Training is a strategic investment that pays
By Justin Doyle
As a former trainer, now an account manager, I can tell you the ROI on training your staff on new technology and software is solid.
Yes, it’s expensive. But every dollar you spend on training is an investment in your business that will save you in the long run. Training on new software or applications will make your employees more confident, knowledgeable and productive, as they won’t waste time and energy trying to muddle through on their own.
Plus, research has shown that training increases job satisfaction. And we all know happy employees are more engaged and contribute more.
Training compounds the value of the technology in which you’ve invested. Frankly, there’s not much point in spending a lot on a new program if no one on your team knows how to use it. Skimping out on training is like buying a sports car but not getting your driver’s license.
And training pays dividends from a service perspective. Your customers will appreciate the excellent, efficient treatment they receive from your well-trained and helpful staff.
Finally, training can help grow your business, as up-to-date employees who understand an entire application can harness it for more sales or service opportunities.
Knowledge isn’t just power – it’s profit, too.
Fill capacity by keeping your service bays busy
By Lisa Winchester
Dealerships should treat their service bays like hotel rooms: you want them full all day, every day. And yet, I see too many turning away business because staff is out or to cater to walk-ins.
A hotel would still sell you a room even if the concierge called in sick. So often I hear, “we are short on technicians, so we can only handle X hours.” Here’s the dilemma: not enough work to hire another technician, too much work for the technicians I have. Service managers, shop foremen and advisors will work to their comfort level. It’s not until they are pushed that they will figure out how to manage the new normal.
Another thing I hear is: “We need to leave room for walk-ins.” Why hope for customers rather than book guaranteed business? Back to my hotel analogy: no innkeeper would only reserve half the rooms in the hopes the other 50% walks in off the street.
I get it. You don’t want complete chaos in service. The key is managing a new level of normal. Here are some ways to help with the flow of traffic in service while also increasing shop capacity:
- Don’t scale back appointments when an advisor is sick or on vacation. Get the service manager to fill in.
- Book every 15 minutes instead of every half-hour. This allows for more customers to be greeted throughout the day.
- Spread out larger jobs. You don’t want all your technicians tied up at the same time.
- Stagger lunch breaks.
- Use overnight tech shifts to catch up on carryovers.
These simple scheduling tricks will have your bays busier than ever. What have you done to increase service occupancy?
Progressive Companies accommodate the personal and professional
By Dave Haley
As the line between home and work continues to blur, thanks to technology and culture shifts, a balance between the two is more important than ever.
For employers, the risk of ignoring employee work-life balance is high. Burnout and chronic work-related stress and its attendant physical and mental health problems can have serious negative impacts on both an employee’s work and home life.
Winning employers are those who recognize the need for balance. This can be scary, as it often means letting go of old attitudes and policies and relinquishing control. But the rewards are worth it. Your people will be happier, healthier and more productive. And it’s a powerful recruitment and retention tool for top talent.
Here are some ways to nurture work-life balance in your organization:
- Discretionary days: A paid day (or days) for employees to do with what they like, whether that’s spending time with family, observing a religious holiday or just relaxing.
- Working remotely: In the old days, a video call in sweatpants from your living room would have been unthinkable. Now, it’s practically the norm.
- Flexible hours: The ability to step away from traditional office hours for appointments, errands and more gives employees a sense of control over their time and responsibilities.
- Extracurricular activities: A growing number of companies give employees paid time to volunteer or take part in corporate sports leagues or lunchtime fitness or yoga sessions.
- Mental health awareness: Programs that prioritize wellness send the right message to employees, pointing them towards support in stressful times.
- Annual Short-Term Incentive Programs (STIP): Employees feel empowered when they have a vested interest in the company’s success and annual profits.
- Professional Development & Training: Expanding an employee’s knowledge and potential is a great way not just to build skills, but for their personal development, as well.
As you can see from the list above, work-life balance is about treating each employee as a whole person and respecting the range of their skills, needs and responsibilities. How is your organization creating a workplace that accommodates employees’ personal lives?
Senior Technical Analyst
Proactive outreach nurtures winning client relationships
By Mark Macdonald
Making your customers feel special and appreciated is one of the surest ways to win their loyalty and keep them coming back to your dealership for service – and their next vehicle purchase.
Strategic CRMs seize the opportunity to reach out to customers by phone, email or text for a variety of reasons, including maintenance reminders for service that’s due soon, follow-ups on outstanding recalls, satisfaction inquiries, declined work that was recommended, and to confirm upcoming and reschedule missed appointments. Customers will appreciate the personal touch and being kept up-to-date on all pertinent information about their vehicle.
