Joe: It’s a pleasure to have on once again to CBT News, Sally Whitesell. She’s the founder and CEO of sw Service Solutions, and a recent speaker at the Women in Automotive Conference. Sally, we appreciate you taking the time. We know you are busy, you’re always on the road training, so thank you so much for joining us once again.
Sally: Well thank you for having me again.
Joe: Okay, so I mentioned the Women in Automotive Conference. Talk about what you spoke about in your session. I’m sure there were some nuggets that people took away, and dealerships took away, because you always give us informative content.
Sally: Thank you. I appreciate that. It was a real honor to have a chance to speak at this convention. What a difference, going to a convention that was put on by women vs. men. It was really interesting to see the difference in the dynamics.
I spoke about how to make women more comfortable on the service drive, how to communicate more effectively to them. We talked about the environment as well as the write-up process, and the overall experience- which you and I hit just a little bit on in our last interview- but there’s sure a lot more detail I could go into.
Joe: And one of those points that you brought up was the clutter. It seems like when you walk in, there’s a lot of clutter that dealerships have, and maybe that’s an old-school thing, but maybe it’s time to tidy up some stuff. When we say clutter, what are you talking about? Some of the stuff that’s just there for no reason?
Sally: That’s right. A lot of time, when I go into service drives, they’ll have corners that are used as a storage area, whether it be for tires, or the machine they use to clean their floors. It makes the place look unprofessional.
One of the points I always like to make is that when you have a service drive that is dirty and unkept with clutter, old banners, old awards, basically, you’re giving the customer the perception of a warehouse facility instead of a professional facility where you’re going to be charging premium prices. It think if we’re going to keep that upscale environment that a dealership should have- with the dealership’s and the manufacturer’s name on it- then we have to prepare the environment so it can be perceived that way when the customer walks in.
Joe: That makes total sense right there. Okay, so let’s talk a little about hiring. When a dealership hires a new service advisor from another dealership, what, in your opinion, should the protocol be for training that new service advisor. And does it depend on the brand and dealership?
Sally: You know, I’m not really sure that it depends on the brand. There are so many things that are similar between brands. As far as customer service, it really doesn’t change. But it does change based on the level of experience of the advisor they hire. I have a pretty strict regimen I think they should put them through because I just hate it when you see an advisor thrown out on the drive and told to learn by watching others. They may pick up some good habits, but they’re also going to pick up a lot of bad habits.
I’ll go through our protocol a little bit. Some of your viewers might be shocked, but I tell ya, it will really pay off in the long run.
- First of off, I think they need a very detailed job description, so they know exactly what’s expected of them, and what the processes are for the dealership.
- I think they should spend a day or two learning how to answer the phone and set appointments so they’re beginning to learn the computer system and they understand the word tracks that the dealership wants used with their customers consistently.
- Then they need to spend another couple of days learning the technology. They need to be clear on the op codes, how to check histories, warranty expiration dates and maintenance plans as well as extended warranties.
- And they need to spend some time training with a professional trainer or company trainer on the actual write-up process. This could be everything from the way they want their customers greeted, to how they want the walk-around performed, and an active delivery.
- Before they ever hit that drive, role plays should be done in both of these areas- phone calls and walk-arounds/write-ups- so that we know when they approach your customers, they are ready to go.
Joe: Okay, so I spoke with a service advisor the other day at a Lexus dealership. I asked her why there is such a shortage of techs and service advisors and she said that younger people are looking at the older generation-maybe dads, uncles, people they know, people they see when they take their cars in- and they’re seeing the 60-80 hours a week, and they’re seeing their bodies- how they seem worn down at 55 years old, or 60 years old. And they’re looking at that going,
“I don’t care what you pay me. I’m not getting into that because I don’t want to be out of shape at 45, 48, 55 years old.”
Do you agree with that assessment? Is it just a little bit of that, or a lot of it?
Sally: There’s a lot of that. When you have people working that many hours, they don’t have the time they need to take care of themselves, whether it’s physically, mentally, or spiritually. We have to have a little bit more balance in our lives. The hours are a big problem, and they’re going to be big problem for the millennial. I think I mentioned before, it’s not that they don’t want to work, but they want to have more of that balance.
