Here are insights from speakers at Automotive News' second annual Fixed Ops Journal Forum, held Nov. 13 in Orlando.
Automotive News Fixed Ops Journal Forum: Improving returns
Mark Hargreaves, service manager, Gator Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge
"Why is it important to train technicians to properly write an estimate? An organized estimate will increase the adviser's close ratio. It will decrease the time it takes to get authorization. And it will increase your hours per repair order — it's going to make it easy for the writer to sell the job; the customer's going to buy more."
Cecil Sims, vice president, fixed operations, Mercedes-Benz of Birmingham (Ala.)
"We must develop a winning culture, and we have. We create a winning environment, from the way we facilitate the building to staffing. We recruit and hire a winning team. We want people who want to win. We want people with a cultural mindset who feel winning is like breathing; it's not optional."
Alan Starling, president, Starling Automotive Group
"Look at the impressive array of brands under the Disney umbrella today. It's hard to think of an American today whose name is as powerful as Walt Disney. We need to ask ourselves in our business: 'Have we built our company name in a steady, positive and memorable way?' Automotive service is a challenging business, but as I look around the room, I recognize a lot of dealers who have done exactly that. ... This is about repeat business and building relationships."
Tom Kane, parts and service director, Universal Nissan-Hyundai-Genesis
"Is it better to give your customers a choice on products and warranties and prices, ask them which one fits their needs? Or, on our service drive, do we just say: 'We have one offering. One alternator. You want it or not?' You are not going to sell too many of those. Does your service and parts department have a competitive pricing strategy for all economic categories of consumers? I think we have to realize who we are talking to, and it's not just one type of customer."
Mark Colosimo, vice president, data & analytics, Urban Science
"I think there is a pathway by which we can overcome any loss of service that we are anticipating relative to those electric vehicles coming.
"First of all, we can increase customer retention through preparation and training, preparing our techs now; making sure dealerships are open when customers are available; and getting those old vehicles back to you."
Nate Chenenko, director, Carlisle and Co.
"The independent repairer is dramatically better at satisfying the [alternative- fuel vehicle] customer than the dealer is.
"You can easily fix the vehicles right the first time. You just have to actually execute that. You need to figure out how to satisfy those customers."
Tully Williams, fixed operations director, Niello Co.
"Do we sell dollars? Not really. We sell hours, and I want to track hours through my store. We look at three key performance indicators.
"First, how are my hours being tracked — by writer, by technician, by store? Next, how do we get more hours? Are our techs doing the great-quality recommendations that we would sell to our family members?
"Last but not least, are we selling these recommendations to all of our customers?"
Sarah VanTine, BDC director, Scott Clark Auto Group
"A service business development center rescued our shops. It's sped up shop times, it's sped up wait times. We've had better retention, better customer satisfaction and a much more controlled pace in our shop for our technicians."
Lee Harkins, owner, M5 Management Services
"Take a look at why I should go to work for you. That should be the point that you advertise in your ads. Not what you want. But, what does a technician want?"
Richard Chitty, retired parts and service chief, Toyota
"The biggest thing you folks do is create the big word of 'trust.' Because people are going to spend their money someplace they like, trust and respect. You've got a short time to do that trust factor. But you'll keep the independents at bay working on that trust."
Anthony Rodio, CEO, YourMechanic
"Whether it's fixing consumers' cars, whether it's shared mobility, the future of how this is going to be done is you service the car at the point of need."
Don Reed, CEO, DealerPRO Training
"If you take the incoming phone calls away from those service advisers and you use appointment coordinators or your own service BDC, you're going to have much better control of your appointment process."
Almog Veig, director, fixed operations, David Lewis & Associates
"Your customers choose to come to your stores. They are willing to pay a premium. The question is: Are we as dealers prepared to deliver a level of service that's commensurate with that premium?"
Max Lowenbaum, vice president of sales, Hireology
"There are people in the market. The issue is that those people are not considering retail automotive, or being a technician, as the place that they would consider working."
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