Reaching out, rather than waiting for customers to call or visit you, has a number of benefits, including:
- Staying top-of-mind. The last thing you want is for your customers to start looking elsewhere for service or purchases.
- Ensuring customers remain happy with their vehicles. And they’ll appreciate the chance to voice any concerns to a real person.
- Making customers feel valued. A call on their anniversary of purchase or when their term is close to expiring shows your salespeople are paying attention – and that they care.
- Preventing customers from falling through the cracks. A vehicle is a huge investment. If customers never hear from your dealership once the purchase is done or their vehicle’s left your service department, they may feel you don’t deserve their business in the future.
Of course, staying in touch means you have to keep their contact information up-to-date. Have your coordinator verify contact information each time they speak with a customer and always get their email, as it’s the one contact that doesn’t tend to change. Along with current contacts, your CRM is a great source of potential proactive contacts, including who’s scheduled for service, high-mileage lease drivers and owners of good quality used vehicles that are regularly serviced at your dealership or those whose vehicle term is set to expire. A good CRM tool has these features built into the software, and can automatically pull daily call lists.
Harness this data to stay on your customers radar – and in their good books.
Documentation keeps your team current and consistent
By April Hatfield
I’ve been a coordinator. A curriculum developer. A process mapper. A team manager. In each of these roles, proper documentation was key to smooth operations.
In our industry, things don’t stay still. As good as you may be in your role, it’s impossible to remember everything you need to know, especially when change is so rapid and constant. Without proper documentation, employee errors, such as misquoting pricing or not following the correct steps of a procedure, are all too common.
Documentation is important because it:
- Gives staff the latest information at their fingertips;
- Allows for more productive calls and customer interactions;
- Ensures consistency of procedure and response among employees;
- Means fewer calls and questions to managers and colleagues; and
- Allows for faster onboarding of new and interim employees.
There are lots of ways to store your documentation. Of course, old-school paper files are an option, but digital documentation via Google Sheets, Sharepoint or ProcedureFlow, for instance, is better. It’s safe, easily accessible, usually has revision tracking and has search capabilities far quicker than sifting through papers.
Here are a few other tips to ensure your documentation is as effective as possible:
- Don’t over-document. Only record what is relevant to your staff. If there is a list of instructions for a specific procedure, put it in bullet or number point form so it’s quick and easy to read.
- Keep your documentation organized. If it is too difficult to find the information, people will not use it.
- Make documentation part of your organizational culture. It should be part of the job for everyone to use it and keep it updated.
How does your team handle documentation? What works for you?
Train your appointment coordinators to handle any situation
By Letisha Betteridge
Booking appointments should be a well-rehearsed routine, not an improv. But without a script for any situation that’s exactly what your appointment coordinators have to do: improvise.
While that might make for an entertaining theatre experience, it’s not the way to impress your customers. Scripting is the answer. It will help your coordinators:
- Overcome objections: Increase your maintenance labor sales and gross with proper overcoming objection scripting. Overcome the “no” by informing the customer of the importance of bringing the vehicle in even if they have low mileage or are unsure of their schedule.
- Assume the appointment: Increase the number of appointments being booked and keep your shop full. Assuming rather than asking for the appointment gives the customer less opportunity to just say no.
- Set a call flow: Create consistency with customers to keep them coming back. A BDC script lets all your appointment coordinators follow the same call flow, eliminating bad experiences or surprises.
- Exhibit product knowledge: Higher maintenance labor gross per RO. If the appointment coordinator can explain how keeping up-to-date on services is good for the vehicle and will save them in the long run, the customer will feel more informed and be more willing to take what’s offered.
- Eliminate filler words: Instead of fumbling for the right words and creating doubt in the customer’s mind about the service being recommended, your coordinator exudes confidence.
- Instill customer confidence: Confidence is contagious. If your coordinators sounds polished and certain, your customer will trust them.
These are just a few of the benefits of scripting. What scripts do your coordinators need to book more?
By Joanne Rogers
In this age of information overload, you need to make every communication count. Bombarding clients and colleagues with numerous redundant, or worse, irrelevant emails is a sure path to irritation. You want to craft to-the-point emails with a clear message and purpose. When you’re gathering information by email, the last thing you want is to overburden customers with a mountain of messages.
