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Tag Archive: NCMi

Lindsey Quinn

A Tradition of Innovation: A Blast from NCM’s Past

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Here at NCM, our employee-owners tend to focus on the future. Coordinators are always prepping for the next 20 Group meeting, while the moderators are busy combing through composites. Our NCMi instructors keep an eye on advancements in the field, all while making sure they are available for their students. As for our business intelligence team … well, join us at the NADA Conference to see what they’ve been up to!

Progress is important. But when we discovered a treasure trove of old 20 Group documents during our corporate headquarters move, we couldn’t wait to share them with you.

So, take a break from the future and enjoy this blast from NCM’s past!

20 Group Meeting – 1954

We don’t have a record of which particular 20 Group used this meeting pack, but in 1954 its members would have had a session with moderators from Central Services—the original name of our company.

You’ll see that members enjoyed a pretty short agenda … but that the information speaks to issues we face even today!

1954 Meeting Agenda

We sent the materials out to be “copied” – or, as on this invoice, mimeographed! This bill isn’t from the same year, but it gives you an idea of the cost.

Dealer Analysis Bureau, or DAB, is the name of our original 20 Group, Group 2001, which still thrives to this day. Those of you who’ve attended a class or 20 Group session in our new Kansas City headquarters should recognize the names—we honor our founders and our old company names by naming all our conference and training rooms after them.

1959 Copying Services Receipt

Going back to our 1954 meeting pack, take a look at this section “The Things We Neglected in 1953.” This group’s moderator made it clear that improvements were needed over 1953’s results. This handy checklist told dealers exactly what they should monitor in the coming year.

Things We Neglected in 1953 - Checklist

Any of these items sound familiar? We may not hand type them, but NCM’s experts continue to publish guides to help our dealers make the most of their departments. Thanks to new technologies and demands on dealerships, they are quite a bit longer!

In fact, we’ve just launched our new Fundamentals series. With three volumes currently available—30 Fundamentals for Used Vehicle Success, 35 Fundamentals for Parts Performance and 35 Fundamentals for Service Success—and several more in production, the series highlights our commitment to continuous improvement. Test drive our experts’ knowledge and get your choice of guide when you sign up for a mini-session at NADA. (You’ll also be entered into a drawing to win a free drone!)

It just goes to show that the more things change, the more things stay the same!

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.ncm20.com/2016/03/a-tradition-of-innovation-a-blast-from-ncms-past/

Steve Hall

Three Hours Lost: Your Top 10 Service Time Wasters

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When we ask service managers how important technician efficiency is to profitability, they most often say that “it goes hand-in-hand” or “if they aren’t efficient, you won’t make money.” While I agree with this, let’s look at it another way: time.

Here are the top 10 time wasters I’ve seen in service departments.

  1. Talking (non-productive talk)
  2. Waiting for the first job of the day
  3. Getting authorizations from customers
  4. Waiting on advisors
  5. Waiting in line in Parts
  6. Looking for or waiting on special tools
  7. Walking to Parts and back
  8. Phone calls, texts, e-mails and using tablets or laptops
  9. Smoking
  10. Arriving late or leaving early

How many hours lost?

I ask managers to make this list during each of my training sessions at the NCM Institute, and then I have them to assign time lost by activity. Sure, there are minor variations each class. But what doesn’t change is that we routinely come up with 2½ to 3 hours spent each day, not working on vehicles!

I know it is unreasonable to think that every minute can be spent on productive work, but how many of these lost minutes can we pick up?

Getting time—and money—back.

Let’s look at an example: We will figure an average shop of 12 technicians and gain just 15 minutes a day in actual production. We will use an $85.00 an hour effective labor rate and a gross profit percentage of 75%.

The numbers would look like this:

12 technicians x 15 minutes a day = 180 minutes of production gained a day (3 hours a day gained)

3 hours gained x $85.00 ELR = $255.00 in labor sales gained per day

$255.00 x 75% gross profit (labor) = $191.25 labor gross gained per day

$191.25 x 300 business days per year = $57,375 additional labor gross profit per year!

Add in corresponding parts gross generated from the labor sales, and you could earn more than $95,000 in additional fixed gross profit per year (and that is figured at 100% efficient). If they are 125%, the numbers are even larger! All of this from just gaining 15 productive minutes per day from each of your technicians.

Take the time to evaluate all of your technicians’ daily time wasters. Find ways to reduce the wasted time. Ask them for ideas and creative solutions. (And, once they know you are paying attention, some of the time wasters may just disappear.)

Go ahead, do the math your own numbers and find your potential: you’ll be amazed!

