Don’t let myths about writing service keep your fixed operations from achieving great success. BY JEFF COWAN
You may remember from my article last month, myths can be very dangerous things. They can and will impede your ability to grow, expand and succeed. I discussed some of the biggest myths surrounding the writing of service and will list a few more that have come up and continue to come up in the many meetings at which I am asked to speak throughout the year.
Myth: Service writers do not need the same amount of training as the car sales staff.
Fact: A service advisor who works with just 15 customers a day will generate more gross profit for a dealership in a month than a salesperson does who delivers 30 vehicles in that same month. In addition, due to the volume of customers they will talk to in a month, they will have more impact on your survey scores and customer retention than any other employee in the dealership, including the dealer. So why would they not need the same amount of training or more?
Myth: Women service writers who are mothers are risky due to parental responsibilities.
Fact: Tell that to Abigail Adams, wife to President John Adams. While John was overseas for many years, she stayed behind and ran the farm, ran John’s businesses and raised six kids, one of which grew up to be our nation’s sixth president. One of my daughters is at the child bearing age. She and 10 of her close friends have all had children in the past 24 months. While one of them quit her career and became a stay/work at home mom, the other nine not only continued their careers, but eight of them actually increased their hours or took on more responsibility. Why? Because they quickly realized that if their kids were to have a life equal to or greater than their own, they had to work harder and smarter. If all things are equal and I have the opportunity to hire a male service writer versus a female service writer with kids, especially young ones, I will take the female with kids every time. Think grizzly bear with cubs.
Myth: Service writers who work in economically challenged areas cannot sell as much as service writers who work in affluent areas.
Fact: Many times, they can sell more for one simple reason; the more financially challenged a person is, the more important their vehicle becomes to them. Financially challenged customers know that if their vehicle does not run and they cannot get to work, then their financial situation will only get worse. I have worked in countless service drives with countless service advisors where their customers were financially challenged and the sales made were either equal to or greater than those in service departments where the reverse was true. The difference is that the financially challenged customer requires a service advisor who has a slightly different skill set and outstanding follow-up and over the telephone selling skills.
Myth: Women service writers have a tougher time in service because men prefer to talk with men.
Fact: This is not a gender-specific problem. A service advisor who is strong at taking control of the customer and exudes confidence, can and will be able to handle your customers. While this myth used to have some validity 20 years ago, it has none today. If I were to list the top 10 service advisors that I have worked with over the past 29 years, seven of the top 10 would be women.
Myth: It does not take as much skill to be a quick service writer as it does to be a full-shop service writer.
Fact: Arguably, it takes more. Think about it. A quick service writer is many times the first person a new customer will work with in service after purchasing a new vehicle. Their ability to handle your customer and convince them that your shop is the only place to go for service, has to be near perfect, if not perfect, to get the job done. Although the path to full-shop writer begins many times in express, the express writer should be trained to expertly handle any scenario that a full-shop writer would. Again, they are likely to be the first point of face-to-face contact in the dealership after purchasing a new vehicle. Express should be trained to impress – every time, on every level.
Myth: It is impossible to train veteran service writers to adapt to changes in their customers’ demands and in new technology.
Fact: Not if you have established a culture of constant change in your department. The service writer or employee who cannot adapt to change and evolution in retail sales will become a dinosaur within five years. When you consider how rapidly your customers and their buying habits have changed in just the past few years, and how rapidly technology changes, any employee who cannot keep up is costing you money. In the future there will be two types of salespeople; those who sell technology and those who use it. The rest will become obsolete.
Myth: Service writers can handle setting their own check-in times, checking in your customers’ vehicles, following up on those customers throughout the day, closing those customers over the telephone, closing out their own repair orders, contact customers who have been waiting for parts, cashier their own customers, actively deliver vehicles back to each customer as the vehicle repairs are completed, send a thank you note to each customer, contact customers who missed their check in times, contact customers who previously declined repairs, contact customers they have not seen in over six months, while at the same time getting and maintaining high survey scores and customer retention.
Fact: Only if they write 10 to 15 repair orders a day. Just like on the vehicle sales side, you want to free your service writers (salespeople) up as much as you can, to talk to your customers. Salespeople make you money when they are talking to your customers. The more time they have to talk to your customers, the more money they will make you. From the beginning of car sells through the early 1960s, vehicle salespeople answered the dealership’s incoming sales calls, did their own financing and helped people when they came in for service. When dealers realized that those activities kept their sales staff in the building and not out on the lot where the buyers where, it ushered in the era of the telephone receptionist, the F&I department and service staff – significantly increasing the number of vehicles sold. The more you can do to support your advisors by freeing them up to talk to your customers, the higher your retention, survey scores and sales will be.
Myth: Service writers will not sell or are not good at selling additional products like special wheels, extended warranties, details, etc.
Fact: Not true. To sell anything on a service drive requires three things: a great product, great training in how to present and sell it, and a great pay plan.
If you are consistently not hitting your sales, retention and survey goals, it is a sign of great weakness not to try something new. Trying something new can be as simple as taking a look at what you or your staff say can’t be done, and testing to see if the reason is based on fact or myth. You should make this a common practice and part of your monthly routine to dispel myths that may exist in your work place. I get blamed from time to time for being too willing to test and eliminate these myths and reasons that hold my business back. I am told I need more patience. The fact is, I do have patience for the time it sometimes takes for myths to be tested. What I do not have patience for is the lost customers and revenues that myths produce.