Strategies to Improve Your Dealership’s Recon Turnaround Time – Geoff Meeker, Mercedes-Benz of Buckhead & Dennis McGinn, CEO of Rapid Recon

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CBT News was recently on location at Mercedes Benz of Buckhead with General Manager Geoff Meeker and CEO of Rapid Recon, Dennis McGinn to discuss all things recon.

reconVIDEO TRANSCRIPTION:

Jim Fitzpatrick:  I know that’s a big area that dealers are concerned about. Sometimes dealers don’t even know how much they need to be concerned about it. Right Geoff?

Geoff Meeker: Absolutely. It’s definitely one of our key pain points and we’re always looking for ways to improve in the recon process here at the store.

reconJim Fitzpatrick: As the General Manager, give us kind of an overview, as to what your responsibilities are here? This facility is absolutely beautiful.

Geoff Meeker: Thank you. We just finished our remodel here and logistics here, we’re a four-story parking deck, which of course, makes things a little more difficult because it’s not a campus where we can look out in the back lot and see…see people walking around, doing what they’re supposed to or not supposed to.

Here we’re constantly having to figure out how to increase our efficiency. My background is fixed operations, so I have a little bit of a hallmark in the back…For the recon position, the service guys tend to hold my heart a little harder.

The front end of the business here, it’s really important to make sure that we have these cars ready to sell, because if we don’t have them ready to sell, it doesn’t do us any good. The Rapid Recon and the reconditioning process here, different than others in that it’s a four-storied parking deck. But knowing and where something happens in this building is always a challenge.

Jim Fitzpatrick: You signed up with Rapid Recon a little over a year ago. Right?

Geoff Meeker: Correct. I had heard about the product, it’s relatively well known and I looked at it at the NADA in Las Vegas. Made the decision, quite frankly, without my team, because it was a pain point of ours. It’s all about getting these things implemented and when I came back here to the store, I basically said, ‘well I’ve signed up for this guys, hope you like it, here it is.’ That’s how it started. It was just over a year ago.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah. Dennis, he’s got a very unique perspective on this product because he’s the first General Manager that we have spoken to here regarding Rapid Recon with a Fixed Op’s background.

Dennis McGinn: Yes.

Jim Fitzpatrick: As you know, many GM’s will come out of the Variable Op’s side of the business, so that’s a unique perspective. Do you have many other GM’s and dealers that came out of Fixed Op’s that see more of a value in this software than others?

Dennis McGinn: It certainly is not frequent to have a Fixed Op’s background GM’s and [DP’s 00:02:33].

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah.

Dennis McGinn: I appreciate them a lot because I’m an analytic as well. I think they look at this thing that way more so than the Variable guys …Who have a little shorter attention span in my view. It’s just as important to them. But getting them to sit still long enough to kind of digest …

Jim Fitzpatrick: For the GM’s and dealers that are listening, they’re chuckling right now.

Dennis McGinn: Yes.

Jim Fitzpatrick: What did he just say?

Dennis McGinn: I love this story here …Which I learned about, only a few months ago, when I just happened to drop in here. I was in Atlanta and I went into the service area and I said, ‘ is the service manager here?’

A young guy, great, said, ‘that’s me’. I introduced myself and he dragged me across the back of the showroom to an office where the used car manger was sitting behind his desk and proceeded to tell me how this has changed the dynamic between these guys. They were two very different kinds of people. I love hearing this story.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right.

Dennis McGinn: GM goes, hears about it, says this looks good, brings it back, tells his guys …’Hey look at this,’ and they said, ‘ well we don’t think this will work, but let’s give it a try.’ Is that about right?

Geoff Meeker: Yeah, I mean, it’s never that story GM goes and buys something and tells everybody to use it …

Dennis McGinn: Yes, yes.

Geoff Meeker: It’s pretty much exactly how it went down. In the beginning something new, everybody is looking at it differently, but you know something works when it creates a little bit of tension at first because of the accountability. I always say, if I have a consultant that comes in here and… people aren’t a little bit irritated or agitated, they’re probably not doing a good job. If I have a product that doesn’t get people a little bit out of their comfort zone… it’s probably not doing what it should. That’s really where it came from.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s where we really grow.

