaction deserves.

1. Acknowledge the other person’s anger quickly.

Nothing adds more fuel to a fire than someone having his or her anger ignored or belittled. The faster you verbally recognize their anger, the better. Sometimes all you have to say is, “I can see that you’re upset, Mr. Smith.” You’re not admitting to doing anything wrong before the situation is analyzed, just acknowledging their displeasure.

2. Make it clear that you’re concerned.

Tell them you realize just how angry they are. Let them know that you are taking the situation seriously. Make notes of every detail they give you. And, tell them you’re making notes. Get them talking! The more they speak, the more time you have to consider how to resolve the issue. The better your notes, the better documentation you have if you must take the concern to someone else to resolve. Be sure to put the date and time of conversation on your notes.

3. Don’t hurry them.

Be patient. Let them get it all out. Never try to interrupt or shut them up. In many cases, the best move is to simply listen. They’ll wind themselves down eventually. In some cases, they’ll realize they blew the situation out of proportion and feel foolish for it. They are then likely to accept nearly any solution you offer.

4. Keep calm.

Most angry people say things they don’t really mean. Learn to let those things pass and take them up after you’ve solved the present challenge —only if you feel it’s necessary to do so.

5. Ask questions.

Your aim is to discover the specific things you can do to correct the situation. Try to get specific information about the difficulties the issue has caused, rather than a general venting of dissatisfaction.

6. Get them talking about solutions.

This is where you will learn just how reasonable this client is. By the time you get to this step, their anger should have cooled enough to discuss the challenge rationally. If it hasn’t, tell them you want to schedule a later meeting—even if it’s in an hour—to come up with some reasonable solutions. Let them do the rest of their fuming on their time.

7. Agree on a solution.

After you know exactly what the challenge is, you’re in a position to look for some kind of action that will relieve the challenge. Propose something specific. Start with whatever will bring them the best and quickest relief. Don’t get into a controversy over pennies at this time.

8. Agree on a schedule.

Once you’ve agreed on a solution, set up a schedule for its accomplishment. Agree to a realistic timeframe that you know you can handle. The biggest mistake you can make is to agree to something that cannot be done. If you do, you’d better be ready to face another bout of this person’s anger when you don’t come through.

9. Meet your schedule.

Give this schedule top priority. You’ve talked yourself into a second chance with this client, so make sure you don’t blow it.

Once you’ve satisfied the client with regard to this situation, you will have earned another opportunity to serve their needs in the future… and the needs of those friends they’ll tell about how well you handled their concerns.


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Jeff Cowan

The Myths of Writing Service Part 2

Writing Service Part 2As you remember from my article last month, myths can be very dangerous things. They can and will impede your ability to grow, expand, and succeed. I discussed some of the biggest myths surrounding the writing of service and will list a few more here today that have come up and continue to come up in the many meetings I am asked to speak at throughout the year.

Myth: Service writers do not need the same amount of training as the car sales staff.

Fact: A Service Advisor who works with just fifteen customers a day will generate more gross profit for a dealership in a month than a sales person does who delivers thirty vehicles in that same month. In addition, due to the volume of customers they will talk to in a month, they will have more impact on your survey scores and customer retention than any other employee in the dealership, including the dealer. So why would they not need the same amount of training or more?

Myth: Women service writers who are mothers are risky due to parental responsibilities.

Fact: Tell that to Abigail Adams, wife to President John Adams. While John was overseas for many years, she stayed behind and ran the farm, ran John’s businesses, and raised 6 kids, one of which grew up to be our nation’s sixth president. One of my daughters is at the child bearing age. She and ten of her close friends have all had children in the past twenty-four months. While one of them quit her career and became a stay/work at home mom, the other nine not only continued their careers, but eight of them actually increased their hours or took on more responsibility. Why? Because they quickly realized that if their kids were to have a life equal to or greater than their own, they had to work harder and smarter. If all things are equal and I have the opportunity to hire a male service writer versus a female service writer with kids, especially young ones, I will take the female with kids every time. Think grizzly bear with cubs.

Myth: Service writers who work in economically challenged areas cannot sell as much as service writers who work in affluent areas.

