Generate More Fixed Ops Revenue Using John Fairchild’s 5 Step TO Strategy

Generate More Fixed Ops Revenue Using John Fairchild’s 5 Step TO Strategy


Jim Fitzpatrick: Thanks so much, John, for joining us.

John Fairchild: Yes, sir!

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah. You had an article recently that caught our eye. It was about the TO method as it relates to service. Talk to us about that, and what you wanted the takeaways to be.

John Fairchild: Yeah. New and used car departments everywhere live and die by the TO. Chances are if you’re in a dealership today, that your desk manager, general manager would not even think about letting a customer walk without-

Jim Fitzpatrick: Without a TO.

John Fairchild: Without getting a TO.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right.

John Fairchild: I think the TO strategy is obviously one that is employed universally. Particularly when the sales process may get stalled and need another set of eyes, set of ears, so different personality to interact with the client.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right. So, how does that work in service?

John Fairchild: Well, like I was saying, it usually happens because customers will get to a point where the personality may not be able to overcome whatever objections and whatnot. And you’re right, the same thing happens in service. I don’t think that, … as a whole that people are really taking advantage of what that means as an opportunity to do a few things with the customer. Number one is, get to know them better. Number two is really kind of keep a birds-eye view on your whole sales process. I’ve got some steps that really are kind of universal. I’ve got five steps to the TO that I wanted to kind of take you guys through real quick.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure. Let’s go through them.

John Fairchild: If I might? Number one is, document. So, create what I call a TO log, and make sure you include your advisor’s name, the repair order number, all of the relative information, how much the money was, the customer, the type of vehicle, the type of repair. Over time what you’ll notice is what’s being sold and by who, and maybe what’s not being sold. So again, it will give you a real good perspective on what’s going on in your department, what’s going on with your customers etc…

John Fairchild: Number two is, create a system, I call it a TO basket. Basically, it’s a place on the corner of the service directors desk, or the lay manager whoever the acting service manager is that a commonplace that is immediately, if the service directors not immediately available, they’ll put their TO in it. So, obviously, when the service manager does have the time he can go by and grab it.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Walk me through that, what do you mean a basket and when they go by and grab it if he’s not there. How does that work? I mean wouldn’t you be TO-ing the customer if they’re there at the time and they need the TO?

John Fairchild: Yeah. Well ideally in a perfect world you would yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Okay.

John Fairchild: Obviously one of my bigger stores that does this, they’ve got six service advisors so the time that, that particular one person may be able to address that customer, may not happen at that moment. Obviously, that’s the best way to do it and you got to come up with a way to tag that person if it is a waiter situation, you’ve got the customer on hand-

Jim Fitzpatrick: Okay. I gotcha, I gotcha.

John Fairchild: You got the customer at the dealership.

Jim Fitzpatrick: They’re in the customer waiting lounge or-

John Fairchild: Yes sir. Yeah so you know, if you can grab that person great but statistically you’re not going to get in front of most of them, you’re going to get the documentation to be able to follow up with that customer.

Jim Fitzpatrick: So what were some of the other things on the five?

John Fairchild: Number three is, take a soft-sell approach, okay, this is a time to embrace your customer and ensure they’re getting the attention that you feel that they deserve and that your people are really needing to give them. Is it an opportunity to build repertoire? As we all know and we’ve said a thousand times, this is a relationship business so take that opportunity to make that relationship, start by asking how their visit was handled, how attentive their advisor was, and continue to build that relationship with the customer and I think that using that approach is really going to show you a lot of things, it’s going to also endear you to your customer base and allow you to really meet a lot more of your customers that you really wouldn’t.

John Fairchild: Number four that I’ve got on my list out of the top five things on how to start a TO process is offer your amenities. Obviously these have probably been offered, hopefully by your service advisor already and it may seem obvious … that they already have but review your transportation options. Out of most of the concerns that come up or objections to why people won’t buy, time and money are obviously two of the big things. So, do you have transportation alternatives that may have been discussed or that the customer may take a second look at now that you’re bringing them up again.

John Fairchild: A lot of dealerships I work with and I did the same thing when I was a service director, I had a threshold that if it was over a certain dollar amount, I would pay for a days car rental to get the job and get it processed as long as I had all the parts, I could get it processed same day.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right, right.

John Fairchild: That way it didn’t inconvenience my customer. The other thing that is coming hot and heavy in a lot of stores that I work with and I’ve been pushing for years is, special financing options. So if you don’t have special financing options in your service drive, get them and offer them to your customers because you’re going to be able to over come the largest thing that they’re telling you no about today is simply, “I don’t have the money.” I think that-

Jim Fitzpatrick: When you say special finance options do you mean people that have got challenge credit, have an option for them or do you mean to have special finance options?