Geoff Meeker: Exactly.

Jim Fitzpatrick: When we’re outside of our comfort zone. What were you doing prior to Rapid Recon to manage the recon process as cars came in? As most dealers do right.

Geoff Meeker: I didn’t get the RO, I don’t know where the car is, it’s not stocked in, well I already worked on that. I’m not saying that … there was a process and the process entailed five or six different people. But it always fell back on the people making sure that if they didn’t do their part…the next person didn’t naturally know he was supposed to do something.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure. What kind of a day in inventory did you see? What did you have before it and where are we at today?

Geoff Meeker: That’s embarrassing, where we were.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Where you were. Yeah. You’re not alone. Many dealers listening in are going, ‘that’s where we are.’

Geoff Meeker: Same thing though, you ask the used car manager…The used car manager tells you one thing, you ask the service manager and the service manager tells you another thing. It was always who knows. I don’t know, 10, 15 days maybe.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Geez.

Geoff Meeker: Could have been something like that.

Jim Fitzpatrick: What is it today as we sit here a year later?

Geoff Meeker: I think we’re down to about seven to eight days. Front line ready. Including pictures and all the recon done.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s pretty good. That’s we look for.

Geoff Meeker: We’re looking for better.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, looking to do better and that exists right.

Geoff Meeker: Sure, absolutely.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s certainly a worthy goal.

Geoff Meeker: Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick: When you installed this, did Rapid Recon, did they descend on the dealership and say okay, we’re going to support this and help you out here? How does that work?

Geoff Meeker: Most of that came through online conference calls, which basically, holding everybody accountable. We had people coming constantly on the phone with us, we had people that were following up with each manager individually. We had group sessions, so the entire team, everybody involved including the guys that did the paintwork.

Those guys were sitting in the room. We’d have a meeting once a week in the beginning and then once every two weeks and sometimes once a week again and then once a month. As things go on…But everybody got in the same room, so we’d have anybody that touched a used car from front to back sat in the room. We called the baby ugly.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure. Once the group knew that Geoff’s all bought in, so we’re doing this, either with or without ya, they stepped up and said, ‘Okay, we’re gonna make this work.’

Geoff Meeker: Yes. Eventually everybody comes around …

Jim Fitzpatrick: Without having to call that chip right.

Geoff Meeker: … once people realized that it was working. Whether it was from the service guys or to the used car manager …

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure.

Geoff Meeker: Eventually people realized their job got easier and on the service side the guys that were being held accountable felt better because they were being held accountable, but so was everybody else. That was the key.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s an element that helps in building a stronger culture, right.

Geoff Meeker: Yeah, absolutely.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Everybody wants to know what the other one’s responsible for, especially if it’s going to be looked at as a team.

Geoff Meeker: Sure.

Jim Fitzpatrick: In Fixed Op’s and of course the used car managers, obviously trying to crank them over the head, saying, ‘get these cars on the front line.’ Now everybody’s bought in. Right.

Geoff Meeker: To the tee, it’s exactly what it is. It’s the communication and the accountability. Whether they believe in it in the beginning, once they realize that it makes everybody’s job easier, than everybody’s in. It’s natural to buy in. You want to be part of a team.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure. We talked to a couple of other dealers of yours and they mentioned that they use this as a sales tool. Talk to us about that.

Dennis McGinn: Yeah, I think the first stage is to do what Geoff mentioned here, which is to get all the people seeing that they’re all working towards the same number. You couldn’t do that before with this, it just never worked.

You got to get over that barrier. People have preconceived notions about how much they want to be accountable about what works and what doesn’t.

You got a lot to prove to get it to the other side. You need Geoff’s approval and support saying, ‘hey I’ve seen this work or heard about it… and so we’re going to give this a good try.’ That happened here. That’s the beginning. That’s where the baseline comes in. Where we were before, nobody really knows. They all guess, but where were we when we really started this and everybody starting saying I’m done. Then that’s where you get to the seven or eight days and then after that you cut that in half.

You should be at four or five. We found out too, that once you get your hands around that part of it, and everybody knows where everything is all the time, it becomes a very useful sales tool.