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Permanent link to this article: http://blog.ncm20.com/2015/08/what-are-15-minutes-a-day-worth-in-your-service-department/

Steve Hall

60 Seconds to Gain a Service Customer

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Do you have 60 seconds to gain a service customer? Let me restate that: Do you have a structured 60 seconds to gain this customer? Why the emphasis on “structured”?  Let me explain.

Let me start with this.

If you are a dealership that doesn’t already perform an introduction of the new and used vehicle owners to the service department, then you aren’t quite ready to read this article. In that case, set the process in place, and get it started. Enough said?

Now, for the intended audience:

What does your customer introduction to the service department really look like? Think about this. You have just worked hard to gain a vehicle sale, and now your sales consultant completes the dealership “road to a sale” process by escorting the new customer to the service department for an introduction and to set the appointment for the first service visit. The salesperson stands with the customer in the service drive as the advisors are busily moving around. One of them is on the phone, one is with a client, and another is working on something, but we’re just not sure what. Five minutes pass by… OK maybe it’s only 45 seconds, but it feels like five minutes. Once the wait is over, the sales consultant and customer approach one of the advisors. The advisor glances around, looks at the salesperson and customer with a “what do you want” look, and he doesn’t even smile. Everyone can can tell that he’s distracted.

The salesperson tries to make the situation better and introduces the customer to the advisor with an enthusiastic phrase, but the advisor’s response is lukewarm. The advisor congratulates the customer on his purchase and says, “If you ever need anything, please let me know,” and then he hands over a business card.

At this point both the sales consultant and the service advisor feel that they have followed the process and have “done their job”.  But what really happened? Did the customer feel welcomed? Did the customer feel like you really wanted them to do business with you? Did your people provide anycompelling reason why this new customer should do business with you?

Your service department just had 60 seconds to win a customer – and you fumbled. Worse yet, you didn’t even realize the opportunity that you missed.

I am a firm believer that every new customer should be introduced to the service department, parts department, and the collision center. I am also a firm believer that these introductions should make a very positive impression on each customer. This is our time to shine! After all, this may be the only time that members of these departments ever get to see this customer, so we need to make a great impression.

To help you along the way, here is an introduction script that I developed for our NCM InstitutePrinciples of Service Management class.

Introduction Script:

Service Department Employee: Congratulations on your purchase. I would like to be one of the first to welcome you to our family. What type of vehicle did you buy? (as the customer talks, smile, nod in approval slightly, and listen… do not interrupt them.)

Customer: (Answers)

Service Department Employee: Terrific! May I ask what kind of vehicle you have been driving up until now?

Customer(Answers)

Service Department Employee: Well, we’re glad that you are joining our family now, and I’m sure that you will enjoy your (type of vehicle purchased). I would like to share a little information with you, so that you can feel comfortable anytime that you come in for service… 

  • (Point to the service doors.) You can see over here, these are the service entry doors. Any time that you need service, you will just pull up to them, and we will open them up and let you in. 
  • (Point to the service advisors.) Also, you can see the advisors over here. They will greet you and take great care of you any time that you arrive.
  • I would also like to reassure you that we are here for you. There is no reason to worry about anything pertaining to your vehicle, because we can handle it. Whether it is warranty work (which hopefully you will never need), routine maintenance, tires or anything… we can handle it for you. We offer highly competitive prices on everything, including oil changes. We will get you in and out quickly to make it most convenient for you.
  • But, most of all we want you to know that, since you have purchased your vehicle, you are now part of our family and we will take great care of you. 

Are there any questions that I can currently answer for you?

Customer: Not right now, I’m just excited to get the vehicle.

Service Department Employee: I’m sure you are. Here is my business card. Just know that if you ever need anything please let us know, and enjoy your car.

You can see that your employees will need to practice the script, but I’ve underlined the most important points so they are easier to learn. You will also need to modify it slightly for customers that are currently servicing their vehicles with you, but you get the concept. As a final tip, I suggest that the sales consultant carry a color-coded, bright yellow clip board when he escorts the customer to the Service Department. The yellow clip board signifies to the service department employees that the salesperson is accompanied by a new dealership customer and not a “heat case.”

Consistently perform and flawlessly execute the structured 60 seconds approach to win over the customer, and it will become one of the most profitable investments of time ever spent with your clients.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.ncm20.com/2015/05/60-seconds-to-gain-a-service-customer-2/

NCM Associates

What Are You Thankful For?

