Helping Shop Owners grow into the successful entrepreneurs they imagine themselves to be.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Three Symptoms Of A Service Advisor Problem

The Three Symptoms Of A Service Advisor Problem


Eric M.  Twiggs

“It's easy to look back and see it, and it's easy to give the advice. But the sad fact is, most people don't look beneath the surface until it's too late.”    Wendelin Van Draanen

“Greg”, and I were struggling to figure out why his car count wasn’t improving.  He had ten five star google reviews.  When I “google searched” all of the primary automotive search terms for his area, I found him on the first page and in the top spot.

His website was so strong that I would send the link to my other clients as an example of what to do.  “Steve”, his service advisor had been with him for seven years and had forgotten more about the automotive business than the average person knew.

“So how is Steve performing?” I asked. “Eric, Steve isn’t the problem. He’s my most dependable employee!” In an effort to trust but verify,   I decided to have one of my fellow coaches call the shop posing as a customer in need of brake service. 

To my surprise, Steve made no attempt to get the caller’s name and phone number, or to invite him to the shop. I personally reviewed the results of the mystery call with Steve and he confirmed that he understood and committed to do better

In the following weeks, I had two different coaches conduct two additional phone shops, and the results were the same.  No attempts were made to invite the caller to the location. 

Business declined to the point where Greg had to lay Steve off and take over the service writer duties himself.  It took eight weeks to find a qualified replacement.  During this time span, the sales and car count trends took an interesting turn.

For the better!! When Steve was writing service the shop averaged $14,000 per week in sales with 35 cars.    Greg averaged $19,000 per week with 40 cars.  The only change to the business was Greg taking over at the counter.

Here’s what I learned from this experience:  Consistently bad phone shops are symptoms of a service advisor problem.  You may be thinking: “But Eric, it’s the holiday season and you’re being too hard on Steve.  Failing multiple phone shops isn’t a big problem.” 

Well, consider the following math:  Let’s assume that by focusing more on the phones you only acquired two additional customers per day that normally wouldn’t have come in.  

Over five days that’s ten customers.  If you have a $400 average repair order, that’s an additional $4,000 per week in revenue. (10 X $400=$4,000

By not answering the phones correctly, your writer would be costing you $208,000 in potential sales over fifty two weeks! ($4,000 X 52=$208,000)  This is why I live by the following motto:  If car count drops, do a phone shop. 

Failing multiple shops isn’t the only symptom.  Keep reading to learn about two more symptoms of a bad service advisor

Common Complaints

During the eight weeks that Greg covered the counter, he had a total of thirteen customer’s mention how they were glad to see Steve gone!  Several of these patrons commented that if Steve was still employed, they wouldn’t have come back. 

Greg was surprised because he only heard three customer complaints about Steve in the past six months.  All three mentioned that Steve was very short with them and came across as being rude.  Greg didn’t realize that these common complaints were just the tip of the iceberg.

A 2014 retail industry study concluded that 96% of unhappy customers will never complain. The study also found that 91% of these patrons will never return. 

To make matters worse, they will tell up to fifteen of their friends about their experience.  If you have three customers voicing the same concern, you have a much bigger problem brewing beneath the surface. 

Pay close attention to those common complaints you receive about your writer.  If three people who don’t know each other share the same opinion, it’s just tip if the iceberg, and the second symptom of a service advisor problem.

Blaming “They”

A few weeks ago, I was speaking with a service advisor who was in town attending class.   He told me that his shop was struggling to stay afloat.  When I asked him about using the parts matrix, he said “They think we’re too expensive.” 

When I suggested offering every customer an exit appointment, he responded:” “they don’t like to schedule in advance.”  I asked him about making follow-up calls to which he replied: “They think it’s too pushy”   The Twiggs translation for the word “they” is “I.” “They” is the signal of a limiting belief and a symptom of a service advisor problem. 

He was really saying “I think we’re too expensive”; “I don’t like to schedule in advance”; and “I think making follow up calls is being pushy.” 

I’ve discovered that 80% of a struggling shop leaders issues are due to mindset, with only 20% resulting from skill set.  In other words, how you think drives what you do.

