Author : Tony Orlando

LIFT from CFS > Articles by: Tony Orlando
11Feb

The Customer Experience Begins with Empowered Employees

In our competitive industry, a great customer experience is essential for developing and nurturing loyalty and retention. Many dealerships focus on providing an ever-increasing amount of amenities and luxuries as a necessity for that experience. However, the truth is that all the luxuries you can add won’t change anything if the most important piece of the customer experience puzzle isn’t in place – engaged employees.

I came across a sad fact recently. Did you know that around 70 percent of employees are not happy across all industries? Based on the high turnover numbers at dealerships, it would seem logical that that statistic is certainly true in our industry.

Study after study shows just how important engaged, empowered and happy employees are to the success of businesses. A great infographic posted recently reports some study results and highlights the fact that companies with happy employees outperform the competition by 20 percent. They are also 12 percent more productive. When it comes to sales, happy employees produce 37 percent more sales and 36 percent of employees would actually sacrifice $5,000 per year in salary to be happier at work! Knowing the incredible value of happy, satisfied employees, how do managers take that knowledge and actually implement it?

The first step is to look inside. Managers may be wise to ask themselves if they like the people that they work with and that work for them. If not, how can they expect their co-workers to be happy? And, let’s take it a step further down the line — If the manager isn’t happy, and the other staff walk around with long faces, then how can anyone expect the customer to be well serviced and happy? Employee satisfaction directly impacts the customer experience. So, what can managers do to unite the staff and ensure that they are happy? It all starts with trust.

Building trust is vital in developing and sustaining customer relationships. But, that trust cannot be built unless your employees trust you first. How often do employees have to jump through a bunch of red tape to correct something for a customer? Does the customer have to go through several employees to get a small upset rectified? The leaders in customer experience trust their employees with the power to turn an unhappy customer into a happy one simply by empowering them to make decisions. This shows the customer that the business cares about them. It also shows the employee that they are trusted to make the right decisions. The Ritz Carlton chain of hotels does this to the tune of $2,500 per guest, per day!

Once you begin to establish trust with your employees, the next step is to analyze the environment in which your employees work and the environment that the customer perceives when they walk into your showroom or service drive. If a customer pulls into the service drive and is ignored and made to wait; while they perhaps see overflowing trash cans, messy technicians that look miserable standing out back smoking cigarettes; do you think that is going to build confidence in your dealership? No. Not only that — if your employees are doing this, you can bet that they are not happy and feeling fulfilled at work.

Take a step back and really look at the environment that your service employees are working in. Is their workplace friendly, inviting and well lit? Some of the best service centers I’ve seen are ones where the service advisors and technicians are very busy. But, they are always friendly and out to make friends, not enemies. They are happy and satisfied with their jobs. In nearly every case these successful service departments are busy because the employees have been given the tools and technology they need to better manage their duties and be more efficient. These tools free them up to do proper meet and greets, spend the time needed with a customer and to quickly provide those customers with the solutions they are looking for. The ability to quickly address customer concerns about service or payment issues creates happier customers. This in turn provides greater job satisfaction for the employee, as they feel better about their performance.

One of the primary responsibilities of management is to ensure that employees have the resources they need to solve problems, right at their fingertips. Removing any obstacles that prevent employees from performing their job responsibilities efficiently should be a priority.

If your dealership could improve in this area, start by studying the barriers that prevent employees from doing a good job with customers. If the service drive is getting a lot of traffic at a certain time of the day, have a look at the traffic and see if you can find a solution to help speed things up. Or, are there some tasks that could be taken out of the advisor’s hands that they don’t necessarily have to do? Take a look at some of the new technologies out there that can streamline the service department such as automatic alignment machines; fully integrated online service appointment scheduling systems that help load balance your service bays; mobile tools for inspections and vehicle walk arounds; and digital systems that help identify guests for the advisors and pre-load all the customer and vehicle information. In addition, many advisors spend a great amount of time trying to reach customers to get approval for service recommendations. Ensure that advisors have multiple channels – text, email and phone — to communicate with customers. This increases the likelihood that the customer is reached, responds faster, and that the vehicle gets repaired on time, making for a happy customer.