Here are some tips that have helped me:
- Audience: Write with your recipient and their knowledge in mind. Be concise, while giving him or her enough information to understand what you are asking. Remember: what seems perfectly clear to you may not be to someone else.
- To the point: Don’t enact death-by-email. Let your recipient know right away what you need.
- Subject line: Update your subject line to reflect the current message. A long email feed with the same subject throughout makes it difficult to identify what is going on.
- Reply all: Only send to those who need to be included. Adding non-relevant emails to someone’s inbox will not be appreciated. We are all happy Joe and May welcomed a new baby, but I don’t need to see every congratulatory note.
- Proofread. Before hitting send, manually copy-edit for spelling and grammar. Spellcheck will not pick up on missing words or words spelled correctly but used in the wrong context. Try Grammarly, a free app that will tidy up your messy, cryptic messages.
- Don’t scan: Read each email in its entirety so you can fully respond to all questions. How much do you love taking the time to craft an email with all the information someone needs, only to have them respond with a question you’ve already answered? Take the extra 30 seconds to read the entire email.
- Tone: Keep it friendly and professional. How many relationships are damaged or even end because of an ambiguous tone that sends the wrong message?
- Be friendly: Be personable – but not irrelevant. Most people enjoy receiving a message that makes them smile in the midst of a hectic day. (I do!)
These simple tips will help you maintain great email correspondence. What are your email challenges?
Maintenance Makes For Smooth Summer Travels
By Brenda Krause
We are planning a family road trip in August, and I’m determined it won’t go the way our cross-country move from Alberta to New Brunswick did 2 years ago. That long journey was full of pitfalls: we got a flat tire on the trailer that took two hours to fix in 32-degree heat. Then the trailer lights weren’t working, a repair that set us back half a day and made my husband grumpy. Without GPS, we got lost multiple times.
I want this summer’s trip to be a great family experience, so I’m ensuring our vehicle is safe and ready for the road. We don’t want time-consuming or costly accidents or repairs this time around.
Here’s what you should do to get ready for summer road trips:
Multi-point inspection: Get your fluids topped up, lights checked and tires looked over.
AC is working: This is the No. 1 cause of vehicle break-down on the road. Don’t get stranded.
Tires: If you’re headed somewhere remote, considering a replacement tire instead of the spare. Summer is camping season. Who knows where you will end up?
Towing: Summer is the time for boating, camping and trailer “glamping.” Make sure your trailer hitch is operational, tow lights working, you’re not towing above your vehicle’s capacity and your brakes are in good shape and able to handle the additional load.
Vehicle essentials: Pack a blanket, matches, water and granola bars, especially for remote camping or fishing trips.
Roadside assistance insurance: It can be a lifesaver for out-of-pocket expenses.
GPS: For the sake of your marriage, get one and use it!
I hope you’ve got some summer adventures planned. How do you prepare for road tripping?
Get Paid On Time AND Maintain Good Customer Relations
By Susan Brown
Managing outstanding debts is key to keeping business running, both for cash flow as well as for maintaining good rapport with your customers.
Take Bill, for instance. His software company will invoice clients for a portion of the installation fee and collect a monthly recurring charge.
Bill often has outstanding bills – his accounts receivable. Simply put, accounts receivable, or AR, is the money a business is owed. When Bill has three unpaid bills of $1,000 each, his accounts receivable is $3,000.
This is an asset on Bill’s balance sheet, which he can leverage to finance operations. But it’s not just abstract figures on a page, of course. This is money owed to him that he needs to collect.
If he’s been paying attention, Bill knows how long a bill has been outstanding. And he has a plan to collect on them. These outstanding bills are essentially credit, the last thing a small business wants to do is treat its AR like a credit-issuing function. The goal, as a small business, is to collect the cash you’re owed as quickly as possible.
How can Bill get paid on time and retain good customer relations? There are three elements to a successful collection.
- Set the expectation. Every communication regarding a bill or payment should include a clear deadline for the client.
- Monitor outstanding bills. Managing an effective AR system is all about knowing where things are and when things are coming due. Keep all relevant information in one place so you can make quick decisions and track any detrimental trends.
- Communicate sooner rather than later. The goal of your business is to turn action into revenue as quickly as possible. If someone has a bill coming up, remind them. If someone has a bill overdue, reach out.
Accounting software allows you to send email invoices, accept payments online, set auto-reminders and even set up customer portals so clients can view bills and payment histories. These tools give you all the resources you need to take the hassle out of AR management.
What AR challenges have you faced? How did you overcome them?