Simply addressing skill set doesn’t solve the problem.  The key is to address their mindset by asking them to explain how your request is good for the car, the customer, and the company. 

This level of dialogue will give you the opportunity to address any limiting beliefs that are causing problems below the surface. 


So there you have it.  Consistently bad phone shops, common complaints, and blaming “they” are the three symptoms of a service advisor problem. 

If you address these issues head-on, making the top shop list will only be the tip of your success iceberg.  You will have more profit and happy customers beneath the surface!

Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS.  Email to receive a service advisor assessment checklist to help you overcome basic challenges before they become a bigger problem. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The One Critical Skill You Need To Succeed

 The One Critical Skill You Need To Succeed


Eric M. Twiggs

“Familiarity doesn’t breed contempt.  It breeds comfort.”  Howard Tullman

What is your picture of success?  In his book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move The World, Adam Grant uses the photo as a metaphor to answer this question.  On page seventy-seven, he communicates an interesting comparison between regular and inverted photos.

An inverted photo image is the same image you would see of yourself if you were looking in the mirror.  Tests were done with a group of people who were asked to look at both regular and inverted pictures of themselves and their friends.

They were then asked to choose which pictures they preferred.  The participants were required to pick at least one photo of themselves and one of their friends. 

When it came to their friends, people chose the regular images, but when selecting their own pictures, they chose the inverted/ mirror image every time!  So why did this happen and what does this have to do with you?

Well, this experiment proved that people tend to develop a preference for something merely because its familiar to them.  

The participants preferred their own mirror image while choosing the regular image of their friends because both represent what they saw the most.   This is known as the exposure effect. 

This applies whether you’re choosing photography or communicating your philosophy.     Since people prefer what they are familiar with, constantly repeating your message to the listener will increase their level of familiarity with your ideas. 

So, here’s the one critical skill you need:  The skill of finding different ways to say the same thing.  Stay with me to learn how this applies to both your people and your patrons. 

Your People

It’s no coincidence that I started with your people.  I agree with billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson when he says that your people come before your customers because if you take care of people, they in turn will take care of the customer. 

Constantly repeating your customer service philosophy, will increase the likelihood that your employees will execute the mission.

As I mentioned earlier, the key is to find different ways to say the same thing. Let’s say your goal is to communicate the fact that exceptional customer service is your top priority.

You can start with your monthly meeting where you publicly recognize those who go above and beyond to exceed expectations.  Since you tend to get more of whatever behavior you reward, recognizing exceptional customer service will inspire others to go the extra mile.  

Next, you schedule weekly one on ones where you review CSI scores and discuss strengths and improvement opportunities.  From there,conduct daily morning huddle meetings where you recognize the top performers from the previous day and set expectations for the current day. 

The combination of the daily, weekly and monthly meetings, and your formal recognition program, have given you several different ways to say the same thing.  It’s easier for your people to execute when they are familiar with the message. 

Your Patrons

Studies show that the average consumer is getting inundated with over 3500 marketing messages a day.   TV commercials, radio spots, email newsletters, billboard signs, text message promos, and your oil change mailer, are all competing for your customer’s attention

Patrons with an overwhelming number of choices, will default to the familiar option.  Therefore, it’s critical to “touch” them a minimum of nine to twelve times throughout the year with marketing messages to avoid being lost in the fog. 

Calling Mrs. Jones with the Honda twelve times in the next twelve days may lead to you getting served with a restraining order! 

 This makes finding different ways to send the same message important.  Always calling may feel excessive, but a “thank you” call, Facebook post, email blast, text reminder, and blog post, will keep you top of mind and keep you from looking like a stalker.

These different modes of marketing allow you to communicate your philosophy, and for your patrons to become familiar with your offerings.   When they have a service need, they will be more likely to choose you.


In the book, I mentioned earlier, Adam Grant points out that people need to be exposed to an idea anywhere from ten to twenty times before they like it.

This makes finding different ways to say the same things to your people and patrons the one critical skill you need to succeed. 

When I did the above-mentioned picture experiment, I chose my inverted photo and the regular picture of you becoming a Top Shop!


Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS.  Struggling to find different ways to say the same things to your patrons?  Email to receive my PowerPoint presentation titled: “Mastering The Fundamentals of Car Count.”

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

What's The Biggest Threat To Your Progress?

What's The Biggest Threat To Your Progress?


Eric M. Twiggs

“If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try” Seth Godin

Join me as we journey through a typical morning in my life.  I make my first call to a new client named “Richard”.  I notice he’s had the same $70 labor rate for the past three years.  “Richard, it’s time to increase your labor rate.” I suggest.  “I can’t do that coach.   My customers are on a fixed income and can’t afford to pay more.” 

My next call is with “Susan”, who has been in the program for nine months.  “Susan, what are you doing to find the “A” technician to replace yourself in the shop?”  “Eric, I can’t advertise for technicians now, because we’re going into our slow season and I won’t have the work to support him. Besides, what if my other techs find out that I’m looking?” 

Moments later I call “Larry”, who has been on-board for one year. “Larry, have you located the service manager to free you up from working the counter?” To which he replied “My customers ask for me by name. Besides, that service manager I hired four years ago didn’t work out! 

What do Richard, Susan, and Larry have in common?  They have each become a victim of “the oppressor.”

The oppressor is the voice in your head that shows up to talk you out of progressing beyond your current level.  In the animated movie world, whenever the lead character is facing a difficult decision, little angels appear on each shoulder offering advice.

The red angel offers guidance that would keep the hero from achieving his goal.  The oppressor is like the red angel on your shoulder that talks you out of taking risks.

The oppressor is your biggest threat, because you can’t make progress without taking risks. 

So what can you do to defeat that voice of doubt?   Keep reading to learn two strategies to overcome the voice of the oppressor.

Name Your Oppressor

We are always having internal conversations with ourselves.  In his book What To Say When You Talk to Yourself,  Dr. Shad Helmstetter describes this mental dialog as “self-talk”.   He goes on to say that because of our programming since birth, 75% or more of our self-talk is negative.  

We’re programmed to avoid pain, so we tend to talk ourselves out of activities that force us to stretch and leave our comfort zone.

Remember sitting through shop owner’s class when Randy mentioned using the pricing matrixes, and you thought to yourself “This won’t work in my area!” That my friend, was the little red angel doing the talking.

You can’t overcome an oppressor that you’re unaware of.  Giving this voice a name will make you aware of when it shows up.  For example, let’s say you named your oppressor “Oliver”. 

When you start hearing the following statements: “My shop is different”; “I’ll look for my replacement once business picks up”; “I don’t have $50 to spend on a visit frequency report”; and “going up to an $80 labor rate will put me out of business.”, you’ll know that Oliver is doing the talking.

Consider The Consequences

The story is told of a man and his dog sitting on the porch.  The dog is whining, whimpering and groaning.  The neighbor walks by and asks:” Hey what’s with your dog?” To which the man replied: “Oh that’s just Fido, he’s lying on a nail.” To which the neighbor replied: “Well, why doesn’t Fido get off the nail?”  The man on the porch had the classic response:  “He’s not moving because it doesn’t hurt enough yet!”

Like Fido, we aren’t motivated to move until the pain of staying the same, exceeds the pain of making the change.  When you hear the oppressor talking, ask yourself the following question: What are the consequences of staying the same? 

Implementing the parts matrix may be painful, but not having the finances to retire in style, will hurt more.  It hurts to look for your replacement, but being at the shop while your son plays his football games will cause more pain.

Asking for the exit appointment can be painful.  Losing your good customers to the competitor you despise, will hurt as well. 

Considering the consequences will motivate you to move when the voice of doubt starts talking to you.


So, there you have it.  Naming your oppressor and considering the consequences will help you to drown out the voice of doubt.  I challenge you to overcome the biggest threat to your progress. 


Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS.  Will 2017 be the year you overcome the biggest threat to your progress?  Email to receive your 2017 goal setting template. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Do You Need To Move From Awareness To Action?

Do You Need To Move From Awareness To Action?


Eric M. Twiggs

“It’s not about what you know, it’s about what you do.”  Corbett Barr

“Do you always take the action that you know you need to take?”    As I reflect on this question, I’m reminded of a scene from my favorite movie “The Matrix”.   There was a pivotal point in the picture where Neo, the lead character, is having a conversation with Morpheus his coach.

