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Kirk Felix

From the 20 Group: 12 New Ideas for Fixed Ops

Cars in the automotive service

During each of my NCM 20 Group meetings, I encourage members to come up with ideas to improve Fixed Ops business and profits. As you prepare to close out 2016 and prepare for the coming year, I thought I’d share their top 12 insights.

  1. Add a sales manager to the service drive. Dealerships are adding this position to improve service drive performance and consistent management of processes.  This new personnel should also enhance sales through training and immediate T.O.’s for turned down sales.
  2. Increase entry-level pay to attract higher-quality staff. One way that fixed operations directors are improving the quality of their applicants is by offering higher starting pay.  Plus, promoting from within is more successful when starting with a higher quality individual!
  3. Leverage Amazon Prime to negotiate with local vendors. Check all outside quotes against Amazon Prime to ensure the lowest pricing; ask local vendors to price match.
  4. Create body shop installation kits. Build parts kits with assigned part numbers for standard installations. The kits should include sealers, sanding discs, tape, clips and any other needed items. Because insurance companies typically pay for items with a part number, this should simplify the payment process.
  5. Get involved in local high schools and encourage kids to consider technician careers. I think everyone agrees that we need to attract more talent to our field. Some of my 20 Group members work with high schools in their communities to help students learn about options for automotive careers. If you do this, be sure to explain the great earning potential of fixed ops work.
  6. Set monthly goals for technician and advisor production; review them during weekly 1-on-1 meetings. Make sure every team member is contributing to department goals by working with them on individual achievements. During weekly sessions, review performance and coach anyone who hasn’t met their objectives. A good starting place is increasing technician production by five hours per week.
  7. Track closing ratios on failed items by advisor. Failed items on multi-point inspections have to be repaired. The question is, will they be serviced at your dealership or a competitor? Monitor which service advisors close these items successfully, then coach the ones who do not. Consider service advisor training for those team members needing more help. (NCMi has a great course.)
  8. Get phone training for all front-line staff. We may live in a digital age, but the majority of business is still conducted by phone in fixed operations. Training staff to handle incoming calls properly will increase business opportunities.
  9. Make expense analysis and reduction a priority. A common worry from fixed ops directors is in our meetings is that they have gotten lax on expense management.  Almost universally, my members feel it is time to analyze all billings and look for reductions from their vendors.
  10. Train service advisors in sales. Fixed operations directors are running service departments as sales departments, so focus on improving the skills and performance of their service advisors. An excellent internal training resource is your dealership’s sales manager.
  11. Require advisors and managers to prewrite repair orders at the end of the day. Reviewing all scheduled work helps make sure parts are available and ready for customers. Management can also use the advanced notice to make recommendations about the proper word tracks for increased sales.
  12. Track parts fill rate by repair order. Having only 6 of 7 need parts for a repair order is zero fill rate for the repair order because you were unable to complete the work.

 

Learn more about Kirk Felix and how he and his NCM colleagues can help your dealership through 20 Groups and in-dealership consulting.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.ncm20.com/2016/12/from-the-20-group-12-new-ideas-for-fixed-ops/

Alissa Bridges

The Automotive Life: From Ford Kid to NCM 20 Groups

Wedding (2)

Friends as close as family – My Ford family came in from all over the country to celebrate my wedding day in July.

By the time I was 15-years-old, I had called eight different cities (a total of two countries and five states, but who’s keeping track?) home. As I started each new school (three elementary, two middle, and two high schools—but again, who’s keeping track?) and teachers and fellow students learned my moving history, I was always asked, “Are you a military kid?”

My response always took them by surprise. “Nope, I’m a Ford kid.”

Ford Kid

Well, a Ford Motor Credit Company kid, to be exact. My dad started with the company in 1983 and still works for Ford today. It’s through him that my affinity for the franchise took root when I was young, first learning to identify and associate the blue oval logo with him. I visited him in the offices he worked in and over time asked questions about what he did and how it all connected to the Ford dealers, both locally and nationally.

When I started driving, my nickname jokingly went from “Ford kid” to “Ford princess” among friends since I was lucky enough to call quite a few cars “mine.” I showed off the features the different cars had and offered “test drives” to anyone interested. (Not surprisingly, the Mustangs received the most interest in this opportunity.) If anyone had a question about purchasing or leasing a car, I would pass them onto my dad, who in turn directed them to the best dealer based on what they needed.