Because no matter what you paid for the car, you’re going to retail a car, the most important thing is, how much interest is shown on that car by potential buyers in the first few days. You get those photos up…and you wanna be able to tie together the car, where is it, what’s been done to it. What’s been approved and have that conversation with potential customers. Then, interestingly enough, they kind of sell themselves on that basis. ‘Cause you’re not pushing on ’em, they’re pulling on you. That’s the sales tool part of it. We’re going to be building more on that.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah. Do you find that to be the case, that it can be used as much of a sales tool a back end?

Geoff Meeker: We haven’t really experimented with that, but just listening to you talk about this now…honestly, we were using, ’cause we were broken.

The idea of having that sales tool, again, being in the environment we are, with a parking deck that cars can be all over the place …We know if it’s in the paint recon, well it’s gonna be on the third floor.

If it’s in the wheel recon, it’s gonna be over in the corner here. It’s interesting you say that ’cause quite frankly I hadn’t even thought about that until we just started talking about it.

We spoke to one of your other clients, as I mentioned, and they had that communication with the sales department and the BDC was just vital, you know, that they can say here’s where the car is, this is what’s being done to it.

So you’re not just hitting the customer with a number or with a price. In this case, they can say, ‘oh yeah, we just went ahead and put four new tires on the car.’

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right.

Geoff Meeker: We did whatever else that had to be done.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right. Build the value.

Geoff Meeker: Build the value in that price once you give it to them.

Jim Fitzpatrick: It’s interesting.

Dennis McGinn: Yeah, it’s interesting because before the one you mentioned…We had talked to ’em earlier, before Rapid Recon, they didn’t really know anything. The customer would call and they would be, ‘oh well, let me get back to you tomorrow. I have to go see if I can find the car.’ That all went away and it flipped over the trust effect. A customer calls, they’re already a little, don’t know what’s going to happen.

But if you can say, ‘oh let me look,’ and it’s right here, you’re not calling ’em back, I can see right here where the car is, it changes the whole dynamic of that process.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, for sure. As these buyer’s are on the road buying vehicles, they can look down at their app for the vehicles that they’ve already purchased, use car manager and such as either an option or he’s out of the premise and make those decisions right on the spot right.

Geoff Meeker: Yep.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That saves a tremendous amount of time and money, right.

Geoff Meeker: Yeah. We have our Assistant used car manager, who was in West Palm yesterday and strangely enough, this is actually coincidence, his computer went down, but he wasn’t missing a beat, ’cause he still had his phone and he had the app up on his phone, so he was approving work through his phone.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Oh wow. That’s pretty cool.

Geoff Meeker: He had just gotten a brand new computer and something wasn’t working. He was able to do that while in West Palm buying cars.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Very cool. Very cool. You guys do a little North of the 100 used vehicles a month here, right? With Mercedes Benz, obviously, as the dealers who are watching know, that that’s some heavy iron that you’re carrying in the used car department. It’s very important that, that vehicle gets out to the front line.

Geoff Meeker: Yeah, absolutely.

Jim Fitzpatrick: As quickly as possible, right.

Geoff Meeker: Yeah and that’s getting even more and more important with the Internet. Internet of things, what you want to say is that people are buying cars based on being put up online within a day or two. That buyer may be in the market today, but is out of the market tomorrow. If we don’t have it online, front line ready…we’re going to miss out on a whole sea of opportunities.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. That’s right. I would imagine with customers, you’ve got customers coming in from out of town picking these vehicles up as well, right? If that vehicle is not ready, because the wires got crisscrossed …

Geoff Meeker: Sure.

Jim Fitzpatrick: … recon, you’ve got a very unhappy customer.

Geoff Meeker: To say the least.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah. It’s probably happened before you had Rapid Recon come in right.

Geoff Meeker: Yeah, yes.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Well Geoff Meeker and Dennis McGinn, I want to thank you so much for joining us on CBT News. It’s been very enlightening and good luck to ya in hitting the numbers that you want to hit here.

Geoff Meeker: Thank you.

Jim Fitzpatrick: The new showroom is absolutely gorgeous.

Geoff Meeker: Thank you. My pleasure being here.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Thanks so much.

Dennis McGinn: Thanks. Geoff, thank you for your time.

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