Fact: Many times, they can sell more for one simple reason; the more financially challenged a person is, the more important their vehicle becomes to them. Financially challenged customers know that if their vehicle does not run and they cannot get to work, then their financial situation will only get worse. I have worked in countless service drives with countless service advisors where their customers were financially challenged and the sales made were either equal to or greater than those in service departments where the reverse was true. The difference is that the financially challenged customer requires a service advisor who has a slightly different skill set and outstanding follow-up and over the telephone selling skills.

Myth: Women service writers have a tougher time in service because men prefer to talk with men.

Fact: This is not a gender specific problem. A service advisor who is strong at taking control of the customer and exudes confidence, can and will be able to handle your customers. While this myth used to have some validity twenty years ago, it has none today. If I were to list the top ten service advisors that I have worked with over the past twenty-nine years, seven of the top ten would be women.

Myth: It does not take as much skill to be a quick service writer as it does to be a full shop service writer.

Fact: Arguably, it takes more. Think about it. A quick service writer is many times the first person a new customer will work with in service after purchasing a new vehicle. Their ability to handle your customer and convince them that your shop is the only place to go for service, has to be near perfect, if not perfect, to get the job done. Although the path to full shop writer begins many times in express, the express writer should be trained to expertly handle any scenario that a full shop writer would. Again, they are likely to be the first point of face to face contact in the dealership after purchasing a new vehicle. Express should be trained to impress every time on every level.

Myth: It is impossible to train veteran service writers to adapt to changes in their customers’ demands and in new technology.

Fact: Not if you have established a culture of constant change in your department. The service writer or employee who cannot adapt to change and evolution in retail sales will become a dinosaur within five years. When you consider how rapidly your customers and their buying habits have changed in just the past few years, and how rapidly technology changes, any employee who can not keep up is costing you money. In the future there will be two types of sales people; those who sell technology and those who use it. The rest will become obsolete.

Myth: Service writers can handle setting their own check-in times, checking in your customers’ vehicles, following up on those customers throughout the day, closing those customers over the telephone, closing out their own repair orders, contact customers who have been waiting for parts, cashier their own customers, actively deliver vehicles back to each customer as the vehicle repairs are completed, send a thank you note to each customer, contact customers who missed their check in times, contact customers who previously declined repairs, contact customers they have not seen in over six months, while at the same time getting and maintaining high survey scores and customer retention.

Fact: Only if they write ten to fifteen repair orders a day. Just like on the vehicle sales side, you want to free your service writers (sales people) up as much as you can, to talk to your customers.  Sales people make you money when they are talking to your customers.  The more time they have to talk to your customers, the more money they will make you. From the beginning of car sells through the early 1960’s, vehicle sales people answered the dealership’s incoming sales calls, did their own financing and helped people when they came in for service. When dealers realized that those activities kept their sales staff in the building and not out on the lot where the buyers where, it ushered in the era of the telephone receptionist, the F & I department and service staff, and significantly more vehicles were sold. The more you can do to support your advisors by freeing them up to talk to your customers, the higher your retention, survey scores and sales will be.

Myth: Service writers will not sell or are not good at selling additional products like special wheels, extended warranties, details, etc.

Fact: Not true. To sell anything on a service drive requires three things; a great product, great training in how to present and sell it, and a great pay plan.

If you are consistently not hitting your sales, retention and survey goals, it is a sign of great weakness not to try something new. Trying something new can be as simple as taking a look at what you or your staff say can’t be done, and testing to see if the reason is based on fact or myth.

You should make this a common practice and part of your monthly routine to dispel myths that may exist in your work place. I get blamed from time to time for being too willing to test and eliminate these myths and reasons that hold my business back. I am told I need more patience. The fact is, I do have patience for the time it sometimes takes for myths to be tested.  What I do not have patience for is the lost customers and revenues that myths produce.

