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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

BIZ TIP: Following Your EXAMPLE!


BIZ TIP: Following Your EXAMPLE!

by Kelly Bennett, WORLDPAC Training Institute (WTI) Business Development Instructor


In this series of fictional letters from a new shop owner to his former boss, WTI management trainer Kelly Bennett discusses basic business principles that apply to the automotive repair industry.

The shoe’s on the other foot this week as Kelly, the mentor, learns a few tricks from Erol, the mentee. Following Your EXAMPLE! highlights a selection of inspiring business practices that can be easily implemented at your own shop!


Dear Kelly.

Just a quick email to say thanks again for looking after my business while I was away. I didn’t realize how much my family really needed a vacation together. It was a great chance to bond again. I promised them we’re going to do it every year from now on. Funny, I was always afraid my business would fail if I wasn’t there for it. It never occurred to me that my family life might fail – or suffer unnecessary damage – if I wasn’t there for my wife and kids. Anyway, thanks for stepping in. And thanks for the book suggestions too. I got lots of reading in!

- Erol



Dear Erol:

You’re welcome. It was my pleasure. In fact, I should be thanking you. I learned so much from observing how your operation runs. Despite your concerns, I think you’ve set up a great business. You have a real winning team. And after running your shop for two weeks I’ve added seven items to my own action plan.

That’s right. I’m stealing some of your ideas for a change!

There’s tremendous value in visiting other repair shops and learning from each other. We should all make a point of doing it more often. I would say that’s one of the benefits of joining a management group. We get into each other’s shops every second month and we learn best practices. I’ve always said we’re all in this together.

We need to realize that we don’t have to be bitter adversaries. We can work together. Now, here’s what I learned at your shop – and what I’m going to try to implement at my own shop . . .

  1. Your booking ahead system.

    As you know I’m a big advocate of booking future business ahead of time. But I really like the sign you have on your counter to get customers to buy into the idea.

    “Got a lot on your plate? Lots of things to remember? Let us help! We’ll book your next appointment for you and call you when it’s approaching to confirm it.”

    Simple and to the point. And it’s not a hard sell. You’re just offering to make their lives easier… just like the dentist does, and the hairdresser, and the furnace cleaners, and the pet groomers. Heck, even funeral homes are pre-booking! Everybody’s pre-booking the next appointment these days because customers like it. And it’s high time the automotive
    business started doing it too.

  2. Your night drop box.

    I’m embarrassed to admit I was still telling people to drop their keys through our exhaust pipe hole. Your night drop box is well labeled and well lit. It looks so professional, and is functional too, the way the top folds down to become a tray to write on. The envelopes are a nice touch. I noticed that several customers filled in the checklist and, more importantly, they were all signed. Those signatures are important in our business.

  3. Your shop supply management.

    Your techs have to turn in the old can of brake cleaner before they get a new one? Great idea! Same for lubricants, and cleaners. Fantastic. When I went back to my shop I counted dozens of open cans of stuff in the bays. Sometimes I’d see a technician pick up a can, shake it, realize that it was empty… and then just put it back on the bench! We now keep shop supplies up front and have the technicians hand in an empty one to get a new one. Sure they grumble a bit, but in the long run it saves time and money.

  4. Your free pens for customers.

    They’re the good ones, not the cheapies that stop writing the next day! I think one guy actually came in for the pen… and had his car serviced as an afterthought. It’s an inexpensive way to get your name around town, that’s for sure. Did you know that one of your customers works at the vehicle license office and whenever someone comments on the quality of the pen, she says, ‘Yeah, and Erol knows how to fix cars too!” I’ve always thought if you give away promotional items, they should be worth keeping. I’ve received cheap pens before and actually thought less of the company as a result. I ordered a thousand of the kind of pens you give out.

  5. Your oil-change tracking system.

    Giving out a complimentary oil change after a customer buys five or 10 . . . that’s fairly common. But you get points for not making them walk around with a loyalty card that you punch or stamp. Those cards always get lost or misplaced. It’s so much more convenient the way you track it on your computer for them. And it’s a nice surprise for someone when you look up from your monitor, smile, and say “This one’s on us!”

  6. Your digital camera.

    Boy, your service advisor uses it a lot too, taking digital photos of problems that hadn’t been noticed before or problems that were revealed once a part had been removed or dissembled. She would simply e-mail the photos to the customer, and then call to discuss it. I noticed that sometimes, when customers were picking up their cars, she would print pictures right there on the spot and use them to explain the work that had been done. Wow, did that ever come across as professional!

    What really blew me away was the way she could document declined work, with a picture in the customer’s file. That’ll come in handy down the road! I asked Kerry if I could use her digital camera at the shop and she said, “Get your own, Mister!” So I did. I made sure that it has more pixels than hers and when she asked if she could try it out, I said, “Get your own, Lady!”

  7. Your ‘Blue Book’ bookmark.

    You saved the Blue Book web site in your favorites? I wish I’d thought of that! Whenever a customer is thinking about whether their vehicle is worth keeping, you can simply turn the monitor around and quickly let them see the assessed value of their car. What a great sales tool for those higher cost repairs. So, as you can see, I probably benefited more from running your business than you did from having me come in to supervise things. You didn’t have to give me a thank-you gift – but it was a great choice.

You knew Marcus Buckingham is my favorite author, and you did your homework and found out that I had not read First Break All the Rules. I’m on Chapter 3 already and I’m getting so much out of it. It sure is a great look at unconventional management methods. ‘Thinking outside of the box’ may be a cliché – but sometimes it really works.

Thanks again for all that you taught me. Maybe I should start asking you for advice instead of the other way around! It’s good to know that you’re only an email away.

- Kelly



To learn more about Kelly Bennett's Business Development Classes visit the WORLDPAC Training Institute (WTI).

WTI Performance Groups
www.worldpac.com


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