I was talking with a distressed shop owner the other day, who was worried sick about his car count. He told me all the money he had spent recently on marketing efforts, trying to resolve the problem. “I’ve got mailers going out, my website is new, I don’t know what else I could be doing!” he lamented.
After asking him some basic questions regarding his marketing and advertising efforts, I asked him the following: “Do you track how many calls or walk-ins you get per week?” This made him pause, so I continued. “When someone calls your shop or comes in asking about your services, that is called a reach. What happens with that reach can mean the difference between eating well and starving. Marketing materials get the phone to ring, get customers and potential customers to visit your website or to stop by the shop. Once that person reaches it is up to sales to close the deal. These are two distinctly different areas of a business and they must be watched and kept track of carefully.
“Who is answering the phone in your shop and do they like sales or do they think of sales as a necessary evil?” That got his attention, because he did not know. “Can you help me with this?” he asked. I offered to set up some “mystery shoppers” to call and come in to his business to test the waters. I would get back with him once I had the results.
I set up a team to do a series of mystery shopper phone calls and had a friend of mine drop by the shop and pose as a potential customer. The end result was very revealing. This is what we found:
- The phone was not answered promptly and sometimes went to voice mail.
- One three different occasions when the phone was answered the person answering did not announce who they were and sounded rushed and impatient.
- When asked for a price on a repair we were put on hold and waited longer than a customer would normally wait. When the person came back on they quoted a price and then were not asked to set an appointment to bring the car in for an inspection. The person on the phone seemed bored with the whole process.
- On one occasion when calling to ask for a price on a repair we were immediately given a discount.
- We were left on hold and forgotten about.
- On one call we were asked to bring the car in, and when we politely declined the person on the phone called our caller a jerk as he hung up.
- The on-site mystery shopper stood at the front counter and was not acknowledged by anyone in the shop until he begged for help from someone walking by the front desk.
We then surveyed the people working on the front and found neither of the two had any professional training in the area of sales, and one of them did not like selling or having to deal with customers!
I went over the findings with the shop owner. He was shocked and a bit embarrassed. I told him to stop beating himself up, this wasn’t uncommon. Often a shop owner can be the last to know the true condition of the front once he stops actively running the day-to-day operation of the business.
Then I told him this key concept. “A shop can have a great advertising campaign, a very good looking, professional website and it will be all for naught and waste a ton of money if the shop has the wrong or untrained people on the front counter. THE PEOPLE ON THE FRONT WILL EITHER MAKE OR BREAK A BUSINESS!”
We went over a list of attributes that his front people needed to be successful and checked to see how they stacked up.
- They have to like people
- They have to enjoy the game of sales
- They have to be highly skilled at communication
- They have to know how to sell and close the deal
- They have to really care about the customers and the shop
- They have to enjoy responsibility
- The have to be organized
- They need to have good computer skills
Measuring his front people against this list, we came up with a solid plan to get his ship righted and went to work. We started monitoring his reaches and sales on a weekly basis, and started getting his guys grooved in on the “Good Attributes” and got them really selling!
The turn-around for this shop was not something that happened overnight, but is also did not take forever either, and the results where nothing short of miraculous.
I called the shop the other day and was greeted promptly and professionally by a cheerful individual who was a joy to speak with. The results of a follow-up round of mystery shopping showed a 180 degree turn in the front, and the statistics prove it. Sales were up 26% and the owner is breathing a lot easier these days!