By Charlie Polston,Automotive Customer Retention and Profitability Consultant,BG Products, Inc.
Who sees the most cars in your shop? The guys in the lube rack. Who does the most inspections in your shop? The guys in the lube rack.
Who are the least trained people in your shop? The guys in the lube rack. Who has the highest turnover in the shop? The guys in your lube rack. Who is paid the least? You guessed it, the guys in your lube rack.
So, you’re entrusting your greatest growth opportunity, your greatest source of fresh revenue, your greatest long-term sustainable source of income to the guys at the bottom of the shop’s organizational chart. This sustainable revenue stream, this fresh growth opportunity comes from selling needed preventive maintenance services to customers who “just came in for an oil change.”
More on how to fix this later in the article, but first, let me remind you that preventive maintenance is the best way for a vehicle owner to protect themselves from costly and unexpected repair expenses. Selling maintenance services to your customers is a noble and honorable thing to do. The more maintenance services you sell them, the more money they save. The more maintenance services you sell them, the more money you make. Everyone wins when you sell preventive maintenance!
This fact does not change the reality that your shop is missing hundreds of thousands of maintenance sales simply because no one is being held accountable to 1) correctly inspect the vehicle, 2) make maintenances recommendations based on time, mileage, and fluid condition and, 3) professionally present the recommendations to vehicle owners in such a way that leads to a sale.
Your main-line A and B level technicians are swamped, I get that. Most of them refuse to do a vehicle inspection resulting in lost revenue to the dealership and a great disservice to the customer. Most service managers let this slide, I guess for fear that they’ll upset the techs and they will leave. And the helpless vehicle owner is hung out to dry.
As an example, my brother-in-law just had a catastrophic cooling system issue that resulted in a $2000 repair bill. The parts were in stock and the repair was completed in less than 48 hours. He was totally satisfied and very impressed with the professionalism and swiftness of the service team. BUT… while his SUV was in the shop, he noticed a fairly large oil spot on his garage floor, in the proximity of the rear differential.
When he picked up the vehicle later that day, there was no inspection form attached to the RO and no one at the dealership mentioned an issue with the rear differential. Why? Because the technician didn’t look the car over!
Now he has to take time off or figure out a day his wife can follow him back to the dealership and then take him to work. So frustrating! He will be due for an oil change soon, so he decided to just wait and have it looked at by the local tire shop around the corner from his house and let them fix it.
Let me remind you, he was totally satisfied with the way the dealership handled the coolant issue and totally unhappy with the way they missed the rear differential – and now he wonders what else they missed!
So how many hundreds of times a month is this happening at your dealerships? A great repair job performed by a factory-trained competent technician, yet no inspection resulting in a still-broken vehicle leaving the ship – and the service manager allows it to happen. The tech didn’t inspect and the boss was at a loss. (The tail is wagging the dog.)
I think the fix here is fairly simple:
Let’s go back to the guys on the lube rack: Lowest paid, least trained, highest turn-over, bottom of the organizational chart, etc.
Most of the cars these guys see and touch never go into the main shop. I’m suggesting you focus on an intense training program for these guys. Be intentional. Teach them how to do a thorough vehicle inspection; I mean an inspection that produces revenue. Not some cheesy “checked and filled” nonsense; but an inspection that looks at history, mileage, and that looks around the car, under the hood, and under the car.
Next, teach them to perform all the maintenance services such as air filters, cabin filters, fluid exchange services, fuel services, AC and climate control services, and tires. And, above all, pay these guys a performance-based incentive to do a quality inspection that leads to hours sold. For example, you might pay them an hourly wage with a $20 bonus for each fluid service they do, $2 bonus for an air filter, $5 bonus for an AC service, etc.
Savvy service managers use money to influence behavior, and that is exactly what I am suggesting you do with your lube techs.
One of the top fixed ops trainers on my team, Dave Disco, has perfected this training and offers his dealership clients the opportunity to send their lube techs through a one-day maintenance immersion clinic. He teaches them all of the steps I’ve outlined above.
One Kia service manager, Frank Seitz, who attended the training with his lube guys, commented that this was simply the finest training he has ever attended in his automotive career. Not only would his lube guys be attending, but his main-line techs also!
The cynic says “Yeah, I go to all the expense of training these guys and then they leave.” I say that the only thing worse than that is not training them, and then having them stay!
Seriously, if they’re trained right, given a performance-based pay plan, and treated with respect, they’ll stay, and make you lots of money.
It’s not a bad thing for the tail to wag the dog – as long as the tail is well trained and does a great job!
Charlie Polston is an automotive customer retention and profitability consultant with BG Products, Inc. Charlie has been with BG’s Fixed Operations Division for over 38 years. He has trained over 7,500 dealers, managers, and technicians – and has been a frequent workshop leader at NADA’s annual convention.