It was interesting, millennials were talked about quite a bit at the women’s conference. I think it’s really something we have to address. Our business has to change. Hours have got to change. But there were a few other points that were made that I think are critical in recruiting this new generation.
One was that they really are social. I think dealerships should consider having a social media outlet for their technicians. Something where they can actually post pictures of their accomplishments when they’ve had a great success on a repair, or dove into something new and worked with the manufacturer. Something where they can ask for advice when they’re having difficulties. And somewhere they can just connect on a regular basis. This generation needs a lot of exposure, and a lot of accolades, and that would give them a nice release to connect with other people and get the things they need socially.
Joe: Some great ideas right there. I should go back and tell you though, the service advisor I spoke with- she did say, and she brought up a good point that a lot of dealerships are sort of transforming the way they do things. Having machines that do everything basically. You don’t have to do anything at all to wrench your back, or to kill your knees, to get down, get under, and that type of thing. So, that was a great point that a lot of dealerships are being transformed that way.
Okay, so do you feel when you go out and speak to advisors and techs, do you feel that it’s more them or the dealership that has to be proactive in that. Do you feel like the service advisors will say to you, “Hey, listen, if I try to ask off, or if I ask for regular hours instead of 80 hours, and go back to 50 or 60, I’ll get in trouble, or I’ll get let go, or when there’s an assessment, I’ll get a check that says ‘doesn’t like to work hard.’” Are they nervous of that?
Sally: They are. They absolutely are. As I go into stores as an outsider, they’ll give me all of that feedback, where they wouldn’t give it to the dealership because they ARE afraid of the consequences. I think we have to be aware of the change. Many of us have been in it for a long time, we’re so used to those hours. We don’t see that it’s such a big issue. But if we’re looking at bringing in new talent, and new experience- which by the way, that group are experts at technology, experts at multi-tasking- so they deserve to get the experience and get in these stores and perform a job that they’ll be excellent at performing. But we have to make these changes. I think if we can learn to adapt and open the door- another thing that came up at the women’s conference is that they like an open door policy. They like to be a part of decision making. They like to give input. I always suggest that our managers have roundtable discussions, because the people who are out there day in and day out really do come up with some great suggestions. We don’t really need to think of it as complaints, we need to think about it as suggestions that we can begin to make action plans with them involved. And that way they can become even more of that social network, that social group that we want to develop within the dealership.
Joe: Okay, so I’m glad you brought that up about the roundtable and where to have meetings and when to have meetings. That’s important. Obviously in sales, we’re always talking about this Sally, how meetings and training sessions are talked about. But with service, when should meetings and training take place, especially if advisors and techs are starting work, you know, getting there at 6:30, and starting at 7:00. What about those that are actually on the service drive at those times? When is a good time to have a meeting?
Sally: It’s always a challenge to add more hours when we’re talking about trying to find balance in the hours. But I think that a lot of dealerships I work with are doing is 30 minute or 15 minute huddles, maybe one or two mornings a week. Some of them will do lunch hour meetings where they’ll have them come in, sit down, and actually provide lunch. Now obviously you can’t get the whole team at one time when you do that, but I’ve seen technician meetings where we’ll have half of the technicians come in for one hour, and the other half in another hour. And one of the things I like in those types of meetings is to include an advisor or two so that the teams are working and meeting together.
I like after-work meetings where we make them fun, because again, we’re building that team, we’re building that environment that we need for that social media and for our social bonding. But we can also talk about some work elements as well when we’re in the in the meetings. A lot of times I’ve seen the meetings become more of a reward, so they don’t think of it as a punishment. They may base it around paintball, or bowling, but we have this little meeting and dinner first where we got a lot accomplished. I find that to be really, really effective with this particular group.
Joe: Sally Whitesell, founder and CEO of sw Service Solutions, once again, thank you very much for the content, and the ideas and tips. We appreciate it very much. Thanks for joining us.
Sally: Well thanks again for having me. I’ll look forward to our next time together.