John Fairchild: Yes, special to the service department.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Okay, gotcha, got you.

John Fairchild: In other words a consumer credit alternative that will give your customers some benefits and amenities like same as cash for 12 months, or there’s new systems on the ground there that will just about approve anybody but you got to have a certain percentage down payment to get it.

You kind of take that whole reason or excuse away, that a customer might present you with that objection about money.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right. There seems to be a trend with dealers now offering UBER and Lyft rides instead of providing a loaner car or in the event that they can’t offer a loaner car, they’re offering to pick up an UBER or a Lyft fee.

John Fairchild: Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Finding that, that gets people to and from their destination, it might be their work, or might be a shopping, close shopping center or wherever that they feel that they need to go but they’ll say, “Hey bring us in your, whatever you spent on UBER to get yourself around,” you know 20 bucks, 50 bucks, whatever it might be, might be a less expensive option than to putting that individual to a car for the day. Do you find that to be the case?

John Fairchild: Yeah and you hit the nail right on the head, get creative and you know in fact, some of the major manufacturers are now covering UBER and Lyft for their warranty alternative transportation needs.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right.

John Fairchild: You know if they have to shuttle somebody to work or someone to school, and let’s face it, even if you’ve got a shuttle there, it can only take so many people at a time, it’s going to be minutes and minutes before it’s back to get the next group and I think that’s a perfectly good example of what I’m talking about. If you can overcome the major obstacles that are presented to you, a lot of people will go ahead and hook up. Guess what? If they don’t Jim, they know about it for next time so that when you offer that the next time it’s not a foreign subject and they know that they’ve got that available and pretty soon people start taking advantage of it more and more.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah that’s for sure and it’s all about the customer experience, it’s all about taking care of that customer when they are in the service department to bring the vehicle in, we still suffer from a low retention, service retention rate in the auto industry, which is crazy right? But it’s a fact of life right?

John Fairchild: Absolutely. Yeah and that, you know that brings me, perfect Segway into my number five of my top five reason is, prioritize your offerings and give options. Be sure to give your customer information of what can wait okay, and your candidness on what can wait will really put a lot of emphasis on what you’re advising that should not wait.

John Fairchild: So you’re going to gain a lot of credibility and have a lot less a chance of “Blowing someone out of the water,” as they say when we’re providing options and one of those options is not all or nothing.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right. Right. You know-

John Fairchild: So those are my top five reasons but-

Jim Fitzpatrick: Some people look at the TO, even on the showroom floor they’ll look at a TO as a sign of weakness like, “Oh I couldn’t close the deal and now I’ve got to go to my manager or maybe a fellow sales person to TO the deal to them to see if they can close it. Have you found that, that has a little bit of a rub to it? Like I’m a service advisor and I couldn’t upsell the customer on all the items that they need so now I’m going to TO it to somebody else to see if they can take a shot at the customer?

John Fairchild: Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Are they seeing any of that as like wow I might’ve failed? Because it’s standard-

John Fairchild: Yeah you definitely get that, and you know any top salesman in anywhere in any profession, me and you included, we’ve got our egos right, so if somebody can swoop in there and save the day when we couldn’t do it, yeah that can be a rub in the wrong direction but I tell you what, as soon as a couple, three, or one good major sale is accomplished, that kind of dissolves you know?

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah.

John Fairchild: And everybody’s on the same page again because guess what, they’re making commission on it but, at the same time Jim, when this is happening training opportunities abound. You know you will be presented with a lot of aha moments that you will get to see first hand how your advisors are setting up their estimates for example, how they’re pitching your customers. The very fact that they’re TO-ing deals will force them to tighten up their methods and hopefully up their game.

John Fairchild: What will happen is you’ll have less TO’s because they’re starting to gain traction on their sales process. You know some of the things that I would look for when in your debriefing with your service advisors would be, are they offering your special finance options? Has the multiple inspection been properly executed? Did your technician recommend legitimately needed additional services?

John Fairchild: Sometimes the techs will only inspect on condition, we got to watch that. Are your mandated policies and procedures being followed to the “T” so to speak? You know and this will give you ample evidence of real-world examples that you could praise when appropriate, of course, coach and counsel, and ultimately discipline if needed to get the, get your sales process tightened up. That’s really what it is, is to check and balance on your sales process.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Well John Fairchild, I want to thank you so much once again for joining us here on CBT News, we always get a lot out of it, I know our viewers do as well, so thank you so much for your visit here today with us and hopefully we can have you back in the near future to talk more about these topics. These were some great ideas, I love the whole TO concept in fixed ops, so thanks again.

John Fairchild: Hey thanks Jim, I appreciate it.

CBT Automotive Network, the number one most-watched network in retail automotive. This has been a JBF Business Media production.