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In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, a few of us would like to take a moment to share what we’re thankful for:

“I am thankful for becoming a grandma this year and having a sweet little baby to love. I am having the time of my life!”  Penny Correa,Sr. Executive Administrative Assistant

“I am thankful for my family, especially my precious baby girl. I’m thankful for my friends and coworkers. I’m thankful for my job at an employee-owned company. And I’m thankful for sleep…”  Ashley Halloran, Meeting Contract Coordinator

“I am thankful for the Lord giving me such a wonderful and healthy life. Bless those less fortunate.”  Kim Mishmash, Retail Operations Coordinator

“I am most thankful this year that my mom is no longer suffering and is finally at peace. I’m thankful that I have a job that I love with a wonderful company. I’m thankful that my daughter is happy and healthy.”  Susy Campbell, NCM Travel Solutions Manager

“I am grateful to be working in an environment where peers come to fulfill their commitment of being the resource our clients are looking for and need. I am grateful for a work environment where peers work to be better and work to make me better.”  Kevin Cunningham, Director of Corporate Growth & Development

“I am thankful to have both a wife and a workplace that I enjoy being around.”  Matt Wilson, Marketing Creative Specialist

“I am thankful for the health of my family this Thanksgiving.”  Paul Faletti, CEO

“I’m so thankful for family and friends who show unconditional love and support through all of life’s challenges. I’m thankful for God’s blessings and that I’m given an opportunity each day to try and make a small difference.”  Travis Coffey, Salesforce Administratior

“I am thankful for the places and experiences I’ve had in my past. Where I am today, having a wonderful family, newborn, and career. Along with excitement as to what the future holds knowing it will be wonderful.”  Jaime Servaes, Integrated Marketing Specialist

“I am most thankful for all the blessings that God has given to my family and myself, especially our health!  I’m also very thankful for my position here at NCM!”  Angie M. Harper,Executive Administrative Assistant

“I am thankful to be part of this country which enables the freedom to love, work, worship, and play as we desire.”  Steven Banks,axcessa Operations Manager

“I am so incredibly thankful for the many blessings in my life: the health and happiness of my family and friends, and of course, an exciting and fun career at NCM!” – Skye Nguyen, Marketing & Communications Director

What are you thankful for? Let us know in the comments below.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.ncm20.com/2014/11/what-are-you-thankful-for-2/

Steve Hall

Trying Something New?

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Follow this Recipe for Better Results

Summer in Kansas City is the time to smoke, grill and barbecue. The other day I was putting together my special rib sauce and it occurred to me that cooking is a lot like managing. Cooking when you have a great recipe is a lot easier –­ and the results are consistently better ­if you’re following a plan and executing it flawlessly. My sauce recipe helps me stay focused and ensures a better outcome. Every time I think I can whip up my sauce without the recipe, I find myself leaving out an ingredient, not measuring properly or forgetting to watch it closely as it simmers.

Likewise, managing without a plan is hard. We operate in a people business and people can be messy. As a department Manager, you deal with varying personalities, mood swings and all of the other parts of a business that can be challenging, to say the least.

With this in mind, have you ever seen the manager that just seems to get results? No matter what they try, it just seems to work. Do they have a better plan or do they just do a better job with the plans they have? Granted, some plans or ideas are better than others, but even the best plans don’t stand a chance without proper communication and follow up. That’s the secret sauce – the key to their success.

At NCM Associates, we believe in Six Primary Elements of Effective Accountability Management. These elements are the foundation of solid business planning and will help you achieve any goal with greater ease. If you’re struggling to implement or execute your next plan, review these elements and become a better manager.

Plan your work and work your plan.

Do you have a plan for your department? Many managers come to work each day only to have the day rule them. I understand that circumstances come up and we must handle them, but do you take time to work “on” your business, not just “in” your business? A well-thought-out game plan is the first step. Decide what your goal is. Then you must plan the steps to get you there.

Is your plan written out? Well-written plans that are quantified will help keep you on track. This will serve as the roadmap towards your objectives. Quantification is used to put a dollar figure to your plan. This will justify why your efforts are worthwhile.

Clearly define and communicate your expectations.

Once you’ve thought through and written down your plan and are ready to take action to work the plan, the next step is to get everyone “on board” with the plan. We can’t be a one-person show. We must multiply our efforts through our staff. Oftentimes this is a point of failure. We think everyone understood what we said, but really, they didn’t. We may have spent a few days or even weeks thinking up and planning the new initiative and paying close attention to every detail. Then, when we go to launch it, we hold a “mandatory” meeting and in an hour expect everyone to be on board. Take time to do a better job getting their buy-in and then define their roles in very clear ways, with measureable expectations and deadlines.

Measure what you intend to manage.