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Tom Hopkins

Diagnosing Your Clients’ Needs


When people think about making a vehicle purchase, they aren’t likely to compare talking with you to going to the doctor, but you should make that comparison when preparing to talk with clients. People trust doctors. They usually accept the diagnosis and prescription for wellness with few questions asked. That’s because they recognize doctors as experts in their fields. Your goal is to have your clients see you the same way. When they have an ache or pain related to their mode of transportation, they should immediately think of calling you. That’s because they’ll be confident you have the right prescription for their ailment.

To earn this level of respect and trust, you need to start every relationship with the right skills. These skills include a caring manner, a confident air, and your diagnostic tools. The tools you use in diagnosing the automotive needs of your clients may be as simple as a pad of paper and your product knowledge. They may include your past client experiences, personal experiences, or memories.

The most powerful diagnostic tools used by all people in sales are questions. Like a doctor, your use of questions begins with general areas of need. Then, based on the answers you are given, you narrow your questions down to where you can readily determine the right cure or solution for the clients’ needs.

Average car salespeople have this fantasy in which they think they should be able to simply present the wonderful features of their vehicles and the customer, seeing the value, says, “I’ll take it.” If customers made buying decisions based on features alone, that might work, but it’s a rare occasion when that happens.

The reality of it is that most buying decisions are based on past experiences, the experiences of others the client trusts, advertising, gut feelings, and hundreds of other factors that you can’t do much about. So, you have to start with questions to get them talking about their needs, wants, and perceptions of your product or service. The answers to these questions will help you put yourself in their shoes. Once you’re there, you’ll see what steps you need to take in order to help them make a sound buying decision.

Be sure to ask, “What past experience do you have with this type of vehicle?” It could be that they’re very well-versed on the features of an SUV or luxury sedan, even owned one in the past, and are seeking a new one of the same type. If they know little or nothing about the vehicle they’ve come to see, you’ll have to invest a bit more time in educating them as to the features and what they can expect.

Ask very specifically what they hope to accomplish with an investment in this particular type of vehicle. It could be that one of your vehicle’s key benefits is sought after by most clients. However, that feature does nothing for this particular client. You won’t want to turn them off by talking about something that doesn’t matter to them.

I like to use the analogy of a torpedo when talking about this subject. A torpedo leaves a ship in the general direction of its intended target. It bounces a signal off in the target direction. If the signal doesn’t come back, it corrects its direction to get back on course and sends another signal seeking feedback.

That’s what questioning does for you. You take off in a general direction with your questions. The answers you receive either tell you that you’re on target or that you need to take another track. Rarely will you take a direct course from initial contact to the vehicle sale. More often than not, you’ll find yourself zig-zagging but all the while heading in the general direction of the sale until you find just the right answer for each and every client.

Take a moment to think about the quality of the questions you are asking. How quickly and accurately are they bringing you back the information you need to move forward with a sale? If you continually get hung up in one aspect of your presentation, invest some non-client time writing out the questions you’re using now. Then, think about how you could rephrase them to get better feedback. An even better strategy is to make a list of all the information you need to have before asking for a decision. Then, work backwards, writing out the questions that will provide those answers. Either way, you’ll soon find yourself with better questions to ask, and a shorter, more efficient sales process.

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Jody DeVere

Is Buying a Car a Battle of the Sexes?

business team

Is Buying a Car a Battle of the Sexes?

Shopping for a new car is still a hassle for many women. Women purchase more than 50% of all new cars or influence the purchasing of about 85% of all new cars sold in the US and 48% in Canada. Many women don’t even look to a man for opinions on what to purchase because they are single or run the house.

Topping the list of gripes: Time. 21% say buying a car is not quick and effortless.

Of the women surveyed, 15% said they didn’t like or trust their salesperson.

When women decide to go out to a local car dealership to buy a car, they are most often ignored as if invisible. If they do bring a man (just to get noticed!) but try to dominate the sale (because it’s their car, after all), they are treated like a mouthy kid, or worse yet, expected to allow the man to do all the talking.

In today’s competitive auto industry, I can’t understand how salespeople can discriminate based on gender. If anything, they should cater to women or risk missing a sale and the opportunity to recruit a loyal customer. With so much information available to women to conduct research before they buy a new car, women are becoming much more car savvy and they deserve the respect of car dealerships.