Most people work to live rather than live to work. Knowing the importance of happy, healthy employees, why not develop programs that incentivize employees outside of their work. Do you offer programs that help them stay healthy? Are there opportunities for advancement available for them to work towards?

Too often we get so focused on hitting goals that we forget about the people who drive those numbers. Remember, many studies prove that happy employees are more productive and add to your bottom line. So, take the time and invest in the wellbeing of your employees. This transfers into customer satisfaction. And, when you have both, there is no greater ROI to be had.

 

 


 

execs_tony

About The Author: Tony Orlando is CFS’ Vice President of Partner Development.  More than 15 years Automotive retail, OEM and third-party lead provider experience. Two years dealership sales and service experience and 13 years with both import and domestic OEMs. This is Tony’s second automotive startup company. He spent three years with TrueCar cultivating its business in the Southwest states. Maintains relationship with over 600 franchised automotive dealers and industry leaders. Tony has a Business Administration and Marketing degree from Mary Washington College Fredericksburg, VA.

 

Legal Disclaimer: The application generally takes 2-3 minutes. CFS will promptly fund the repair amount once repairs are completed and documents are executed. All loans are subject to approval pursuant to standard underwriting criteria. The CFS 60-Day Interest Free Program applies to approved customers who pay their entire loan off on time with no missed payments. Available amounts, terms and the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will be based on an evaluation of your credit history and your state of residence. The interest rate is fixed for the life of the loan and could range from 9.99% to 36.00% APR.

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20Jan

Why the Fuss Over Customer Retention?

Our world is certainly changing. Due to technology and the ability to access incredible amounts of information, the consumer purchase cycle is completely different to that of just a decade ago. And, the dealership market area has changed too. Technology now enables dealerships on each coast to compete with each other for new sales. You no longer have to simply worry about the competitor down the street. Naturally, this gives consumers great choice. As a result, we are seeing an industry-wide increase in awareness about the importance of customer retention.

Here are a few things I believe have contributed to the return of customer retention to the spotlight and how to use them to your benefit to stand out from the crowd:

Explosion of Social Networks –  Imagine if a news truck pulled up to your dealership and started broadcasting. It would definitely provide a sense of urgency to ensure that your dealership is presented in the best light. You’d probably be concerned and take immediate steps to find out what’s going on. You’d take action to put out whatever fire may exist to avoid any bad image in your community.

Well, the reality is that every customer with a smartphone now has a ‘virtual’ news truck in their hands. And it’s not just the community they can broadcast to… it’s the World. Consumers have the ability to reach mass audiences including their social networks through social media posts and live video… right at your dealership. As a result, the customer experience is more important than ever before. Today, it has to be a great customer experience for every customer, all of the time. News, both good and bad, travels fast. So, make sure it is good news. And keep up on your social networks. Make sure you know what is going on. Answer your customers’ questions and concerns on social media. Be a resource for your local community. Give them a reason to think AND talk well of you.

More Choice – In the past, consumers were limited to a small geographic region where they shopped for products and services. With the rise of the Internet, that geographic area is now limitless. With the simple click of a mouse, consumers can shop globally through marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay, with complete confidence. There is no way to combat that. It is the new reality. The one thing that has not changed is that customers will stick with businesses that deliver an exceptional customer experience. However, it’s no longer enough to deliver common courtesy. To stand out to the customer we must deliver “uncommon” courtesy. Take the time to establish what your customer’s want. What will make them drive by that other dealership onto your service drive, or into your showroom? What do you offer that is unique and different? Build up your image. Trust is extremely important to consumers, and that is one thing that is unlikely to change any time soon.  You can’t be everything to everybody and everybody isn’t who you should be worrying about. It’s your customers. Nobody understand them better than you. Figure out who your customers are and what they expect. If you don’t know, ask them.