What are the key components of the plan? How do you know if it’s working? The bottom line is that all plans must be measurable. Many times, good plans fade away, largely because people just can’t tell if they’re working. If you do a good job measuring results, now you will know if the plan is gaining traction and getting the results that you desire. As you see these results improving, it will help keep your attention and focus on the plan.

But how do you keep the team focused on the plan? Why not scoreboard it? In a common departmental area, away from customers, place a large whiteboard and start displaying the measureable results. Then every day, post the results. If the results aren’t what you desire, this will serve as a forum to bring the team into alignment with the needed actions to make the improvements. If the results are progressing as planned, use this as a celebration and encouragement tool. People love to see the score, to know if they are winning or not. Use their inner competitive desire to your advantage.

Inspect what you expect.

Now that you have a measurement tool in place, you need to inspect what you expect. Results will not just happen. If you’ve done a good job developing the plan, communicating the plan and deciding how you will measure the results, now you must inspect the activities that need to happen on a daily basis to end up with the desired results.

Do your associates know that you will be inspecting results and that you are committed to the plan? Or do they think it is just another whim that will quickly lose steam and fade away? For plans to work long-term, you must continually inspect what you expect.

Reward positive results and respond appropriately to negative results.

We believe that positive behavior that’s rewarded will be repeated and negative behavior that’s not effectively addressed will, likewise, be repeated.

Life is a balance; work should be a balance also. All too often we don’t hear anything about our performance or give feedback about our staff’s performance. Good or bad, it just seems to go unnoticed. That’s until someone does one too many bad things; then the hammer falls. We unload all of the built-up issues we haven’t addressed along the way. This outpouring of negative information hits them like a ton of bricks, whether it’s deserved or not.

Why do we do this? Doesn’t it make more sense to give consistent feedback for both positive and negative performance? If someone isn‘t following procedure, don’t we have the responsibility to let them know when it happens so that they can take corrective action? Just as important, when we find someone doing things right, isn’t that the best time to praise them? Employees feed off of this praise and usually try to do things right. Unfortunately, we all too often don’t communicate — and reinforce the behavior, whether right or wrong. Timely feedback will help keep your plan on track.

Develop and implement a systemic structure.

Dissimilar people operating within the same systemic structure will produce similar results. Are you process-oriented? Everyone has their own viewpoints and biases. A systemic structure will help keep everyone on the right track – your track. Set up processes to help you reach your goal. Once your processes are in place, you will need to consistently train, monitor and enhance these processes. You have to remember that processes will not survive on their own. They just seem to disappear over time.

This is commonly known as process evaporation. We hear explanations like, “We used to do it that way, but now we don’t. There was no real reason for the change — it just happened.” The only way to combat this is to continuously work on the processes. The processes must become part of your culture!

The next time you’re getting ready to launch that new initiative, take a few minutes to review these six elements. Taking these into account early in the process will help you achieve every goal quicker, with more ease and better results. That sounds like a recipe for success for any manager.


This article was originally published in Fixed Ops Magazine.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.ncm20.com/2014/08/trying-something-new/

Steve Hall

Becoming the Best You Can Be

Optimistic businessman contemplating in office.

Is it a Knowing Issue or a Doing Issue that is holding you back?

Have you ever thought about what keeps you from becoming the best you can be? Hopefully, not only have you thought about this in the past, but you think about it on a regular basis. Though this thought process can apply to any employee, manager or owner, today I will focus on managers in the fixed operations departments.

Let’s consider the following situation for our example: The general manger meets with you to review your department’s past performance. During the meeting, the general manager states that she wants to have a minimum of a 50% increase in net profit in your department this year. How do you react?

When faced with a challenge, most people have one of three natural reactions. The first one is the simplest and goes something like this: You agree and believe that the requested 50% increase in net profit is obtainable, and you already have ideas on how to make it happen. You develop your plan, communicate your plan, and actually perform your plan. At this point the stars are aligned, life is good and you are on your way towards achieving the set goal.

The second and third types of reactions aren’t as simple as that. Unfortunately, they are more common than the first reaction.

Let me explain the second type of reaction that we can have when a target, goal or objective is presented. Again we will use the above example, where the boss has mandated a 50% increase in profitability. You may not have a plan to obtain the needed profit. You know that you work hard every day and you just can’t see where the increase is going to come from. You’re not sure whether you need additional sales, additional margins, good old-fashioned expense reduction, or a combination of all three. You want to perform to the requested level, but you just don’t have the answer to how to perform to that level. We consider this a “knowing issue.”

The best part about knowing issues is they are fixable. Our industry has many ways to tap into the knowledge base of highly successful people. Here are just a few ways to gain knowledge that would help you overcome a knowing issue to obtain the objective.