Here are some facts about women car buyers:

  • Women spend approximately 17 weeks on the new car buying process (3 weeks longer than men.)
  • Women are more inclined to purchase cars that they consider fun to drive and that are well made. In contrast, men prefer vehicles that are a good value for the money, are comfortable, have nice exterior styling, good fuel economy, and display a certain image.
  • Women, more than men, place a high value on a vehicle’s reliability, durability, passenger seating capacity, safety features, and availability of four-wheel drive.
    Women rate safety as the most important aspect when shopping for new vehicles.
  • Female buyers seek advice from automotive authorities (57%) before buying a new car.
  • Female auto buyers will shop an average of 3 dealerships for best price and best treatment.
  • 1/3 of female buyers read an average of 4 automotive magazines for 12 months before purchase.
  • Females place the most importance on dependability, functionality, and economic factors when buying.

With these facts in mind, what is your dealership doing to attract, sell, retain and, create loyalty with women car buyers?

Being properly armed with the right tools and training your dealership can increase its share of the largest and fastest growing demographic of new vehicle buyers in the US – Women Consumers. The Ask Patty Certified Dealer program was designed specifically for car dealerships to attract, sell, retain and, keep loyal women consumers.

What Is An Ask Patty Certified Female Friendly Dealer?

An Ask Patty certified dealer is a dealer that creates a safe and comfortable environment where women feel welcome, while making the experience of purchasing and maintaining her vehicle a pleasant one. Ask Patty trained and certified dealers are held to a high level of customer satisfaction for women consumers. To find out how to become an Ask, Inc. certified dealer, email us or contact us at: or phone 888-745-1928.

Jody DeVere – CEO
Ask, Inc.

Data Sources:, Road and Travel Magazine, Detroit News, CARMAX Survey 2013, LipSticking – Marketing to Women Online



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Brent Carmichael

Your Buy Here Pay Here Collection CSI


How would your collection department Customer Service Index/Indicator (CSI) measure up to everyone in the BHPH industry? Most BHPH operators haven’t given it a second thought. As of yet, there hasn’t been a national BHPH CSI developed, but it’s something that must be tracked and monitored to have any hope of future success.

In today’s highly competitive BHPH marketplace, a low CSI will not only cost you money, but could literally cost you your entire business. Obviously, customer service and satisfaction is important in all facets of the business; from sales to service to collections. But in the recent economic and competitive climate, how the customer is treated during the collection process will set you up for either future success of failure.

The BHPH business is widely recognized, and rightly so, as a collection or risk management business. Yet often times the service after the sale, so to speak, is neglected or simply ignored. The most successful operators thrive on repeat and referral business ‒ a direct result of providing good overall customer service. And those same operators usually experience a better performing portfolio, which, again, is what this business is all about.

One of the biggest challenges to providing effective collection customer service comes from the top. Some operators still cling to an old school train of thought: They have already provided service by selling and financing a vehicle for a customer when more than one other dealer said no. Another car in that same train carries the thought that the customer has signed a contract and that’s where the obligation ends. These thought processes are filtered down and can affect the attitude of everyone in the organization towards their greatest asset, the customer. I’m not saying the customer is always right, but they are becoming more right everyday.

Another sizable challenge to providing good collection customer service is setting the right tone. The first collection customer contact usually occurs when a payment is missed or there is a service issue. Neither of which is particularly positive from the customer’s viewpoint. Too often it is assumed that the customer is either lying in regards to their circumstances or simply trying to get something for nothing. Both of which lead to an overly-aggressive posture in trying to exert some form of control over the customer, usually by bullying or giving ultimatums. This rarely works effectively in the long run.

The key to setting the right tone is getting customers to first like you. If they like you, they will trust you. And if they trust you, they will respect you. Once they respect you, they will be much more likely to accept whatever you have to say, good, bad or indifferent. It all begins with listening. We were given two ears and one mouth for a reason. We should listen twice as much as we speak. The like-trust-respect dynamic is instrumental in setting the right tone. Set the wrong tone and it will be an arduous collection task for the length of the note. But rest assured: if you set the wrong tone, you will not have to worry about your customers, or anyone they know, once their notes are paid off.