Competition – An increase in consumer choice is logically accompanied by an increase in competition. It costs more than ever before to acquire new customers for the simple reason that the cost of marketing to them has increased. What is the cost of acquiring a new customer compared to the cost of keeping an existing customer? There is no definitive answer to this question, but most sources say the answer is that it costs between 4 and 10 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. Where would you rather spend your money? Don’t forget, the lifetime value of a customer includes everything they will ever buy from you today, tomorrow, and in the years ahead. How and what are you doing to retain your existing clients and customers? Do you have a system in place that will make your existing clients and customers raving fans of your business and a constant source of referrals for your business?

Customer Lifecycle – It hasn’t always been easy to accurately track and visualize a customer lifecycle. Technology and analytics have completely changed that. The customer lifecycle is now real and quantifiable. We can draw the circle of life on a graph and actually see the lifetime value of a customer with confidence and assign direct attribution to our marketing sources. It is now possible to see how much each customer means right now, as well as their value in the future. How often will they service their vehicle and how much will they spend? When will they purchase their next vehicle? What is their real lifetime value? Technology enables you to go beyond simply tracking them. You can now find breaks in that customer lifecycle. For those dealerships that are paying attention, you can notice aberrations quickly and take steps to intervene and perhaps save that customer from being lost to the competition.

Legacy Sales – I am sure that every dealership has customers that are an excellent source of referrals from their friends, associates and family members. In the past, these types of legacy sales were mostly limited to generations and family members. You would sell a car to grandma, then to mom and then to daughter. With the explosion of social networks, legacy sales now have an incredible potential of reaching deep into your customers’ social networks. This shift has increased the value of each customer relationship and the potential quantity of referral opportunities. It is yet another reason to ensure that your dealership has a vibrant and active social presence. Be sure to interact well with your customers via social media. Post quality content. Watch, listen for and answer customer posts, questions and comments on your social media.

Commodities – Your products and services are commodities. It’s no longer realistic to rest on your laurels simply because you’re the only Ford dealer in town. Whether you are or not, the fact is that consumers now have a huge variety of sources where they can research, purchase and service their vehicles. Failure to continuously provide them with a great experience and a reason to return will quickly drive them to your competition. Be sure to stand out and differentiate your dealership from any competition. A great customer experience doesn’t mean that you have to install a Starbucks in the lobby, discount all of your services or give away the farm. Simply give your customers every reason to do business with you by removing any reasons for them not to. And, be creative. Be a resource for your community. Offer car care clinics for mothers and check child safety seats for free. Hold technology days where you go over all those new tech features in the car. Partner with the top charity in your community and involve your customers. Whatever resonates with YOUR customers and YOUR community. Find these partnerships and embrace them and your customers will appreciate it.

So, why the fuss over customer retention? It’s certainly much easier these days for customers to defect to the competition. Take steps to evaluate your customer churn, identify pain points that may be causing them to leave and make an effort to remove the reasons for defection. Utilize the data you have in your DMS to identify at-risk customers and reach out to them. It might be too late. But, then again, it may not be. The only way to find out is to reach out to them. Endeavour to create a customer experience where each customer feels valued and appreciated – in whatever manner you are able. Be creative! If you are exceptional to them, you just may find that they will be exceptional right back.

 

 


 

execs_tony

About The Author: Tony Orlando is CFS’ Vice President of Partner Development.  More than 15 years Automotive retail, OEM and third-party lead provider experience. Two years dealership sales and service experience and 13 years with both import and domestic OEMs. This is Tony’s second automotive startup company. He spent three years with TrueCar cultivating its business in the Southwest states. Maintains relationship with over 600 franchised automotive dealers and industry leaders. Tony has a Business Administration and Marketing degree from Mary Washington College Fredericksburg, VA.

