Current Trends and Challenges in Fixed-Ops

On this week’s episode of the Weekly Tune-Up, CBT’s Jim Fitzpatrick talks to fixed-ops expert, and regular CBT contributor, John Fairchild of Fairchild Automotive Solutions. Jim and John talk about creating a convenient customer experience, getting the most out of your team, and other current trends and challenges pertaining to fixed-ops.



Jim Fitzpatrick: Hi, everyone. Thanks so much for joining me, Jim Fitzpatrick, with CBT News. Today we’re going to talk to John Fairchild on the Weekly Tune-Up. Thanks for tuning in. John, welcome to CBT News.

John Fairchild: Thanks for having me.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, sure.

John Fairchild: Glad to be here.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure. So let’s kind of jump right in here. You criss-crossed the country working with dealers large and small in their area of fixed ops. Talk to us about some of the trends and challenges that you currently see with dealers out there. Why are they calling you up and saying, “Hey, help me out here.”

John Fairchild: Yeah. And that’s a good point. And really all the business I get these days, Jim, is a usually a referral from a referral. So hopefully it’s somebody that’s, as we were just talking about, that is very motivated to make a change. And I appreciate you having me in here, and typically, like I was telling you, I’m at a dealership most days, so I kind of arranged something-

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, no, appreciate that.

John Fairchild: So I could get in your studio. It’s going to sound cliche, but really blocking and tackling and basics continue to be the biggest area of improvement from our trends.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Are people just not doing that today? They’re just getting away from the basics?

John Fairchild: Yeah, no, 100%. I see it every day, all day long. And really, I had a discussion with a dealer on Friday, it was, and really it was all about execution. It’s getting people to do what we need them to do. But as far as trends and where the industry is headed and whatnot, I still think it’s really trying to be more customer-centric, focused on timeliness, convenience for the customer, and really moving into what is more convenient for the customer, whether it be online scheduling, whether it be pickup and delivery, whether it be gearing their marketing more towards that customer to be accommodating more of what their needs are.

Jim Fitzpatrick: People want to be texted the information that they need nowadays. They don’t even want to be emailed. Just tell me what my vehicle needs in a text format or maybe a video that you can share with me about the brake job or what have you. Right?

John Fairchild: Yeah. Video is big. But I do think when it all boils down to it, is all the gadgets and everything is great if they’re used.

Jim Fitzpatrick: If they’re used, yeah.

John Fairchild: So if it’s just like anything else, is if we can’t get basic execution on the basics, then what’s the point in embellishing it? One of a dealer friends, there’s a couple of ways I’ve heard it put to me is number one is, let’s keep the main thing, the main thing. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. But also, hey, let’s start with chocolate and vanilla and then add some sprinkles to it. So all of your text messaging solutions, all of your tablet solutions for the drive, advanced menus that are out there and digital marketing and stuff are great, but a lot of what I see out there in the field is just not doing the basics.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Okay. And give me an example of that.

John Fairchild: Sure. Greeting. You could say greeting, oh, I know all about a greeting. It’s service advisor 101.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right. It’s so easy we don’t even do it.

John Fairchild: But they don’t do it. Right. And you tell me, if you go into a business, whether it be Home Depot or going into a restaurant or a convenience store, how often do you get a great greeting? Or when you walk into a dealership. I go and do mystery shops at dealerships and I can’t tell you how uncomfortable it is just to walk in and silence, no eye contact and get a poor greeting.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, it’s terrible.

John Fairchild: So a greeting. Really all of the basics. Making sure that the customer’s prime concern is addressed appropriately at write up so that the correct information gets back to the technician. Performing a physical walk-around around the car with the customer present to help them decide whether there are additional needs that they’ve got that they wanted to get taken care of during the service visit. Really the basics. Keeping abreast of the customer before they have to reach out and talk to you as far as the status of their vehicle. All of these things are really overlooked and in to the client’s peril. So the dealership loses and so does the customer.