There are many ways to develop and foster customer service and satisfaction. Customer rewards programs have proven successful in other industries and are now picking up steam in BHPH. Most everyone has a repeat and referral program, but collection and service reward programs are becoming more prevalent. I can hear those of you on the old school train; “Reward them for doing what they are supposed to do anyway? Never!” In today’s ultra-competitive BHPH market, that may be just what it will take to thrive ‒ anything to separate you from the competition, provide added value to the customer, and keep them paying you. Whether it is the customer receiving credit for making their payments on time, or incentives for keeping up with the regular maintenance of the vehicle, the key is having something in place.

Deciding to renew or extend your commitment to customer service and satisfaction is a step in the right direction. The next step is how to effectively track and monitor progress, or lack thereof. There are a few ways to do this: Written surveys and call recording systems seem to be the most popular and effective.

Written surveys should be simple and concise. Multiple choice and/or number grading are the easiest to track and quantify. Open response surveys can provide a lot of information, but they are often illegible and consequently, not of much value. Surveys can be done at the time of sale, as the customer pays off, or at the time any service is performed, whether it be warranty, customer pay, or best of all, good will. It’s a good practice to include your employees in the survey process; if the right tone was set, who better to know what the customer’s likes and dislikes are? Regardless of whom it’s from or when, all feedback can be valuable.

Call recording systems are also valuable in tracking and monitoring how well your organization is handling your customers. One bit of advice: Remove all sharp objects and anything that can be thrown or broken prior to listening to the first set of recordings. You will be astonished at what and how things are being said to your potential and existing customers by your employees. Once you get past the initial shock, call recordings will provide a great avenue for training and holding your remaining staff accountable. They can also provide a means of verification in a “we said/they said” scenario, thus preventing a possible legal nightmare.

Competition for the BHPH customer is stiffer than ever, especially with how aggressive sub-prime has been for quite some time. Add to that rising compliance standards, and customer service and satisfaction is more important now than ever. The like-trust-respect dynamic will be the key to not only sales success, but more importantly, collection success. Today’s BHPH customer only wants what we all want: to be treated with courtesy and respect. The truly successful operators already understand this and act accordingly. This simple fact, if ignored, will derail the old school train.

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Brent Carmichael Speaking Sessions at NABD 2014:

  • Compliance Expectations from the Capital Markets- Sunday 4:45-5:45 PM
  • Compliance Best Practices Panel – Monday 4:00-5:00 PM
  • Tax Refunds & Increasing Ups – Tuesday 4:00-4:45 PM
  • Benchmarks, Trends Update – Wednesday 5:00-5:45 PM
  • Operators’ Best Practices – Thursday 11:00 AM-12:15 PM

Additionally, you’ll be able to meet with Brent to discuss 20 Groups, education and consulting opportunities at the Dealer Academy between sessions in the Exhibitor Ballroom in booth 1111.

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Robin Cunningham

How Much Service are You Providing in Your Service Department?


In order to write this blog article I am compelled to admit that on occasion I will visit… a fast food restaurant. The reason I say it that way is that I am generally known as a very healthy eater who takes pretty good care of himself. That being said, if I leave too little time to get somewhere and I need to eat something, it can happen.

Recently I was working off-site, but had to get to an NCM team meeting at 1:30 p.m., but had cut it too close, given that I had not yet eaten anything that day.  As I was driving towards our offices I was mentally deciding my options. it turned out itt was going to have to be faster than I wanted. I knew I was going be near a McDonald’s that was on the way. I vaguely remembered it being closed some time back for a remodel or even a brand new building, but I had not been there for many years so I didn’t really know. As I walked in I was impressed about how fresh, modern and well, un-McDonald’s-like it was.

As I walked in I was greeting by a well-dressed, middle aged woman who smiled and said, “Welcome back!” I had to smile because I had not been there, of course, for years. So, I instantly knew something different was going on. I stepped up to the counter and a very well-dressed, middle-aged man wearing a tie, with a big smile, greeted me and started telling me about the daily specials.