I refer to Morpheus as a coach because throughout the film, he had been coaching Neo to overcome his limiting beliefs and to embrace what he was truly capable of.   In the scene, Neo confirms that everything Morpheus had been telling him was true. 

Neo finally knows the path.  But before he could become overconfident, Morpheus reminds him of the following truth: “There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” 

The fact that you attend coaching calls, classes, and conferences, proves that you know the path. You have an awareness of what to do.  

But sometimes, there’s a disconnect between what you know and what you do.  So, what can you do to move yourself and your team from awareness to action?  Since you chose the red pill, I will explain!  


In a previous life, I was a frustrated Corporate Trainer.   Every week I would facilitate a phone training class, where the service writers were tested at the end, to verify their ability to execute the phone script like they were taught. 

 I recall one of the writers named “Ray” who passed my class with flying colors.   He then went back to his location and failed three consecutive mystery phone shops! 

Consequently, the manager sent him back to my class, citing the training as the reason for Ray’s failures.  Ray knew the path, he simply chose not to walk it.  

Accountability is the bridge between awareness and action.  The first step to ensuring that your writers do what they know, is to record ALL incoming and outgoing phone calls. 

The incoming calls will verify that they are following the phone script like they were taught in class.  The outgoing calls will confirm whether they are presenting the estimates correctly. 

Once you have recorded the calls, the next step is to sit down with “Ray the writer” and have him tell you how his recording compares to what he was taught. 

If he can tell you what he did wrong, you know he’s aware, but not acting.    Ray will leave the conversation feeling accountable and with additional motivation to do what he knows the next time.  


In the National Football League, (NFL) the average player spends two hours of practice time, for every minute of game time. During a typical week,

 A starting player may play a total of thirty minutes of actual game time, but he spends close to sixty hours reviewing film, lifting weights, practicing drills, and doing a walk-through of the game plan. 

In the Automotive Service League, (ASL) we tend to practice on the prospects!   

Practice gives you the opportunity to verify that your people know what to do.   For example, after “Sarah”, your service manager returns from advanced sales class, have her sell you a 30K service.  You’ll know right away if she has the “know how.”

Sometimes, the individual is aware, but lacks confidence because the behavior is new and feels awkward.  Repetition builds confidence.

I challenge you to schedule time blocks on your calendar each week to practice and role play with your team. This could be worked in as part of the weekly one-on-ones you already have scheduled. 

Role playing the process on a regular basis, will increase the chances of them acting on what they know to do.    


Throughout the movie, Morpheus referred to Neo as “The One”.  If you embrace accountability by recording the calls, and commit to regular practice sessions, you and your people will be the ones who move from awareness to action. 


Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS.  Interested in recording phone calls, but don’t know where to begin?  Email and I will send you a listing of call recording options. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

How To Maintain Your Momentum

How To Maintain Your Momentum


Eric M. Twiggs

“Nothing fails like success. Because when you are at the top, it’s so easy to stop doing the very things that brought you to the top” Robin Sharma

Imagine for a moment that you’re a NASA astronaut.  Just being selected makes you a success, considering they only pick one person for every six hundred applications received.  The years of study, service, and sacrifice have finally paid off, and now it’s time for your mission. 

You strap into your seat, adjust your gauges and prepare for take-off.   In your headset, you hear “five, four, three, two, one, liftoff!”

The rocket shoots in the air and you are headed for the skies!   Before you reach outer space, you make a fateful decision.   You decide to take your finger off the jets and start coasting, believing you have already made it to the next level. 

Sadly, your miscalculation of the how much momentum you needed, would cause you to come crashing back to earth.   You may be thinking: “Cute story Coach, but what does this have to do with me?”

Like the astronaut, you’ve invested years of study, service and sacrifice, to get where you are.  You have profit in your pocket, and making payroll is no longer a problem. 

According to a recent Forbes Magazine study, 67% of small business owners are either breaking even or losing money so like the astronaut, you’ve beaten the odds.    As a shop owner, you are flying higher than you ever thought possible.  

