Joe: Sally Whitesell is the CEO and founder of sw Service Solutions and Fixed Ops University. She has provided service advisor training in hundreds of drives across the country for more than 23 years at an individual and corporate level. She is also a contributor to CBT News, and we welcome her, and now Sally, thanks again for taking the time to join us.
Sally: It’s always a pleasure Joe. Thanks for having me back.
Joe: Sally, when discussing auto retail, we know that words matter. They are important. For fixed ops, using the wrong words can confuse people, or offend them, or maybe embarrass them and their lack of knowledge. It can cause distrust and make a dealership look unprofessional. So give us a few examples of how service advisors and managers can talk with customers, rather than at them.
Sally: Most of the people that are in the service industry are people who want to fix problems. We get into that “fix-it” mode too quickly. So quite often I’ll hear them talk about repairs that may need to be done without paying too much attention to the client’s reaction. They’ll try to sell services without actually explaining why the services are needed. So we try to give them the words to help make it more conversational versus just talking at people all day long. That way, the customers feel like they had a bigger part in the decision because they got all the information they need, and they feel more comfortable asking questions, so when they walk away, they feel secure with their purchase.
Joe: Sally, you wrote a book, “Words That Sell Service.” Are there certain techniques that apply for everyone, or are there some that advisors and managers need to just use for women only, or younger people only, teens only, maybe even older people?
Sally: Well, you know every single client in front of you is going to be a little bit different. Their communication skills are going to be different. But “Words That Sell Service” is a book where we’ve given them examples of how to give professional benefit-based presentations on every service they sell. So there really isn’t a client who’s not going to appreciate getting the explanations and the benefits before they are given the cost and time. So it would work for everyone. I would say maybe the only exception would be if you have a customer in front of you who’s very knowledgeable and technical. At that point, you may have to bump that conversation and those explanations up just a little bit. But our rule of thumb for the most part is “keep it simple.”
Joe: In blogs, and on your website, and other posts, you’ve mentioned that word tracks are used in all types of businesses. We know that, including unwanted marketing phone calls, or when consumers have issues with their cable or wi-fi. Some of these people sound robotic. So how do advisors and managers learn word tracks, and then teach their team without sounding like they’re losing fluidity?
Sally: Right. It depends on the delivery. Because we’ve had people who say English isn’t their first language that have memorized our word tracks and have been very successful because it gave them the stronger communication skills that they need. But if they want to change these word tracks, we have a class that we actually offer where we have the advisors use our steps and our methods, and put it into their own words. They actually write the word tracks because then they’ll be more committed, and maybe it will sound more natural to them. So we don’t want to make everybody sound exactly the same, and rehearsed, and mechanical, but we do want to get consistent messages to our clients, and we want to make sure that the explanations are thorough when they’re delivered. These are really just a basis to start with.
Joe: And I guess it makes sense that you said that, because if a customer does ask a question that maybe there’s not a word track for, maybe it takes the advisor or manager off course, then they have to be prepared to not sound robotic, or not sound like they’re giving a word track, right?
Sally: Right, but they also need to be prepared enough with the words that they aren’t struggling for an answer, because you lose all confidence when you stand there and hem-haw around, not sure what to say.
Joe: No doubt about that. Okay Sally, so how important would you say verbalizing the right message is compared to other parts of the service department, for example, walk-arounds on a scale of 1-10?
Sally: I think it’s probably the most important thing, I mean, you can blow a client’s perception of the experience just with an abrupt greeting, or not even acknowledging them. So strong communication skills are the number one thing every advisor needs to master. The walk-around, of course, is very, very important, but if you walk around the car but you don’t know what to say, then you pretty much lost all the credibility that you need to make a good presentation. So giving them the right words is going to, as I mentioned a moment ago, help your clients feel more free to interact with them (the advisors), so they get presentations that matter to them, and help your advisors feel confident enough to deliver a thorough message. So it really is the most important skill. You said give it the 1-10. I’ll give it the 10.
Joe: Okay, then let me ask you this. When should advisors and managers learn these? When they first get hired? Every three or four months? Every day?
Sally: Well really, they need to focus on them regularly. There’s definitely a strong foundation that needs to be set before they hit the drive. You know, I always like to think about the Disney parks, and the fact that their people have to know exactly how to deliver certain phrases before they ever start the job. It’s required. I’m not sure why we wouldn’t do the exact same thing. Do we really want every single client greeted differently? Do we want every single client to get different explanations about services, some good, some not? Do we want them to get different recommendations? It’s important that we get these advisors to know the word tracks and know your policies before they hit the drive. And then, of course, we’re going to need to revisit them often. One of the things we recommend to our managers is that they pick one item a week, say for example, an air filter. We have a word track with benefits for how to sell an air filter. It sounds really simple, but a lot of customers don’t even know they have an air filter, believe it or not, or don’t understand why it’s important. So if they can have the advisors go through the word track at the beginning of the week, then start a contest with some sort of incentive for every one that they sell when needed, then it really is going to help the advisors master their selling skills for that item, and they’re going to notice a difference in their paycheck because they’re going to sell more of them. This is how we can develop experts on every single item that they sell on the drive. But it takes constant focus.
Joe: She is the author of “Words That Sell Service,” she is also the founder and CEO of sw Service Solutions; Sally Whitesell, we appreciate you joining us once again, taking the time to come on and give our dealer audience some great content about words that matter. Thank you.
Sally: Thank you!