While my order was being put together I walked into the restroom to wash my hands. As I turned around for a paper towel, the dispenser was empty. There was a hand dryer on the wall, but I could not get it to work. I walked out the door with wet hands to tell someone and it seemed like within seconds another well-dressed, middle-aged man came up to me and asked me if he could help. I told him what was going on and he took me back into the restroom and showed me the sensor on the hand dryer that I had missed and proceeded to dry my hands.

I came out, got my food and sat down to eat in view of people walking in and being greeted with “Welcome back!” I really was amazed at the level of service being provided and knew for a fact that this just doesn’t happen by accident. On my way out I approached the woman who was greeting everyone, told her what type of work I did and that I really appreciated and respected what was going on there. She smiled and said it was a new way of doing things and it was decided that the best place for the store manager to be was out in front greeting and being involved with the customers during peak times.

I have to admit, this experience was so different than I would have ever imagined that I knew I was going to write about it.. I know of another McDonald’s not that far away that is completely different. You walk in and there might be one person working the counter that has three registers, with many people standing in line to be waited on. When you look around to see if anyone might be in charge, it would appear to be some industrious, but very young person and lots of other very young people standing around not even really trying to look busy.

So what in the heck does this have to do with how much SERVICE you may or may not be providing in your Service Department…or any department for that matter? Do you have a morning rush on your Service drive that prevents your advisors from having the time to properly greet your customers? This, of course, is required in order to build the relationships we need with our customers if we expect them to stay loyal to us. But just as important, it’s to make sure we are able to identify everything these vehicles need while they are in our care and custody…and sell that work today!

Actually we should already know all or most of that information by the way the reservation process was handled when the customer called us. And ideally that call was not handled by our service advisors. By the way, where are your general manager and service manager during this peak timeframe? At McDonald’s, the store manager was on the “service drive.”  Just sayin’….

Are we actually ANTICIPATING our customer’s arrival as much as is possible? If we have too low of Labor Gross Profit margins, too low Hours Per Repair Order and too low Effective Labor Rates, this is one of the primary causes.

As retail automobile dealers, our competitive advantage is to provide GREAT SERVICE. If we stage it right and anticipate what is really happening on our Service Drives, we can be very profitable. Why would customers not want to come to our new or remodeled facilities when we have: loaner cars or shuttles, and in many cases, beautiful waiting rooms with flat screen televisions, espresso machines, wireless Internet, etc.? We should be as competitive as the Independents with our competitive and maintenance labor categories and we can be profitable doing it.

One definition of SERVICE I found was: an act of helpful activity; help; aid: to do someone a SERVICE.

As our good friend Dave Anderson says: “Give it a try!”

Robin Cunningham is an instructor for the NCM Institute Center for Retail Excellence and one of the featured trainers in NCM OnDemand, a new virtual training and communications platform for NCM’s Dealer 20 Group members and other automotive retail dealers who desire 24/7 skills development and better employee communications processes.

Click here to take the 24-Hour Test Drive.


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Lycia Jedlicki

Two Simple Steps to Customer “Royalty”

crownWhen are we going to start treating the pre-owned vehicle customer like royalty instead of the “red-headed step child”?

When a customer takes delivery of a new vehicle, we try to make sure we do everything possible to ensure they come back to our service department (at least for the first visit). We may do this by giving them their first service free or scheduling their first service appointment. Why do we do this? Hopefully because we want to retain that customer and not just to keep the manufacturer happy!

What would happen if we treated ALL of our pre-owned vehicle customers like new vehicle customers, not just our certified pre-owed, but every pre-owned we retailed?

I have a dealer in one of my NCM 20 Groups that did just that! Guess what happened? Her service department gross profit increased 69% (yes, she was already profitable). Her customer pay repair orders increased 8.9% and her customer pay hours increased 42%.

What did she do differently?

  1. On every pre-owned vehicle sold, a one-year, 15,000-mile maintenance package was included ‒ the only exclusions were luxury high-end vehicles ‒ there were no mileage or age limitations.
  2. They also slowed their process down so the service advisor actually had time to build a relationship with a customer and had time to sell.