Ford Family

As time went on, Ford started to create more than just business opportunities for my family because of the places we lived and the people we met. When we lived near others with a Ford connection, kids quickly became as close as siblings, and adults became surrogate parents. Our extended Ford family got together for nightly dinners over summers, celebrated holidays and personal milestones together, and provided an extra support system during tough times. This relationship continued even when moves took us other places. Thanks to cell phones and social media, we all continue to stay in contact on a near-daily basis. I can say that Ford turned into more than just the company my dad works for and into a force that helped shaped who I am today.

My extended Ford family encompasses Ford dealerships and their employees, such as the General Sales Manager at Walker Ford in Clearwater, Fla. Already a friend of the family, he heard about an accident that totaled my car and knew that I wouldn’t want to deal with a full-on search for a new car. He worked with me to find out what car model I was interested in, the color and other details. Less than five days later, I was on my way to the dealership to pick up the car he found for me and fill out the paperwork. At my wedding in July, I told him that it’s still the perfect car.

20 Group Families

Given my background, I suppose that it’s no big surprise that I wound up working for the automotive industry, in a round-about way. During my time with NCM, I’ve learned that our 20 Groups have the same family mentality that I have with Ford.

Twenty group members don’t just meet three times per year to discuss best practices and leave it at that; they are there for each other every day. Members offer advice based on their own experiences with DMS changes and training processes, support and coach one another up during tough times in their markets, and celebrate each other’s successes. They also send out words of encouragement and prayers during personal times, such as when Hurricane Matthew evacuations caused dealerships along the East Coast to close down for the storm.

The reason that I feel so at home at NCM is, just like with my Ford family, the NCM family of employees, 20 Group members, and moderators are all here to help each other succeed.

Are you going to NADA in January? Visit us at Booth #4931 to find out how you can become a part of the NCM 20 Group family.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.ncm20.com/2016/12/the-automotive-life-from-ford-kid-to-ncm-20-groups/

NCM Associates

#AskNCM: Is Your Service Department Thriving or Just Surviving?

It’s easy to fall into survival mode at work. You come in, turn on the lights and just struggle through the day. But if you want to run an effective department, you have to do more than just make it through your must-dos.

NCM expert, Steve Hall, gives you the “survival” warning signs and outlines a plan to go from reacting to events to creating and following a solid game plan for success.


Have another for Steve or the other #AskNCM experts? Leave a comment below!

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.ncm20.com/2016/12/askncm-is-your-service-department-thriving-or-just-surviving/

Adam Robinson

How to Hire the Most Important Sales Role in Your Dealership: Service Advisors

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There is no question that a successful dealership has both skilled technicians and knowledgeable salespeople to maintain profit margins. But an oft-overlooked—and equally (or arguably even more) important—component is the service advisor.

When people take their cars to a dealership, the service advisor is the first face they see. The service advisor quarterbacks the entire service experience and serves as the critical link between the customer and the work. This dynamic means service advisors have a heavy influence on customer experience, which can either keep them coming back or drive them away.

While a basic understanding of how cars work is essential to helping the customer navigate their needs, communication skills are even more crucial in ensuring the customer has a positive experience and feels confident about the work and service your dealership provides. Critical conversations had between the advisor and customer include such topics as explaining invoices, deciphering warranty coverage, explaining necessary or suggested additional repairs and providing the customer with updates on the progress of the work. All these conversations require someone with good people skills as well as excellent car skills.

Here are the key elements I recommend to identify quality service advisor candidates and how to hire them.

Recognize the Traits of a Solid Service Advisor

As mentioned above, a service advisor is the first face your customer sees and the person with whom they communicate the most, if not exclusively, throughout their service experience. A good service advisor should possess the following traits:

Mechanical Knowledge and Ability to Articulate – Because the service advisor is the one to communicate with the customer from start to finish, it is important they understand the industry enough to be able to answer questions, suggest options and explain the process to a customer who may otherwise be unfamiliar with the work needed or performed. Additionally, the service advisor should be able to relay the information without overusing technical jargon, making it simple for every customer to follow and understand.
People Skills – The service advisor should have the ability to read and adapt to different customers’ communication preferences: some like a plethora of details while others prefer to be in and out. The service advisor must also possess good listening skills to clearly understand what the customer needs or wants and be able to relay that information correctly to the technicians doing the work.
Integrity – In addition to communicating information between customers and technicians, service advisors have a responsibility to provide the client with accurate information that is in their best interest, instead of using every interaction as an opportunity to upsell extra work. A service advisor with honesty and integrity will quickly earn the confidence of your customers, ensuring they look to your dealership as a trusted place of business, returning for additional needs and sending friends and family your way. Also, a good service advisor will provide updates or call customers back in a timely fashion, keeping them looped in every step of the way

Things to Consider When Hiring a Solid Service Advisor

Now that you know what to look for in a service advisor, there some factors to keep in mind when considering hiring one. For starters, consider how your dealership and employment brand will appeal to women candidates. Half of your customers are women, so having at least one female service advisor on staff will help you better connect with that demographic. Consider advertising the job with a title other than “service advisor,” so as to appeal to a larger number of applicants. Alternate titles can include customer service representative, service secretary or customer service associate. While technical knowledge is beneficial, you might consider advertising the position with “no experience required” to welcome applicants who have all the other necessary skills without potential bad habits that will require much more aggressive retraining to break. Lastly, consider the number of service advisors your dealership needs to meet demand to give your customers the full attention and service required.

Benefits of a Solid Service Advisor

Hiring the right individual for a service advisor position will yield lasting benefits, including an increase in repair order count, CSI and owner retention. It will also increase your technicians’ productivity, resulting in a boost of customer loyalty.

A service advisor typically touches a customer five times more than a sales person, making proper candidates for this position a crucial component for your dealership’s success. As new car sales are expected to plateau or decline next year, a stable of high-quality service advisors will keep your customers coming in for repairs and services. Preparing for 2017 means staffing up with skilled service advisors who can create a lasting, positive impact.

Thanks to NCM Associates’ content partner, Hireology, for sharing the guidance on employee referral programs. Learn more about Hireology. And join NCM’s experts for more actionable advice for hiring the best people for your team in our Hiring Top Talent and Success-Driven Pay Plans classes.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.ncm20.com/2016/11/how-to-hire-the-most-important-sales-role-in-your-dealership-service-advisors/

Alisha Stewart

Embracing the #hashtag Generation: How to Retain Talented Millennials in the Workplace

Coffee Girl

Millennials get a bad rap. We’re called loud and opinionated, lazy and entitled … the list goes on. And employers seem wary of hiring us, especially given reports about our low-loyalty, making it hard to find the right job. As a Millennial employee, I have experienced the backlash of these assumptions, but I think a lot of our negative press misses the point: Our opinions may challenge your dealership, but we want to bring our passion for change and innovation to the workplace!

And it’s going to happen. The truth is that we are the future of business, and by 2020 Millennials will make up 50% of the world’s workforce. Here are a few suggestions I have to help your dealership retain your talented Millennial employees and embrace the cutting edge ideas that they bring with them.

Pay us fairly and give us room to grow

Fair pay and growth opportunities are paramount to the retention of Millennials. As a group, we expect to progress in your company —and achieve leadership roles—faster than Gen X or older groups. When we don’t achieve this, we leave. A business’s failure to offer advancement results in costly and constant turnover. While it may seem that easy to take the cheaper route, there are many employers out there that will provide fair compensation and clear career path, and Millennials are eager to find them.

Embrace social media in all aspects of business

We all know that Millennials live their life online. Whether you’re looking to hire or looking to engage, I can’t stress enough the use of online tools that are available to you, and 99% of them are free! Let your employees write for the company newsletter or blog. Use LinkedIn and Indeed to recruit talent. Post employee recognition or business events on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Other ideas include purchasing a custom Snapchat filter for company parties and hosting a weekly vlog on YouTube. The options are truly endless, and they all help your Millennial employee feel engaged with your dealership!

Allow us to use our voice

I’d say that Millennials have a deep desire or, more appropriately, a need to let our voice be heard and share our views. (Why do you think we’re so active on social media?)

A few ways to encourage this are:

Give us opportunities to lead in roles that bring active change to the company, such as seats on committees and inclusion in forums.

Listen to us and be open to ideas! Just because something has been done a certain way for an extended amount of time does not mean that it is the most effective or efficient way to keep doing things. Use our creativity to advance your business.

Allow us to be creative by embracing technology.