Automotive Training Companies

These companies can provide a wide range of solutions to overcome most any obstacle. You can attend two-, three- or five-day courses that will cover a variety of topics to overcome challenges faced by today’s managers. A side benefit of this type of classroom training is that in addition to the course curriculum, you get to engage other students and learn from their experiences. It also gives you time to get away and work on your business, rather than just in your business.

In-Dealership Consultants or Retail Operations Coaches

Consultants or business coaches are another effective way to get very specialized knowledge. These people will work hand-in-hand with you, on your turf, to come up with solutions that will meet your needs.

Webinars, On-Demand Video Training, and e-Learning Seminars

These on-demand and scheduled training segments are becoming an efficient way to learn new ideas or to help you understand the solutions that are available on a wide variety of topics.

Print and/or Digital Magazines and Blogs

These are easy to access and search. They are full of timely and useful information. Whether you’re looking for information on products or time-proven tactics to help you achieve your objective, much can be learned using this format.

Lastly, don’t forget other resources for information. They include digital automotive groups, discussion forums, professional networks, personal acquaintances, and the list goes on and on. In today’s world, we are never short on being able to find information and ideas.

Knowledge issues all come down to this:

If you really want to know how to accomplish something, with a little research or investment, you can find suggestions and best practice methods. Since we can see that information for solutions is readily available, this brings us to the third possible reaction. It may be the hardest to address. I call this one a “doing issue.” Continuing with our example above, you may understand your boss’s request and even have the knowledge or solutions to obtain the target, but are you willing to do what it takes to achieve it?

This reaction can get tricky, partly because many times managers disguise it as a knowing issue, when really it is more of a doing issue. They know ways to impact the desired result, but for whatever reason they decide not to take action and do it.

They may justify their decision with thoughts like, “The solution sounds like too much work,” or “If I do that, it might upset (you fill in the blank),” or “I’m happy enough with the way things are, so I’ll just wait this out and hopefully it will go away.” These particular types of responses can be devastating to a business, a department and even a career. Unfortunately, they happen way too often.

So how can you overcome this negative reaction? I am going to give you two solutions. The first one is to personally take control, or ownership, of this reaction. If you know that you are the stumbling block, then you can change and become the solution.

Be introspective and figure out why you refuse to “do what it takes.” Is it because the solution is illegal, immoral or unjust? If it is, then find a solution that doesn’t cross these non-negotiable boundaries. If it is just because it sounds like more work than you want to do, then find a way to make it manageable and make it happen, or find a suitable solution that requires less energy, investment or time. You must realize there are many ways to overcome every obstacle.

As an example, if you are having production capacity issues, don’t just convince yourself that you are maxed out and can’t grow. Maybe you have looked at installing a four-day, 10-hour work schedule to increase capacity, but for some reason, decided that was not a good fit. Now you have convinced yourself that there are no other options. Since you don’t want to do a 4-10 schedule, you just muddle along, not growing month after month, and just making excuses.

If you truly decided that the 4-10 option wasn’t the solution for you, does it stop there, or do you go back to the drawing board looking for other ways to improve capacity?

Again, it comes back to a “knowing” or a “doing” issue.

Did you consider the possibility of using a second or even a third shift, or possibly increasing your hours of operation or days of operation? Maybe a team system would help to gain stall density, or a three-day 13-hour shift program is another option. You could look at reduction of bays-to-technician ratio, or utilizing “community” bay programs. These are just samples of a variety of methods to increase your stall utilization and production capacity. There are many more potential solutions for the example, but you must research solutions, find the one that fits your situation the best, and then actually do it!

lightbulb

To help with doing issues, I like to use the Thomas Edison philosophy. When Edison was asked how he felt about failing so many times when trying to develop the incandescent light bulb, he said that he didn’t look at it as failure, but rather he had found 10,000 ways not to make a light bulb. But he added that he only had to find one way that it would work.

If we kept that same attitude, how great could we become? If you start evaluating every challenge as a either a knowing or doing issue, you will be better equipped to know what path you need to take to find that “one way” to make it work for you. That is a key to ultimate success for your dealership, department and career.

This article was originally published in the July/August 2014 issue of Fixed Ops Magazine.


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Permanent link to this article: http://blog.ncm20.com/2014/08/becoming-the-best-you-can-be/

Garry House

The Changing Role of Used Vehicle Management

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Over the last ten years, anyone who has not witnessed dramatic changes in the used vehicle arena must have his/her head in the sand. Why is it then that so many franchised new vehicle dealers have thus far failed to effectively adjust to these changes? So that you understand what I’m talking about, I’ll just mention two of these impactful changes:

1. The Growth of the Internet as a Marketing Source

2. The Advantages Available through Inventory Optimization Technology

Even the language is changing! The used vehicle manager who was successful ten years ago wouldn’t even be able to communicate today. What did he need to know about inventory turns, price-to-sale gap, SRPs and DVPs, etc.?