According to DMEautomotive Research increasing service intervals have cost the average dealership $91,000 in annual revenue, so why not retain the customer we already have? This includes servicing all makes and models; after all, you don’t want them getting treated better by your competitor do you?

The pre-owned vehicle customer (owner) is one we already have; wouldn’t it make more sense to try to retain them instead of spending money to try to find a new customer? Try giving them the royal treatment then watch your metrics for loyal soar!

UV Training


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Rebecca Chernek

Online F&I Profits—Who’s Minding the Store?

Online F&I ProfitsDealers have a new concern. Their frontend gross is down due to the increasing number of savvy potential customers shopping for online deals. Too often, F&I is shut out of the process, because these same shoppers come with a check already made out for the exact amount of the vehicle purchase. The manager has lost the opportunity to present the menu for additional product sales.

If you’re experiencing this problem and have concerns about increasing your ROI, examine the effectiveness of your website. It’s essential in today’s marketplace to have one that can attract, hook and provide information for every potential customer shopping online. Most importantly, work on streamlining the process from Internet sales to finance.

This means your site must utilize every available technical tool to maintain first-rate effectiveness in competing with other dealerships, as well as other financial institutions and companies that offer menu products. Customers compare. They’re all looking for the best deal.

You’ve learned by now that your store can’t thrive and grow if every department works by itself and doesn’t coordinate with and support the others. Employees at every level must understand there is one dealership and one major goal. If profits aren’t sustained or improved in every department, problems ensue. Teamwork is required. Exemplary customer service is required. The same is true for in-store finance and website finance. There must be a flawless unification of website information and the availability of in-store assistance.

Look at it from a different angle. A profitable dealership essentially has two showrooms, two used vehicle lots, and maybe two F&I managers offering products from the menu. One is based on the physical site and the other on the Internet site. Both run as one entity.

Your Internet manager must not only be a high-tech guru, but schooled in F&I; either that or your website must be designed to allow quick and easy access to your onsite F&I manger. It must be a welcoming, informative website “showroom” and sales medium that offers the same consummate service provided by onsite employees, especially your finance manager.

Develop a firm policy and clear procedures that everyone understands. Make online financing readily available and ensure it is so “competitive” that it encourages customers to finance at your dealership. Never forget they are one mouse-click away from financing at the local bank or another online provider.

Your F&I manager should be prepared to offer a menu presentation online. Web conferencing tools make this possible. With a little training and practice, the manager can learn how to make a convincing impact on any discussion of financing or lease options through Skype or some other service. Preparation and knowledge of competitors’ policies will enable the matching or beating of the vehicle loan and, more importantly, bring customers to the store.

Assign some homework. Have all your managers check the websites of every competitor within 100 miles of your dealership and be ready to discuss what online marketing tools they’re using and what schemes they have in place to obtain captive financing. Then you’ll know how to go forward with your own site.

To-do list:

  • Upgrade your Web presence and constantly improve its usability
  • Be proactive and transparent
  • Display the best available terms and rates
  • Don’t forget to add “with approved credit”
  • Describe, in detail, the products and services you offer; in fact, provide a downloadable version of your dealership brochure with your mission statement
  • Include brief descriptions of your managers that relate not only their professional experience and know-how, but statements that make them more personable and approachable
  • Make your finance manager easily accessible by email or phone; not as a receptionist, but as someone eager and willing to answer any questions about financing or credit issues

With your Internet manager knowledgeable about how to best support a systematic process that encourages maximized sales on all your offerings through the online store, there will be less finger pointing and more hand shaking when the ROI goes sky high.

Who’s minding the store? Your well-informed, well-trained website and F&I managers who can use social media tools effectively to offer and close deals through your online store. Their unified effort to gain new customers, who finance their vehicles and buy products through your dealership, will drive them back to your onsite store where your staff can earn their trust and satisfaction through the quality of your personalized and continuous service.

Rebecca Chernek of Chernek Consulting is an NCM Up To Speed guest expert in the area of retail automotive F&I best practices. She has an impressive automotive retail background spanning over 25+ years. To contact Rebecca or for more information about Chernek Consulting, call 404-276-4026.

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