Here’s the big takeaway from the rocket illustration:  You’re either pressing forward or plunging backwards.  Therefore, bad things happen when you take your finger off the jets.  So, what can you do to maintain your momentum?  Don’t take-off before I explain! 

Play The “What If” Game

Back when I was a district manager, I recall experiencing a period of success that caused me to ease up.   I was winning awards because of our KPI rankings, and was fully staffed in each location. Since I had the right people in place, I put my habits of running ads and visiting competitors on hold.

But everything changed when my best manager, who was running my most difficult location, handed me his resignation letter.   Since I had stopped searching and sourcing, it took six months to find a qualified replacement. 

Thus, I had to spend more time at this location, which caused me to lose focus on the bigger picture.  Since I stopped pressing forward, the district started plunging backwards.  This experience taught me to always play “the what if” game.

On a weekly basis, I asked myself the following question: “What if I lost my best manager tomorrow? Answering this question every week, kept me from getting comfortable and forced me to prepare for the worst-case scenario. 

Here are some “what if” questions for you: “What if your best technician never comes back from his lunch break today?” “What if you experienced an emergency that forced you to be away from your shop for thirty days?” “What if you lost your best and biggest fleet account?” 

Playing the weekly "what if" game will motivate you to keep your finger on the jets!

Set 90 Day Stretch Goals

We use the benchmarks in the ATI portal to establish stretch goals. Every 90 days we review your performance in comparison to these benchmarks.  I once had a client named “Kim” and every quarter, she was either meeting or exceeding her sales target. 

I would suggest that we increase the goal, and she would always push back, saying the new target was too aggressive.  After five minutes of debate, she would give in and I would “raise the bar.” 

We engaged in this healthy debate every quarter for two years until one day we realized she had doubled her weekly sales volume!  The debates ended as she looked at her completely green portal screen.    Having the stretch goal motivated Kim to keep reaching for the next level. 

What are you reaching for?  I challenge you to establish at least three specific & measurable goals you expect to accomplish within the next 90 days.   If you’re struggling to come up with goals, try beginning with the end in mind. 

Here’s how it works: Imagine that it’s February 16th 2017, and you’re bragging about having the best quarter in the history of your business.  What three things would need to happen for you to feel this way?


So, there you have it.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that playing the what if game, and setting 90 day stretch goals will help you to maintain your momentum.      I challenge you to keep reaching for the next level.  You may not get to the moon, but you will be surrounded by stars!


Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS. Looking to set 90 day goals but don’t know where to begin?  Email and I will send you a goal setting tool to help you analyze the eight key areas of your life. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What's Holding You Back? A Two Word Answer

What's Holding You Back? A Two Word Answer


Eric M. Twiggs

                                  “When nothing is sure, everything is possible” Margaret Drabble

There’s one fundamental issue that prevents shop leaders from getting to the next level.   I ran into this issue several weeks ago while having a conversation with a service manager named “Paul.”  Paul had done poorly on three consecutive phone shops and the owner was getting frustrated. 

He had been through our service advisor training class and was trained on the importance of offering everyone who calls with a service inquiry an appointment.  Paul and I listened to three different recordings of the incoming calls, and each time he failed to offer the appointment. 

“Eric, you don’t understand. When the customers come in for their appointment, they always complain about not being able to get immediate service.”  I responded by asking him: “How many appointments have you scheduled this month? He replied with a tone of confidence: “TEN!” 

“Great Paul. How many of those customers have voiced this complaint?”  After a long awkward silence, Paul came back with the following response: TWO.   Paul’s problem with the phones can be summed up with two words: LIMITING BELIEF!

In a previous blog, I made you aware of a concept known as confirmation bias.   This occurs when you use a small sampling of information to confirm what you believe, while ignoring the overwhelming evidence that tells a different story.  

Paul’s limiting belief about the process was the problem.  So much so that he used the two complaints to confirm his way of thinking while ignoring the other eight happy customers. 

Think about an aspect of your business that has been a constant struggle for you.  What story do you use to justify your results in this area?  For example, if hiring technicians is your struggle, your story may be: “there aren’t any good tech’s in my area.”   Paul’s story was: “my customers always complain about not getting immediate service.”

