Just back from Vision 2022 and Worldpac STX 2022, the two largest training events in the industry. It was great to catch up with old friends and meet new people. On the last night in Orlando, they separated a portion of Universal Studios for all STX attendees. It reminded me that we are having a WILD ride in the auto repair industry right now!
As a child, I loved the thrill of adventure and the excitement of doing dangerous activities with unknown results. Roller coasters and anything that goes fast and subjects my body to G-forces turns me on! But as I rode through the park with a friend and longtime shop owner, we saw the huge, Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster in all its glory. I looked at the roller coaster and said to my friend, “No more; this stage of my life is over! I will still enjoy my Polaris RZR and my Porsche 911 this summer, but I will drive them!
Warning! Wild Ride Ahead, only the brave should continue!
We agreed that the industry has been on a roller coaster since the start of 2020. The ride will continue as we see major events unfold around the world, namely COVID-19, the war in Ukraine, the prices of energy, inflation and, of course, the shortage of chips manufacturers are currently facing. We realized that as long as we are in business, we will continue to experience roller coaster ups and downs and we can always enjoy the thrill of the ride.
We can’t control how crazy the race gets, so to some degree we just have to buckle up and hope we don’t get thrown into a corner or go upside down on the roller coaster of business. As I spoke to many store owners at both events, the question I was asked time and time again in my classes was, “How are we preparing for the future?”
We all need to ask ourselves, “What can we control and what can we focus on in our activities, now and in the future?” I teach CEOs that it is our job to understand the future of our business and the trends that will affect it in the short and long term. I also teach that our views should be on those aspects that we can control.
It’s great to be able to see data on both short-term and long-term trends in our business and industry, but is there a way to know what’s happening month by month? Yes! There is one area that I would challenge store owners to consider that could have a dramatic effect on their current business and help smooth out days or weeks of overbooking to empty bays; something that is under our control!
We have listened to 50 incoming calls per month in our stores and shared this feedback with our team so they can make any necessary adjustments and corrections to how our Service Advisors are doing on the phone.
A critical data point that we accidentally discovered.
In January, we discovered that callers were primarily concerned about how quickly they could get their vehicle repaired. We heard that they were calling us because the local dealers had been full for a month! The number of people asking for a prize was minimal. However, as we progressed into February, we learned that the number of people calling and asking for prices had quadrupled! Because there had been such a boom in business, we found that service advisors weren’t as empathetic as they should have been with our customers who couldn’t plan immediately or who asked for a price before necessary service or repair. We also saw a temporary drop in their phone calls to scheduled appointments ratios.
I believe one of the best ways to level the roller coaster in your business is to make sure your staff is doing a fantastic job providing excellent customer service over the phone and in person, no matter how busy your store is or slow. We will all need to continue to invest in tools and equipment to do the job of repairing vehicles properly, but don’t overlook the most critical tool in your shop…the phone and the crew members who answer it!
We went through this process of monitoring, scoring, and coaching with my stores to gauge our performance and any big and small trends we might uncover in daily phone conversations. We learn a lot through this process! It’s time-consuming, but if you want to know what’s going on at your store’s first point of contact, there’s no better tool than listening to your calls.
We have a bright future ahead of us in the auto repair industry. Let’s unite and commit to being the best we can be for ourselves, our companies, our team members, our customers and our industry.