 

Legal Disclaimer: The application generally takes 2-3 minutes. CFS will promptly fund the repair amount once repairs are completed and documents are executed. All loans are subject to approval pursuant to standard underwriting criteria. The CFS 60-Day Interest Free Program applies to approved customers who pay their entire loan off on time with no missed payments. Available amounts, terms and the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will be based on an evaluation of your credit history and your state of residence. The interest rate is fixed for the life of the loan and could range from 9.99% to 36.00% APR.

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28Dec

Make Your Service Department the Cinderella Story

In most dealerships, the sales department is typically seen as the favorite child, despite the fact that it’s typically the service department that does all the heavy lifting and keeps the house in order. Because of that, sales is usually where new technologies, website widgets, leads and other digital expenditures are introduced. Just take a look at most dealership websites and you’ll find a sad absence of any real service presence – other than perhaps hours of operation, hidden in small print in some corner,  along with a basic service schedule form.

I get it. Acquiring new sales customers is a highly competitive business these days. As a result, dealers tend to focus the majority of their time crafting strategies to do just that. However, it is the service department that offers the greater opportunity to increased revenue — more than any other department. It just needs a little love and attention.

I’ve worked with hundreds of service departments over the years. Those that do well follow a few simple best practices that work. I thought I’d share a few processes that can transform your service department into a well-oiled and more profitable machine.

1.    Use Technology Well:
Dealerships that embrace technology in their service departments operate more efficiently with increased profitably. Technology can help your service department decrease average repair times and better manage the flow of service traffic. It can also increase technician productivity by reducing the amount of down time waiting for parts, or an approval from the customer on a service recommendation. A simple way to start is to monitor the workflow and processes in your service department and identify areas which slow down or halt work progress. This can help locate any pain points that affect the volume of service work your shop can handle. Once the pain points are discovered, look for technology to help. Or, consider making changes by implementing processes to better service your customers and complete more ROs within the same amount of time.

2.    Communication is Key:
How often do your service advisors play phone tag with customers to get service recommendations approved? Typically, the time between the inspection and actually reaching the customer for approval is far too long.

Offer multiple ways for your customers to contact and/or respond to a service advisor is key. While a customer may not be able to take a phone call at work, they can often easily answer an e-mail or text message. Internal communications are equally important. While most dealerships have a CRM to track activities pertaining to sales, not all have integrated their service department into their CRMs. Check with your CRM vendor to see what they offer, and train your service department well on its use. These type of systems allow relevant personnel to check vehicle status, see inspection results and service recommendations. It then becomes a much simpler process for the service department to more efficiently service the customer, answer any status-based question at a glance. It also creates a valuable record enabling advisors to offer more personalized service in future customer interactions. This tends to build trust — a more informed customer also means more approved recommendations and less declined services.

3.    Offer More Service Financing Options:
I bet a good number of your customers decline service repairs today, not because they don’t want them, or find them unnecessary – but for the simple reason, they cannot afford them.

Consider offering multiple ways for the customer to pay for service repairs. Integrate financing options into each process touchpoint: From the moment the customer pulls into your service drive, train your advisors to inform customers that financing options are available to them. The customer is then primed with the knowledge and may not be quite so hasty to decline the recommendations, opting instead to explore financing as a viable option. Copy the successful practices of department stores. Whenever the customer is ready to pay for repairs, train your employees to ask whether they would like to pay with cash, check, credit card or financing. Department stores use this process for a simple reason, it works.

While some OEMs have lines of credit available, these are typically reserved for tier one credit customers and may not be available to the majority of your existing customers. There are alternative financing options that extend credit to a wider range of customers including those with less than perfect credit. Investigate and adopt those that work best for your dealership. A customer may not be able to pay a $1,800 repair bill all at once. But in the ever growing, payment driven society we find ourselves in today, they could be more comfortable with a $75 per month payment option.