Jim Fitzpatrick: And what do you find the reason to be? Why are these areas being overlooked? What feedback do you get from you that the service advisors or the technicians or the GM or the director of fixed ops? Why are these things not being done properly?

John Fairchild: Well, it’s timely question, and I think that there are, obviously they’re multifaceted, but I do see a lot of the times that it’s so hard to get talent into the dealership. A couple things happened, is that dynamic of maybe not wanting to over discipline somebody or be forced to discipline them to the point that you have to part with them because they are afraid that they can’t get that talent to come back in to the shop. Particularly with technicians. Also, I really see a void in management being true leadership and coaches and lack of coaching. And again, coaching and counseling are one thing and trying to help that person through and leading by example are all great things, but when it comes down to it, if you can’t get people to perform, then eventually you’ve got to do some discipline and make sure that you’ve got the right person on the right seat of the bus.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right. That’s right. That’s right. Because some of these things sounds like, to your point, sound so easy to do. Greet a customer properly, let alone do a walk around on the car to make sure that that service advisor is doing a complete walk around to see if there’s anything else that’s needed, might be tires or might be scratches on the underside of the car, or whatever it might be. And that seems to still be a problem for service advisors to do. And I know we’re painted with a broad brush. There’s a lot of very good service advisors out there that work at great dealer groups, but we’re talking about the vast majority here, right?

John Fairchild: Sure. Yeah. And again, I think that really what it boils down to is management interaction, engagement, management really getting involved in the process and not hiding behind their desk or hiding in their office. There is a certain amount of management that has to occur within the office and certainly that’s important to be there to crunch the numbers appropriately, to do payroll, to make sure that your warranty trends are right. Make sure that your customer satisfaction trends are going in the right way and to do planning, proper planning. But when it comes down to it, we’ve got to have somebody in the drive that’s a code-

Jim Fitzpatrick: By walking around.

John Fairchild: Yeah, yeah, exactly. No, I’ve heard that expression before and it’s true. Now the size of the dealership also comes into play, so if you’ve got a dealership big enough to where you’ve got a lane manager and a shop foreman per se for the technicians that can do oversight on there, now do we have the right person there? But a smaller dealership, that person is the service manager and so that service manager does have to get his butt out of the seat and go make his rounds and do coaching and get involved with customers and really do the same thing as the service advisor would do with that customer.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure. Yeah. And it’s usually boils down to a management issue in a case like this, doesn’t it? What we allow, we teach, right?

John Fairchild: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. No, if you’re allowing it to happen, then you’re really condoning it and more of it is going to occur. And like we were talking about before we came online is what happens a lot of times is you’ve got people that are habituated to doing a process a certain way that may be, hey God bless them if they didn’t know another way or maybe you’re shorthanded and they’re having to take the path of least resistance to get the thing done. Thank you for helping us. But now if we’re putting a process in getting properly staffed, we’ve got to get on the same bus and get on the right seat of the bus or else sometimes it’s just time to pull that bus over and let them off. Get somebody else on there that is willing.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sometimes. Let the bus go over the cliff.

John Fairchild: Sometimes that’s the case too. Absolutely.

Jim Fitzpatrick: John Fairchild, Retail Automotive Trainer and president of Fairchild Automotive Solutions. And that’s the key is that you have the solutions.

John Fairchild: Yes sir.

Jim Fitzpatrick: So for these dealer that are out there listening to us, have this discussion today, man, give John a call if you’re wanting to take your 2020 net profit to the Nth degree, right?

John Fairchild: Please do. I’m here for you. I only want dealers that are really committed to change, Jim.

Jim Fitzpatrick: And you’re real world. I know because I’ve been in the business and talking to you over the years. These are real life solutions.

John Fairchild: I’m a real guy.

Jim Fitzpatrick: You are, yeah. Well thank you so much for joining us.

John Fairchild: Thank you. I appreciate the time to be in the studio and it’s always a pleasure.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, it’s great having you.

John Fairchild: Thank you.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, thanks.