Most importantly, the scope of used vehicle management responsibilities has massively expanded. At the used vehicle management classes offered by the NCM Institute, we now define and discuss the 30 Regular Responsibilities that must be performed in a well-run pre-owned vehicle department.

NCM Institute divides these responsibilities into three major categories: Inventory Management, Marketing, and Sales Production. It quickly becomes apparent to our students that even Superman, working 80 hours per week, cannot effectively perform these responsibilities individually.

Many of these numerous tasks must be assumed by, or delegated to, other members of the dealership sales team. In some dealerships, the used vehicle department manager position has been totally eliminated from the organization chart. Instead, the position has been replaced by one or more of the following:

  • Group Used Vehicle Systems Coordinator
  • Used Vehicle Digital Marketing Director
  • Used Vehicle Sales Production Manager
  • Used Vehicle Inventory Manager
  • Used Vehicle Acquisition Specialist
  • Used Vehicle Pricing Administrator

Without a used vehicle department manager, either the GM (or GSM, if applicable) must “own” the aforementioned 30 Regular Responsibilities, and he/she must ensure that each of the responsibilities is effectively delegated and executed. Future articles of Up To Speed will present and discuss in detail many of these individual responsibilities.

Need help structuring your dealership to capitalize on used vehicle department opportunities?  Reach out to your NCM 20 Group moderator or Retail Operations Consulting coach, or sign up for the NCM Institute’s courses in Used Vehicle Management.  Call us at 866.756.2620; we’ll listen and recommend a solution that’s right for you.

UV Training

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.ncm20.com/2014/07/the-changing-role-of-used-vehicle-management/

Fred O'Dwyer

Is Everything Clear?

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Not too long ago as I was listening to someone talk about how fundamental clarity is in fueling growth in a company. A bell went off somewhere inside me, for I knew I had heard something similar about the virtue of clarity inside growing businesses, even though it was a long time ago.

And then I remembered: Over 25 years ago I was taking a graduate level program at a local university on weekends, here in Kansas City, and was placed on a team with four other working professionals. Two of whom were senior executives at Marion Labs, founded by Kansas City’s most famous entrepreneur, Ewing Marion Kauffman. Kauffman, like many wildly successful American tycoons, began operations from scratch in his home. There, he started a pharmaceutical company and called it Marion Labs. It was 1950 and he began with all he could lay hands on, $5,000. About 40 years later, the company’s annual revenue was closing in on the $1 billion threshold, and was valued at $6.5 billion when it merged with Merrell-Dow. The employee count exceeded three thousand.

How did Marion Labs manage to sustain such a furious growth rate and still maintain almost unparalleled success along the way? I know the two execs with whom I shared several courses could tell you exactly why. They would attribute Marion’s success to the vision, principles, drive and energy of their founder, “Mr. K,” as they called him. Not only did my classmates feel a personal allegiance to Mr. K, they also felt they could follow Mr. K’s direction even when he wasn’t close to their divisions. And that’s because they could quote verbatim (and did so numerous times) their founder’s three core values and three clarities. Six simple principles that Mr. K developed for himself and for his business, and managed to instill in the Marion Labs associates to a remarkable degree. Not only could my buddies quote them, I knew they were part of their own core principles as well. I was able to find these six practices that guided Mr. K’s approach to business; practices that were in no small part responsible for the company’s huge success:

The Three Core Values

  1. Treat others as you want to be treated.
  2. Those that produce should share the rewards.
  3. Give back to the community.

The Three Core Clarities

  1. Clarity of Direction
  2. Clarity of Organization
  3. Clarity of Measurement.

Let’s take a look at how these six items might work for an auto dealership today.

The Three Core Values

The three core values are simple, right? Can you check them off this list with the thought that “Yep, we already do that.” Truth be told, for a long time now, growth-minded auto dealers and dealer groups have indeed adopted the same core values Mr. K. fashioned for his business a long time ago. Look at your ongoing efforts and programs to improve CSI and customer retention, as well as to offer more convenience and value when selling and delivering your products and services. These efforts easily fit into the first core value, which customers are quick to recognize and reward with continued business. Likewise, many of you have crafted excellent pay plans that handsomely reward those that produce, and in turn are rewarded with their loyalty to you. And auto dealers in general take a back seat to no one when it comes to developing ingenious programs to give back to the community in ways that not only help the community but energize a dealership’s customer base as well. If you have been focusing on instilling these values into your operations, you know that what goes around truly comes around. Mr. K. would be proud of you.

