The Business Will Provide a Uniformly Predictable Service to the Customer

While the business must look orderly, it is not sufficient; the business must also act orderly. It must do things in a predictable, uniform way.

I went to a barber, who, in our first meeting, gave me one of the best haircuts I ever had. He was a master with the scissors and used them exclusively, never resorting to electric sheers as so many others do. Before cutting my hair, he insisted on washing it, explaining that the washing made cutting easier. During the haircut, one of his assistants kept my cup of coffee fresh. In all, the experience was delightful, so I made an appointment to return.

When I returned, however, everything had changed. Instead of using the y, he used the shears about 50 percent of the time. He not only didn’t wash my hair but he never even mentioned it. The assistant did bring me a cup of but only once, never to return. Nonetheless, the haircut was again excellent.,

Several weeks later, I returned for a third appointment. This time, the barber did wash my hair, but after cutting it, preliminary to a final trim. This time he again used the scissors exclusively, but, unlike the first two times, no coffee was served, although he did ask if I would like a glass of wine. At first I thought it might be the assistants day off, but she soon appeared, busily working with the inventory near the front of the shop.

As I left, something in me decided not to go back. It certainly wasnt the haircuthe did an excellent job. It wasnt the barber. He was pleasant, affable, seemed to know his business. It was something more essential than that.

There was absolutely no consistency to the experience.

The expectations created at the first meeting were violated at each subsequent visit. I wasnt sure what to expect. And something in me wanted to be sure. I wanted an experience I could repeat by making the choice to return.

The unpredictability said nothing about the barber, other than he was constantlyand arbitrarilychanging my experience for me. He was in control of his experience, not I. And he demonstrated little sensitivity to the impact of his behavior on me. He was running the business for him, not me. And by doing so, he was depriving me of the experience of making a decision to patronize his business for my own reasons, whatever they might have been.

It didnt matter what I wanted.

It didnt matter that I enjoyed the sound of the scissors and somehow equated them with a professional haircut.

It didnt matter that I enjoyed being waited on by his assistant.

It didnt matter that I enjoyed the experience of having my hair washed before he set to work and that I actually believed it would improve the quality of the haircut.

I would have been embarrassed to ask for these things, let alone to give my reasons for wanting them. They were all so totally emotional, so illogical. How could I have explained them or justified them, without appearing to be a boob?

What the barber did was to give me a delightful experience and then take it away.

What you do in your business is not nearly as important as doing what you do the same way, each and every time.

-Anonymous, January 25th, 2019

Crossword!

This weeks blog is a crossword puzzle to get you started thinking about controls, policies and audits. As we go along, future blogs will address these items. For those of you that were at the AFS Seminar in Chicago, this should be a snap for you. If you were unable to make it in August, we have another Seminar scheduled in Clearwater, Florida in February. I Hope to See you there!!

-Joyce Guest, November 30th, 2018

 

Crossword blog

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Customer Service

With more and more dealers vying for your customer’s business, it is mission critical that your dealership not only meet but exceed the expectations of your customer.  Some things are beyond your control, so it makes sense to focus your energies on the things you can control – the most important of which is customer service.  Below are some recommendations to help you improve your customer service.

  • Hire happy people who enjoy serving others. These front-line associates are usually the first person a potential customer will encounter.  As quickly as possible train them to be proficient at their job and capable of answering most questions your customer may have.
  • Make sure your front-line inventory is ready for sale – clean and mechanically sound.
  • Your greatest opportunity to give poor customer service is the use of “We Owe” agreements or agreeing to perform sale-contingent repairs after the customer takes delivery of the vehicle. Consider the following points:
    • When you sell a vehicle AS IS or with a limited warranty/service contract and agree to perform non-covered repairs after delivery, you have already compromised your loan closing process and set a precedent for the remainder of the contract. For example, telling your customer the vehicle is sold “as is”, but then agreeing to fix something after delivery is contradictory.  To which side do you think your customer will gravitate?
    • This practice also creates a myriad of opportunities for poor customer service such as the customer returning with a list of additional repairs; appointments made with shops but missed by the customer; or the repair(s) take longer than the repair shop originally promised. The list goes on.
    • My recommendation is to collect the down payment or take a security deposit to hold the vehicle until the sale-contingent repairs have been completed to the customer’s satisfaction and then consummate the deal and deliver the vehicle to the customer.
    • You might disagree with me because you are afraid of losing the sale. May I suggest that a customer unwilling to wait for a vehicle to be repaired prior to taking delivery may not be the type of customer you want on your books.
    • Anytime the opportunity presents itself, make sure you under-promise and over-deliver. I cannot stress enough the importance of doing everything possible to assure your customer is completely satisfied at the time of delivery.
  • Make sure your facility is always clean, organized and ready for business.
  • Secret Shop your own dealership(s) as well as your competitors. There is no need to hire a professional firm to do this. Save your money and train someone to do this for you. Find a friend or family member who can play the role of a potential buyer.  They need to objectively shop your dealership(s) as well as your competitors and provide feedback that identifies areas where your competition excels over your dealership.
  • Take some time to walk across the street and look hard at your dealership. Take an objective look at the things your business does well and identify opportunities to improve your customer service.

Most of your competitors have comparable inventory to yours.  Your opportunity to set yourself apart from the others is having the best ready-for-sale inventory and the best customer service in your community.