I have some bad news: Your story is a limiting belief.  I can say this because, every day I speak with a shop owner who’s having success in your area of struggle, while dealing with the same obstacles as you.  The good news, is that by reading on, you will learn two keys to help you to overcome your limiting beliefs.   

It’s Never “Them”

Whether the topic is parts margins, exit appointments, or car count, most of the stories I hear point the blame at someone outside of the story teller. 

The following are the most common examples: “My customers don’t have the money”; “My customers don’t like to be exit scheduled”; “It’s an election year and customers are scared to spend money.  The first key to overcoming your limiting belief is to realize that the problem is never “them”. 

Taking ownership of your challenge creates possibilities, while limiting beliefs limit your options.  After all, why would you risk trying a new solution to a problem you believe you aren’t responsible for?  

The advantage of YOU being the problem, is that YOU also become the solution.  The realization that you have control, can motivate you to explore options you wouldn’t have considered otherwise. 

When you take responsibility for the parts margins, you will look for opportunities to improve your selling skills. When you take the blame for the lack of exit appointments, you’ll think about ordering the mystery envelopes.

When you become responsible for car count, you’ll be inspired to start networking with retirement / assisted living communities who are looking for a shop they can trust.   I challenge you to remove “them” from your story. 

Seek Progress Instead of Perfection

You will never receive 100% customer approval for any ATI initiative you implement.  If you follow the phone script to the tee, there will still be someone refusing to make an appointment.  

You can watch all thirty one of the selling webinars we have in the resource center, and still have customers decline your estimate presentation. The second key to overcoming your limiting belief is to seek progress instead of perfection.    In other words, don’t let perfect become the enemy of progress. 

Closely measuring your performance will help to shift your focus.  For example, let’s say your writer is upset about how many customers decline his up-sell attempts. He feels frustrated because he’s not experiencing the 100% success rate he expected. 

Once you start tracking his performance on the daily tracker, he’ll realize that he’s selling 50% of what the technician finds compared to the national average of 40%.

As you review his performance weekly during your one on ones, he improves to 60% and is now selling at best practice levels.  The constant measurement shifted his focus from perfection to progress. 


Paul blamed is customers for his phone performance and used feedback from a limited sample size to confirm his limiting beliefs.   If you embrace the fact that it’s never them, and seek progress instead of perfection, you will stop holding yourself back! 


Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS.  Now that we have addressed those limiting beliefs, you are ready for a checklist of innovative car count ideas.  Email and I will send it to you.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

How To Bounce Back From Your Setback

How To Bounce Back From Your Setback


Eric M. Twiggs


                                            “Your setback is a setup for a comeback” Dr. Willie Jolley

So, there I was, managing a $3.5 million-dollar shop in Largo Maryland.  For three months, I had a pressing need to hire another technician. While my colleagues and competitors complained about car count, I struggled to get the cars out that I had!  But things were about to change, because “Steve” had just accepted my offer to become the “A” Technician. 

Steve graduated of Lincoln Tech, had all the industry certifications, and had a following of customers that he promised to send my way.   He passed his drug test and background check with flying colors.  During the reference checks, Steve’s previous employers told me they would hire him back in a heartbeat.  I was looking forward to having him on my team. 

Two weeks later he reported to work.  I watched him during the morning shift as he completed several jobs under book time.  As he clocked out and went to lunch, I patted myself on the back for making such a great hire. 

Two hours later, my assistant manager asked the following question that changed my mood: “Do you know where Steve is?”  Later, at 5:00pm, we were still asking the same question.   Steve never came back from his lunch break!  What a setback!

Whenever “Joe” my district manager, asked about my technician staffing levels, I would remind him about Steve’s extended break.   Joe seemed to get annoyed each time, and I didn’t know why. 

Then I read the following quote from the book Grit  by Angela Duckworth that gave me the answer: “Don’t let a temporary setback become a permanent excuse.”   For me, Losing Steve had become a permanent excuse.

Have you been allowing a temporary setback to become a permanent excuse?  This mentality will make it harder for you to bounce back.  The key to making a comeback is to embrace an ALWAYS mindset. 

