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Kirk Felix

From the 20 Group: 12 New Ideas for Fixed Ops

Cars in the automotive service

During each of my NCM 20 Group meetings, I encourage members to come up with ideas to improve Fixed Ops business and profits. As you prepare to close out 2016 and prepare for the coming year, I thought I’d share their top 12 insights.

  1. Add a sales manager to the service drive. Dealerships are adding this position to improve service drive performance and consistent management of processes.  This new personnel should also enhance sales through training and immediate T.O.’s for turned down sales.
  2. Increase entry-level pay to attract higher-quality staff. One way that fixed operations directors are improving the quality of their applicants is by offering higher starting pay.  Plus, promoting from within is more successful when starting with a higher quality individual!
  3. Leverage Amazon Prime to negotiate with local vendors. Check all outside quotes against Amazon Prime to ensure the lowest pricing; ask local vendors to price match.
  4. Create body shop installation kits. Build parts kits with assigned part numbers for standard installations. The kits should include sealers, sanding discs, tape, clips and any other needed items. Because insurance companies typically pay for items with a part number, this should simplify the payment process.
  5. Get involved in local high schools and encourage kids to consider technician careers. I think everyone agrees that we need to attract more talent to our field. Some of my 20 Group members work with high schools in their communities to help students learn about options for automotive careers. If you do this, be sure to explain the great earning potential of fixed ops work.
  6. Set monthly goals for technician and advisor production; review them during weekly 1-on-1 meetings. Make sure every team member is contributing to department goals by working with them on individual achievements. During weekly sessions, review performance and coach anyone who hasn’t met their objectives. A good starting place is increasing technician production by five hours per week.
  7. Track closing ratios on failed items by advisor. Failed items on multi-point inspections have to be repaired. The question is, will they be serviced at your dealership or a competitor? Monitor which service advisors close these items successfully, then coach the ones who do not. Consider service advisor training for those team members needing more help. (NCMi has a great course.)
  8. Get phone training for all front-line staff. We may live in a digital age, but the majority of business is still conducted by phone in fixed operations. Training staff to handle incoming calls properly will increase business opportunities.
  9. Make expense analysis and reduction a priority. A common worry from fixed ops directors is in our meetings is that they have gotten lax on expense management.  Almost universally, my members feel it is time to analyze all billings and look for reductions from their vendors.
  10. Train service advisors in sales. Fixed operations directors are running service departments as sales departments, so focus on improving the skills and performance of their service advisors. An excellent internal training resource is your dealership’s sales manager.
  11. Require advisors and managers to prewrite repair orders at the end of the day. Reviewing all scheduled work helps make sure parts are available and ready for customers. Management can also use the advanced notice to make recommendations about the proper word tracks for increased sales.
  12. Track parts fill rate by repair order. Having only 6 of 7 need parts for a repair order is zero fill rate for the repair order because you were unable to complete the work.


Learn more about Kirk Felix and how he and his NCM colleagues can help your dealership through 20 Groups and in-dealership consulting.

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Kirk Felix

Improve Phone Skills and Increase Sales

phoneI was recently at a meeting with one of my Fixed Operations Directors 20 Groups when the conversation came up that even with all of the new technology available, your staff still needs continual training to improve phone skills.

Dealerships are pushing to get a higher percentage of customers to book service appointments online. Advisors communicate with customers via e-mail and text. Parts counter people respond to electronic and online parts requests.

However the majority of communication in fixed operations is still in person and on the phone. This group discussed how easy it is to overlook this reality and the result is poor phone skills of the staff. The discussion quickly came to a conclusion that it is the manager’s responsibility to monitor phone conversations daily to help improve the skills of the parts, service and collision center staff.

Most dealerships have the ability to listen to both incoming and outgoing calls. It is important to monitor both. One member mentioned he had an advisor that started every call for additional sales with, “I have some bad news for you.” After correcting this poor word track the advisor’s closing percentage improved dramatically. A large percentage of dealership parts departments answer the phone with “parts hold.”  This word track is easily corrected with minor coaching.

The main result of improved phone skills is: an increase in sales activity.

The members found the majority of their staff were not asking for the sale. Whether it was an advisor not asking to make an appointment or to have the customer bring the car in, or a parts person not letting the customer know the part was in stock and asking how would they like to pay for it; closing questions can improve sales. It is not necessary to listen to 100% of the calls, but it is important to listen to a sampling daily. Some of the members felt it was effective to play calls in a group setting and others felt it should be part of one-on-one coaching.

Either approach can be successful as long as it is done consistently. Every manager must make this part of his daily routine just like reviewing individual effective labor rates, parts gross percentages, and collision center estimate closing ratios. There are several outside and online companies that can help you get started with phone skills training. However, in the long term, it is the responsibility of each department manager to work with his/her staff to improve phone skills and increase sales.


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