-Eddie Hight, November 23rd, 2018

List Making

Of all the tools we have at our disposal as managers, list making is probably the single most important tool for improving the productivity of your associates, as well as yourself.  I encourage not only managers, but all associates to become disciplined list makers.  There is usually so much work to be done it is impossible to rely on our memory to keep track of what needs done.  That’s when things start to fall through the cracks and get overlooked.  Making a list of things to do for each associate and ourselves must become part of our daily routine.  So where do we start?

We start by making a master list – an all-encompassing list of tasks to be done.  Anything we see or think of should be recorded on our master list – even the smallest of details.   Routinely walk your lot, your facility, inspect the offices and work areas of your associates and list all items you see needing attention.

From that master list, we can prioritize our tasks.  What needs to be done today?  What must be accomplished within the next week, the next month, the next quarter, etc.  The next step is to determine who is to perform the task, as well as when and where the work should be done.  Keep in mind that list making requires more than just writing down things to do.  The art of list making is methodically planning the day’s workload to encourage the associate to work at a quicker pace therefore accomplishing more, without overloading them with unreasonable expectations of what can be accomplished in a certain period.  Too few items on the list doesn’t usually challenge our associate to improve their performance while too many items can create a sense of defeat before they ever get started.  There are many benefits to good list making techniques.

  • The master list is a comprehensive never-ending list of things to do. I’m a bit old school – give me a pen and a legal pad, and then turn me loose.  Some folks choose to maintain their master list electronically on their phone or tablet.   The point is not the means, but the results.   Ultimately, I want to make a daily work list that will challenge my associate but can be accomplished in one day.
  • Prioritize what needs done now and what can wait. Decide who needs to do what and then make a list for each associate.
  • Meet with each associate, review their daily work list and communicate expectations. Make sure my associate clearly understands what is expected of them.
  • Make sure he or she has the training and the tools needed to complete their daily list.
  • Periodically follow up and communicate with each associate throughout the day assessing their performance, helping them overcome obstacles, praising their good work and providing feedback on the areas where they have struggled or failed to meet expectations.
  • At that time also discuss what could have been done differently to influence the outcome.
  • Require them to mark off each item when completed and return the list to you at the end of the day. Take time to acknowledge their accomplishments and question the unfinished tasks.  Let them tell you the challenges they encountered that prevented them from completing the list.
  • Usually any unfinished items carry over to the following day and at the top of the list, so the associate knows the priority is to finish what didn’t get done the previous day before starting on the new list of things to do.
  • As items are completed, mark them off your master list. As you are marking things off the list, you are also adding new tasks to your list.
  • Once a week (I chose Saturday morning), tear out all pages and start a fresh list, carrying over the unfinished items.
  • List making provides opportunities for associates to show what they know and can do, while at the same time identify opportunities for improvement, which also identifies areas where we as managers can improve our training and development of our associates.
  • There is an art to list making and my experience is that few managers really maximize the value of making a work list for their associates, as well as themselves.

Make no mistake, there are managers out there who do well despite being poor list makers.  But realize that they probably work harder and longer hours than needed, and their associates probably are not as well trained, and the entire lot may be lacking in discipline.  But also understand that those managers who have the discipline to make good, thoughtful work lists day after day will have more success, less turnover, and better trained associates who can be promoted.

The choice is yours – you can become proficient at planning and writing good work lists and enjoy increased success, or you can choose to ignore this incredibly simple but effective tool and make your job and that of your associates more difficult than needed.

Make the commitment to become an effective list maker.  Do the things it takes to make sure your associates are productive every minute they are on the clock.  Do these things now so that you are better equipped to manage more staff, more customers and more profit as your business grows.

Finally, know undoubtedly the habits you are developing today will have a tremendous impact on your future and that of your associates.

-Eddie Hight, November 16th, 2018

Legacy

A few weeks ago, I lost a dear friend with whom I had worked with for nearly 20 years. At the funeral, her daughter talked about her mother’s legacy. I thought I knew Miss Jean well, but I learned much more about her that day. From the outside looking in, she wasn’t anything special – she wasn’t a manager or a leader – she just showed up for work everyday and did her job in the accounting department, which she did very well. She lived a very quiet, simple life.

Her daughter continued talking about her mother’s legacy and her impact on the world around her. As she closed out the celebration of her mother’s life, she asked each of us to consider what our legacy would be when we left this world.

The thesaurus within my computer states there are two meaning to the word legacy: bequest and relic. For this particular discussion, let’s choose relic. My thesaurus listed 8 synonyms for relic of which we will choose two: residue and remainder. Finally, my computer’s dictionary describes legacy as “something from the past”. Boom – case closed. Our legacy is our residue, our remainder – the things we leave behind (good or bad) that define who we were to those who were around us.

To me, Miss Jean’s legacy was one of “others first, me second”. She had an uncanny ability to sense when I needed some encouragement. During such times, it was not unusual to find slid under my office door a card from her with a handwritten note of encouragement. I can’t tell you how many times her thoughtfulness made my day much brighter.

So, what does this have to do with our business environment? Everything. From your associates to your customers to your vendors and everyone in between that you encounter, you will leave a legacy. What will yours be? What will you leave behind for your associates and customers to remember you by? Some may not care, but I believe most people want to be remembered for the difference they made with the folks within their sphere of influence. Don’t minimize the impact you have on those around you. You as a business owner have a tremendous obligation to your associates and your customers. Teach them. Train them. Treat them with respect. Make a positive difference wherever you can, and your legacy will be one you and your family will be proud of. One final thought for you to chew on: you are now becoming what you someday wish to be for today’s thoughts and behaviors shape your future.

How do your customers, vendors, and associates perceive you?

-Eddie Hight, November 9th, 2018