The Three Core Clarities

Can we also so easily put these on our “We already do that” list and move on? I think not, at least not in many cases. Each month I am privileged to present a few of NCM Institute’s core courses to a wide swath of dealership managers, ranging from seasoned veterans to newbie leaders and even to some soon-to-be leaders. While most of them exhibit strong leadership aptitudes and interpersonal skills, in my opinion, not all of them could recite their companies’ core clarities, like my Marion Labs friends of so long ago could so well deliver.

As a call to action for you today, consider for a while the following questions that, in my opinion, relate well to Mr. K’s Clarities of Direction, Organization and Measurement in an auto dealership today:

Is my management team, let alone my entire team of associates, absolutely clear about the direction in which we want to lead the company this year? The next five years?

Do we hold regular meetings with managers – and other meetings with the entire staff — to update them on progress toward our goals? Can my leadership team credibly and enthusiastically present company goals to those who report to them? Do they?

Does our company celebrate victories and work together as a team to overcome difficulties?

Do I assume that because I know who reports to whom inside the company, that everyone else must know this as well? Do I have and use organizational charts that clarify the company’s structure to all associates?

Do I have written job objectives that clearly outline each associate’s responsibilities and performance expectations?

Does each employee receive an individual consultation with his or her manager (at least monthly) so the manager can clarify how the employee’s efforts contributed to the company’s success – and to receive feedback from the employee as well?

Do my managers clearly understand the portion of the financial statement for which they are responsible? Do they realize what affects the financial data and how to improve results?

And do my managers daily measure the core activities in their departments that will clarify the financial results at month end?

There are without doubt several more clarity questions to ask ourselves here. Mr. K’s Clarities, in my opinion, are harder to instill into an organization than his Values. Perhaps it’s because Clarities are more like blocking and tackling, and not as flashy as running and passing. And that’s why otherwise good companies sometimes don’t work on them, or let them slip. Should they be surprised then when expected growth slows way below expectation? Could lack of these three simple clarities be the culprit? NCM Institute believes strongly enough in the principles behind these and other similar questions are presented to students in almost all our courses. In short, we wholeheartedly agree with Mr. K’s Three Clarities.

I do believe Mr. K. knew what he was doing when he developed these six basic principles for his business so long ago. If you want some more information about them, click here to learn more about Mr. K’s Formula for Success.

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Permanent link to this article: http://blog.ncm20.com/2014/07/is-everything-clear/

Steve Hall

60 Seconds to Gain a Service Customer

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Do you have 60 seconds to gain a service customer? Let me restate that: Do you have a structured 60 seconds to gain this customer? Why the emphasis on “structured”?  Let me explain.

Let me start with this.

If you are a dealership that doesn’t already perform an introduction of the new and used vehicle owners to the service department, then you aren’t quite ready to read this article. In that case, set the process in place, and get it started. Enough said?

Now, for the intended audience:

What does your customer introduction to the service department really look like? Think about this. You have just worked hard to gain a vehicle sale, and now your sales consultant completes the dealership “road to a sale” process by escorting the new customer to the service department for an introduction and to set the appointment for the first service visit. The salesperson stands with the customer in the service drive as the advisors are busily moving around. One of them is on the phone, one is with a client, and another is working on something, but we’re just not sure what. Five minutes pass by… OK maybe it’s only 45 seconds, but it feels like five minutes. Once the wait is over, the sales consultant and customer approach one of the advisors. The advisor glances around, looks at the salesperson and customer with a “what do you want” look, and he doesn’t even smile. Everyone can can tell that he’s distracted.

The salesperson tries to make the situation better and introduces the customer to the advisor with an enthusiastic phrase, but the advisor’s response is lukewarm. The advisor congratulates the customer on his purchase and says, “If you ever need anything, please let me know,” and then he hands over a business card.

At this point both the sales consultant and the service advisor feel that they have followed the process and have “done their job”.  But what really happened? Did the customer feel welcomed? Did the customer feel like you really wanted them to do business with you? Did your people provide any compelling reason why this new customer should do business with you?

Your service department just had 60 seconds to win a customer – and you fumbled. Worse yet, you didn’t even realize the opportunity that you missed.

I am a firm believer that every new customer should be introduced to the service department, parts department, and the collision center. I am also a firm believer that these introductions should make a very positive impression on each customer. This is our time to shine! After all, this may be the only time that members of these departments ever get to see this customer, so we need to make a great impression.

