When it comes to success and excellence in our business, there really isn’t a “one size fits all” solution. Dealers need to figure out what works for them, their market and their customers along the way. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from what other dealers use to find success.
The important thing is to keep learning, experimenting and evolving. When we find something that works, we tend to stick with it for as long as we can. But we all know that trends come and go, customer needs and wants change, and the market fluctuates. Surely, we’ve all seen the ups and downs in the market while we’ve weathered the storm of the pandemic!
So, let’s look at a few key ideas of what can strengthen your service department and maybe elevate it to the next level.
It Starts With Leadership
When it comes to a successful business, it really does start from the top. Finding strong, competent leaders to lead the way is key to long-term success. What does a strong leader look like? Think of it this way: A “boss” will tell a team what to do, what it did wrong and would never be seen “doing the grunt work”; a “leader” will build up their team, tell it what it’s doing well, inspire it to be better and lead by example.
It seems like such a simple thing, but I can tell you that I’ve had experiences with both types of management in my career. I spent 10 years of my career working as a tech and behind the parts counter in dealerships and small shops. I worked with all types of people, and I had every sort of manager. I saw what worked and what didn’t work, and I was always taking notes and trying to learn. The few managers whom I consider to be leaders taught me so much over the years that I still hear their words ringing in my ears to this day.
The atmosphere of a workplace starts at the top. If the atmosphere is toxic or negative, your customers will feel it. We wear many hats as managers and leaders, and oftentimes it feels like all eyes are on us. When it comes to running a service department, the leaders simply can’t do it all. It’s our responsibility to build a strong, motivated team of people and inspire them to grow and reward their success. I can tell you firsthand, an employee’s loyalty can be damaged quickly by lack of recognition or appreciation.
A real leader will exhibit strengths in a few areas: transparency, trust and respect.
Transparency is a wide topic with lots of room for interpretation. A leader must be up-front and honest about his or her ideology, thoughts and expectations. The leader’s team should never be left to wonder what is expected of it, nor should there be any confusion as to what goals the team should be striving to achieve.
Trust seems like it should be easy on paper, but it’s very hard to really put into practice every day. If a leader trusts his or her team to get the job done, the team will feel accomplished when it meets its goals. There’s nothing more demoralizing than being micromanaged on a daily basis. Trust can be incredibly hard to earn, and it can be shattered in an instant. Frequent communication or one-on-one meetings can go a long way toward promoting trust between a team and its leadership.
Respect is the final piece of the puzzle. It cannot exist without the first two. Most importantly, respect is a two-way street. Your team does not owe you its respect simply because you are its leader. No, it must be earned. How? That depends on the people. You many earn the respect of your team members by making them feel heard, valued or appreciated. It may be something as simple as remembering birthdays or anniversaries. The bottom line is, it’s hard work, but it is very much worth it.
We’re in the Relationship Business
In the world of powersports, we may not be in the matchmaking business, but I would say that we are in the business of building relationships. We have an opportunity every day to “step out from behind the counter” and engage with our customers. Every customer interaction is an opportunity to make the experience a memorable one. Any one of us can have this sort of influence. Salespeople, managers and even technicians all play a key role in making the customer feel at ease, well taken care of and happy.
Part of this means looking for referral business. I recall from my time in commission sales a manager who talked about the difference between asking the customer for a referral versus earning a referral. Your success depends on your ability to deliver the sort of customer experience that makes people want to tell their friends and family about it.
In today’s world of Yahoo and Google reviews, people can be even quicker to tell others about a bad experience and slower to tell them about a good experience. It’s up to us to help “spread the word” about what your team has done well or done right for customers. The bottom line is this: Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals. In fact, this is something you could consider asking every single customer before he or she leaves.
Keep Up With Morale
Ask yourself this question: What does morale look like in the shop? Do your team members feel valued, appreciated and taken care of? Communication and transparency can go a long way. Trust and respect can have a big influence on team morale. But what else can you do to help?
- Set a goal. In fact, clearly outline the goals and expectations for the team. However, goals need to be well thought out and realistically achievable. We should all have goals to strive toward, but unattainable goals or expectations can lead to an atmosphere of defeat. The team may ask itself “why bother” instead of working to achieve its goal.
- Check in frequently with your teams. Frequent meetings help to boost those three important areas of leadership: transparency, trust and respect. This of course will vary from business to business. Maybe it’s a routine department meeting with everyone in the same room, or maybe it’s sitting down with your team members one-on-one. It’s important to have this be a regular part of the schedule.
Routine sit-downs help to make the team members feel like their voices are being heard. It gives people an opportunity to address concerns, give feedback or brainstorm ideas for improvements. You may say that “your door is always open,” but oftentimes people will still hesitate before bringing their ideas or concerns forward. Setting up a scheduled, recurring meeting is a simple step that can pay real dividends over time.
Long-term success also requires your team members to feel appreciated for their hard work. A little bit of recognition can really go a long way. I can tell you firsthand, an employee’s loyalty can be damaged quickly by a lack of recognition or appreciation.
Strive to Maintain High CSI Scores
As mentioned earlier, every time a customer is in your business, there is an opportunity to provide him or her with a superior experience. Something as simple as a smile, a handshake or a quick “good morning” or “how are you” can bring a smile to the customer’s face. On the flip side, avoiding eye contact with a customer while walking past one another could make him or her uneasy.
When it comes to CSI scores, it all starts with the standards set by leadership. Don’t be afraid to set the standards high for your teams, but know that you will need to live up to those standards every day just like them. If someone falls short of those standards, that person needs to be made aware of it in a constructive manner. Identify the shortcomings and make adjustments as needed. We’re all human; we all make mistakes. The important thing is that we can identify when we make them and then learn from them so they don’t happen again.
And finally, don’t be afraid to ask your customers how they’re feeling along the way. If there is an issue or a misunderstanding, it would be better to catch and address it early on rather than after they’ve filled out their CSI sheets.
Sales Lead to Service; Service Leads to Sales
Let’s talk more about how we’re in “the relationship business.” Dealers consist of a number of teams that need to have a strong working relationship with one another in order to be successful. One such relationship is that between the sales and service departments. Either one could enjoy dramatic short-term success, but neither can succeed long-term without the other.
You see, when a customer reaches a point where his or her machine isn’t worth the cost to fix it anymore, there is an opportunity for the sales department. Whenever a customer purchases a new machine, there is an opportunity for the service department to serve the customer’s maintenance and repair needs down the road.
So, what does success look like for your operation? Every business is a little bit different, but if you can identify what works for you and your teams, you can help to build a stable future for growth, profit and sales.