Let us be involved. Here at NCM, we have an Ownership Culture Committee that not only plans social events for the company but also participates in charity and giving back. Believe it or not, Millennials do care about things bigger than themselves and allowing them to give back, and get involved will reap huge rewards in employee morale and culture.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.ncm20.com/2016/11/embracing-the-hashtag-generation-how-to-retain-talented-millennials-in-the-workplace/

Alan Ram

BDC Success

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Let’s talk BDCs. There are many different types of BDC models, and what might work for one dealership may not work for the next, but there is one critical rule that applies to every type of BDC: They need to work cohesively with your sales staff.

The BDC disconnect

One mistake I often see Dealers making with BDCs comes into play when they have a BDC of non-salespeople taking sales calls. They tend to treat the sales staff and BDC as two entirely separate entities, rather than ensuring that everyone is on the same page.

This creates a problem when the customer comes into the dealership with information from a BDC representative they had previously talked to rattling around in their head. Then the salesperson, who is unaware of exactly what the BDC representatives are telling customers, meets that client in the showroom. The salesperson then ends up saying something along the lines of, “Oh, that’s just someone in the BDC, those guys don’t know what they’re talking about.” Even if the BDC representative has the latest and greatest training, things will go off the rails. When your salesperson doesn’t know what the BDC has told the customer, and openly admits it, your dealership’s credibility is shot, and you are stuck trying to dig your way out of a hole.

One team, shared success

Think about a football team. When they practice plays, they do it as a team. It’s a collective effort. The offensive line practices plays with wide receivers, running backs, and a quarterback in the mix. Everyone knows what everyone else needs to be doing. You need to take the same approach with your sales team. If you get your BDC and sales department on the same page, each understanding what the other is doing, you’ll soon find your dealership working like a well-oiled machine. You want a seamless message being conveyed to your customers.

Let me tell you how this applies to my training specifically. I often see hesitancy in salespeople, who wonder why they should have to go through my “Phone-Ups That Show Up” course when they don’t actually take sales calls. There are two reasons:

  1. The first is what we just discussed, in that they need to know exactly what the BDC is telling clients to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  2. Secondly, it’s all about phone skills. Even if your people are not taking inbound sales calls, they should still be putting a phone to their head hundreds of times every month in outbound calls.

Every time someone at your dealership picks up the telephone and doesn’t know what to say, or says the wrong thing, it may cost you a deal. You do the math. Your complete staff needs to be cohesive, as well as well-trained on the telephone, in today’s automotive industry. If you want to see your dealerships and BDCs succeed in a big way, this is not optional.

Ready to train your team? Check out in-person training options through NCM Associates, and discover our online platform, NCM OnDemandAlan Ram’s Management by Fire course offers additional tools for your dealership training needs.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.ncm20.com/2016/11/bdc-success/

NCM Associates

#AskNCM: Why should I use a variable labor rate in my shop?

Rick Wegley, NCM expert and Institute instructor, explains how variable labor rate can recapture labor costs for specialized work and is an important response to a dropping effective labor rate in this new #AskNCM video.

Have another for Rick or the other #AskNCM experts? Leave a comment below!

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.ncm20.com/2016/11/askncm-why-should-i-use-a-variable-labor-rate-in-my-shop/

NCM Associates

#AskNCM: What’s the hardest job at the dealership?

Salesperson? GM? Dealer? What’s the most difficult job in the dealership? Robin Cunningham’s answer might surprise you.

Find out if yours is the hardest job:

Have another for Robin or the other #AskNCM experts? Leave a comment below!

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.ncm20.com/2016/11/askncm-whats-the-hardest-job-at-the-dealership/

Chris Kahrs

Building Your Bench Strength

Weight lifting

Addressing personnel changes and challenges can occasion lengthy conversations. I’d say that the most often asked question is, “Where do I find my next manager?” As dealerships continue to experience rapid turnover and acquisitions—and promote good employees into management—many organizations struggle to find replacements for vacancies.

Prepare for the unavoidable

It’s generally when they’ve lost an employee that dealers realize they have no one in their organization to assume that particular role. Dealers are forced to search outside their organizations for a candidate who shares their business’s values, culture, work ethic and vision. This hunt can be exhaustive, and the process is disruptive to the daily operations of the organization.