To help you along the way, here is an introduction script that I developed for our NCM Institute Principles of Service Management class.

Introduction Script:

Service Department Employee: Congratulations on your purchase. I would like to be one of the first to welcome you to our family. What type of vehicle did you buy? (as the customer talks, smile, nod in approval slightly, and listen… do not interrupt them.)

Customer: (Answers)

Service Department Employee: Terrific! May I ask what kind of vehicle you have been driving up until now?

Customer: (Answers)

Service Department Employee: Well, we’re glad that you are joining our family now, and I’m sure that you will enjoy your (type of vehicle purchased). I would like to share a little information with you, so that you can feel comfortable anytime that you come in for service… 

  • (Point to the service doors.) You can see over here, these are the service entry doors. Any time that you need service, you will just pull up to them, and we will open them up and let you in. 
  • (Point to the service advisors.) Also, you can see the advisors over here. They will greet you and take great care of you any time that you arrive.
  • I would also like to reassure you that we are here for you. There is no reason to worry about anything pertaining to your vehicle, because we can handle it. Whether it is warranty work (which hopefully you will never need), routine maintenance, tires or anything… we can handle it for you. We offer highly competitive prices on everything, including oil changes. We will get you in and out quickly to make it most convenient for you.
  • But, most of all we want you to know that, since you have purchased your vehicle, you are now part of our family and we will take great care of you

Are there any questions that I can currently answer for you?

Customer: Not right now, I’m just excited to get the vehicle.

Service Department Employee: I’m sure you are. Here is my business card. Just know that if you ever need anything please let us know, and enjoy your car.

You can see that your employees will need to practice the script, but I’ve underlined the most important points so they are easier to learn. You will also need to modify it slightly for customers that are currently servicing their vehicles with you, but you get the concept. As a final tip, I suggest that the sales consultant carry a color-coded, bright yellow clip board when he escorts the customer to the Service Department. The yellow clip board signifies to the service department employees that the salesperson is accompanied by a new dealership customer and not a “heat case.”

Consistently perform and flawlessly execute the structured 60 seconds approach to win over the customer, and it will become one of the most profitable investments of time ever spent with your clients.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.ncm20.com/2014/06/60-seconds-to-gain-a-service-customer/

Wayne George

Positioning Your Store in the Recall Era

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Every recall comes with a certain amount of pain and customer discontent. Some of the current recalls that have been announced are extremely volatile. So what, if anything, can you do to keep your entire store’s mindset positive and in a position to continue to thrive and grow?

Some of the ideas worth sharing are just a repeat and reinforcement of basic fundamentals when dealing with customers. During times of stress we will want our people executing fundamentals as opposed to showing frustrations with a challenging situation.

So where should we start?

Well, why not call a team (store) meeting and openly discuss what the most current recall is going to challenge everyone with? If we can clearly communicate the problem and provide everyone in the store with a common goal or two when dealing with these issues, we stand a better chance of retaining, or even recapturing an upset customer. Let the staff offer some of their own suggestions for ways to address the current recall. Some of the front-line folks might have better suggestions or solutions than we can provide them with. Insure the staff that the goal will be to come through the situation with a stronger, more loyal owner base. Keep them engaged and modify any plans quickly if unforeseen problems occur.

We will have a chance to “WOW” many customers during these events. So identify the most likely issues with the recall and make a plan to be sure that your people are empowered to turn a customer into a raving fan when the issues arise. You will also have the opportunity to re-engage with customers that, for whatever reason, have abandoned your store as their place for service. Everything possible should be done to recapture these defectors. New customers that have never been to your store will show up. If they are within a 5 to 10 mile radius of the store, be sure you have a plan to blow them away with customer service.

Make sure your people resist the urge to sell anything that is not safety related. Absolutely do your multi-point inspections, but turn down the sales pitch a notch or two. There can easily be a follow up on non-sold repair recommendations handled by your staff a few days later. Safety items, however, always need to be addressed.

Be sure your staff is taking the opportunity to verify, capture or update all contact information in your system regarding email, cell phone and physical address of every recall customer. Offer these folks some sort of “return visit” incentive. For example:

  • $15 off scheduled maintenance within the next 60 days
  • Free alignment checks
  • Discounted oil change packages

You get the idea. Have your people help with this promotion. And lastly, be sure you contact the customer after the visit and check on how everything went while they were in.

These are all basics, but in looking at the near future, we are in for many weeks and months of this — so let’s be sure the entire dealership staff is looking at this as a positive situation for the long term health of the store.

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Permanent link to this article: http://blog.ncm20.com/2014/05/positioning-your-store-in-the-recall-era/

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