4.    Don’t Hide the Service Department on your Website:
According to a 2013 Google study, “The Road to Winning Drivers: What Drivers Want in Automotive Aftermarket Service,” each month, 70 million searches on Google were for aftermarket services. That’s sure to have grown over the last couple of years. However, most consumers have to turn to sources other than their local dealer’s website for information about their vehicle’s service needs. Look at many independent service facility websites and you will find robust information regarding the services they offer, along with some pricing for more basic maintenance services. Many offer blog articles and/or videos explaining the importance of different services as well. Update your website so that your service department presents online just as well as it does offline. Find a robust online appointment scheduling software that integrates well with your website, as well as internally in the shop. Have financing options highlighted.
Take steps now to give your service department the tools it needs for success in 2016 and beyond!

 

(This blog post was also featured on CBT News)

 

 


 

execs_tony

About The Author: Tony Orlando is CFS’ Vice President of Partner Development.  More than 15 years Automotive retail, OEM and third-party lead provider experience. Two years dealership sales and service experience and 13 years with both import and domestic OEMs. This is Tony’s second automotive startup company. He spent three years with TrueCar cultivating its business in the Southwest states. Maintains relationship with over 600 franchised automotive dealers and industry leaders. Tony has a Business Administration and Marketing degree from Mary Washington College Fredericksburg, VA.

 

Legal Disclaimer: The application generally takes 2-3 minutes. CFS will promptly fund the repair amount once repairs are completed and documents are executed. All loans are subject to approval pursuant to standard underwriting criteria. The CFS 60-Day Interest Free Program applies to approved customers who pay their entire loan off on time with no missed payments. Available amounts, terms and the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will be based on an evaluation of your credit history and your state of residence. The interest rate is fixed for the life of the loan and could range from 9.99% to 36.00% APR.

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11Dec

Better than a Credit Card

blogpost_salestalktracks

 

What sets CFS apart from other financing programs, more specifically a credit card?

 

The process of assessing the factors which either grant or deny a loan is called “underwriting.”  CFS subscribes to different set of underwriting guidelines than all other forms of credit, including a credit card.  In fact, these underwriting guideline are our own, developed right here within the walls of CFS.  In many cases,  with respect to a borrower’s credit score, CFS is able to go lower than a credit card.  This allows us to approve loans in situations where the borrower might otherwise be denied.

Another key advantage CFS has when compared to most other forms of financing is that our loans are “simple interest” rather than “compound interest.”  Credit cards are all compounding interest.  Credit card POS does not give interest rate specific to customer’s credit, so all consumers with credit cards get hit with the same high, compounding interest rate.

Credit cards are a line of credit, which is different from an unsecured, short-term loan.  With CFS, the consumer pays off the loan and is done with it.  The credit impact of paying off a short-term, unsecured loan is very positive as opposed to having an open line of credit that isn’t being used.  Open lines of credit can be a drain to your credit rating.

You can also view our complete FAQ section by clicking here.

 


 

execs_tony

About The Author: Tony Orlando is CFS’ Vice President of Partner Development.  More than 15 years Automotive retail, OEM and third-party lead provider experience. Two years dealership sales and service experience and 13 years with both import and domestic OEMs. This is Tony’s second automotive startup company. He spent three years with TrueCar cultivating its business in the Southwest states. Maintains relationship with over 600 franchised automotive dealers and industry leaders. Tony has a Business Administration and Marketing degree from Mary Washington College Fredericksburg, VA.

 

Legal Disclaimer: The application generally takes 2-3 minutes. CFS will promptly fund the repair amount once repairs are completed and documents are executed. All loans are subject to approval pursuant to standard underwriting criteria. The CFS 60-Day Interest Free Program applies to approved customers who pay their entire loan off on time with no missed payments. Available amounts, terms and the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will be based on an evaluation of your credit history and your state of residence. The interest rate is fixed for the life of the loan and could range from 9.99% to 36.00% APR.

Read More