Why your team is critical

To use a sports analogy, each team has its starters suited up and ready to go for each game. When one of those starters gets hurt, a “bench player” is the next man up to assume that role. That bench player has been preparing for a scenario like this and is ready to perform. Yet in a lot of automotive organizations, there isn’t a bench player who has been coached to assume the role of the starter should there be the need.

How to create a strong bench

Weak bench strength is a problem for a number of reasons. First, it means you must spend time and money to find an outside replacement. And, more importantly, that unnoticed bench player is likely to leave. I honestly believe that one the greatest threats to your dealership is for an overlooked bench player—one who is not being groomed for advancement—to leave. And they will. Sensing the lack of opportunity, individuals like this will typically depart for greener pastures should they have the opportunity, thus leaving your organization searching for yet another replacement.

Here are my suggestions to improve your bench strength:

  • Train and educate from the top down to develop future organizational leaders
  • Cross train for diversity
  • Create peer-leader relationships
  • Create a career path with clear and defined advancement opportunities
  • Train, coach, motivate and encourage personal development

Filing managerial vacancies can be challenging for many organizations; however, you may already have an individual eager and ready to perform if given the opportunity. By building your bench, you can create future leaders from within your organization. Work on developing one to strengthen your overall talent pool.

Learn more about Chris Kahrs and how he and his NCM colleagues can help your dealership through 20 Groups and in-dealership consulting.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.ncm20.com/2016/11/building-your-bench-strength/

$teve Emery

Get the Most from Your Managers’ Meetings

Business presentation on corporate meeting.

Most managers view meetings as something akin to visiting the dentist. They are time away from “work,” and can range from boring to painful. If canceling a managers’ meeting truly pumps up your staff, perhaps it’s time to look at ways you can make them something to look forward to.

Meet for the right reason

Let’s start with this question: When should you have all your managers gathered in a group meeting?  Some dealerships hold mandatory daily meetings; others hold them only when the dealer feels it is necessary.  Information that could be better distributed by email should be.

Here’s a short list of reasons you might need face-to-face time from all managers:

  • An important announcement (We are buying another dealership.)
  • To solve a problem (Should we change DMS systems?)
  • To discuss a business opportunity (How do we sell more used cars?)
  • Training to be better managers (How to develop a business plan?)

Pick a convenient time

First thing in the morning may be convenient for the dealer and sales staff, but it’s the busiest time for service. I’ve found that meeting during lunch typically has the least impact on all parts of the business. Plus, breaking bread can lighten the mood!

One drawback with a group meeting is that some managers’ time is wasted listening to other departments’ unrelated issues, while other managers get far less time than is needed to resolve challenges. To solve this, try alternating weekly group meetings with individual manager one-on-ones.

For example, say all managers meet on the first and third Wednesdays of each month. On the second and fourth weeks of the month, the dealer can meet with individual department managers on a schedule:

Monday – New

Tuesday – Used

Wednesday – Service

Thursday – Parts

Friday – Office

Make good use of your time

Now that we have a more effective schedule, let’s take a look at a more efficient agenda.

Most managers’ meetings have no agenda at all, which is like driving without a destination. And when there is an agenda, it is typically a review of the numbers—which is like driving by only looking in the rear-view mirror. Your agenda should prompt the management team to take action based on the business situation.

Here are some key items to consider:

Asset Review. If you don’t manage the assets, they turn into expenses and frozen cash.  Review each manager’s aged inventories and receivables. What is each manager’s action plan to purchase faster-turning inventory and turn receivables into cash faster?

Sales Process. Do you have an active process to maximize the revenue from each sales opportunity? What is the action plan for increasing sales and the gross on those sales?

Advertising. Is your advertising effective in attracting new customers and retaining existing customers? What is the action plan for creating more customers at lower expense?

Personnel. Who are the top and bottom performers? What is the action plan to increase gross per employee?

Expenses. To whom are you writing checks? What is the action plan for reducing expenses?

By balancing the agenda of the group and your one-on-one meetings, you can maximize effectiveness. Focusing your managers on where you want to go—rather than on where you have been—should give you and your management team something to look forward to.

Tell us below how you manage meetings? Learn more about Steve Emery and how he and his NCM colleagues can help your dealership through 20 Groups and in-dealership consulting.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.ncm20.com/2016/11/get-the-most-from-your-managers-meetings/

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