The owner with the “always mindset”, is always preparing for the worst-case scenario.  Anticipating a possible setback gives you the opportunity to bounce back faster, and may prevent the setback from occurring.    Below are two areas of the shop where you can apply this mentality. 

ALWAYS Be Hiring

Every week I communicate with a shop leader who calls me in a panic because of the surprise resignation of their best employee.    In most cases, these leaders rejected the idea of “always be hiring” when it was initially presented to them. 

The most consistent concerns I hear are as follows: “What do I say to people, I don’t want to hire?”; “What will my current employees think?”; and “Will my customers lose confidence in us if I post a hiring sign?”  Instead of voicing these concerns consider the following question:   If today, your best employee takes a lunch break that lasts a lifetime, how long would it take you to bounce back?   

That uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach is confirmation that you should always be hiring.  When you find a great candidate, ask her about the other great people she knows. 

Once she accepts your offer, continue to refresh your ads and keep your hiring signs in place.  Over time, this will give you an extensive list of candidates to contact if you had to fill a sudden opening.   

Many great candidates are lost during the two weeks between acceptance and start date, because most owners think they’re done once the candidate says yes.  This is the perfect time to display the always mindset  I recommend doing a welcome dinner where you meet at a restaurant with the candidate and their spouse/significant other.

A University of Chicago study concluded that similar food consumption leads to increased trust and to increases in cooperative behavior.    Maybe Steve would have returned from his break if I had done a welcome dinner to establish trust.  I should have embraced the always mindset. 

ALWAYS Be Marketing

Several years ago, I worked with a client who experienced a major decrease in business.  He was down 25% in gross sales, and losing money on the bottom line.  

Whenever I asked him about his future, he would spend twenty minutes reminding me about the major fleet account he lost the previous year.  This pattern continued for several weeks until one day out of frustration, I interrupted him in mid-sentence.  

I asked what he had done since the previous call to attract additional fleet business.  All I heard was the sound of silence.   He had allowed a temporary setback to become a permanent excuse.   If you’re ALWAYS marketing, you will sing a different tune, instead of sounding like a broken record. 

The best place to start is with your existing customers.  According to the American Marketing Association, 68% of all business is lost because of a failure to follow-up. 

It’s easier to stay in touch than it is to get in touch.  In other words, if you’re consistently communicating with your customers via social media, text messaging, phone calls, and emails, you stand a greater chance of becoming their shop of choice.

If you’re ALWAYS communicating with the fleets in your area, losing an account will not be as devastating because of the other relationships you’ve developed. 

When was the last time you delivered cookies or donuts? What special promotion have you offered the fleet employees for their personal vehicles?  Have you offered the fleet manager who says he’s loyal to another shop, a $100 credit as a trial gift?    

If you answered YES to all three, you are positioned to bounce back, and you may prevent a setback from happening!


To this day, I wonder what happened to Steve.  I’ll bet he’s working for a shop owner who rebounded from a surprise resignation, by hiring him.   If you embrace the “always mindset”, you can bounce back from your setback as well.  


Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS.  Does the thought of suddenly losing your best employee keep you up at night?  Email to receive an “Always Be Hiring Checklist” so that you rest easy. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

How To Attract Your Ideal Customer

How To Attract Your Ideal Customer


Eric M. Twiggs

“Look at everything as if you were seeing it either for the first or last time. “Betty Smith

Several weeks ago I took my car to a local tire retailer to resolve a slow leak.  As soon as I arrived at the service counter, it became obvious that “Jeff”, the service writer, didn’t want my business.

He didn’t smile, didn’t greet me, but he did say the following: “Sir, I need you to step to the other side of the counter because I’m with a customer.”  After several minutes it was my turn and I made him aware of my tire situation.

“Sir, I won’t be able to get to it today.  We’re backed up with other work.” To which I replied: “But Its 5:55pm and your sign says you close at 7:00!”  He became more insistent: “I can’t get to it.  My guys are loaded up, so there’s nothing I can do.” 

Jeff was clear on what he couldn’t do.  What he didn’t know, was that “Glen”, the District Manager for the location, and I were friends.   I decided this would be a great time to give him a call to catch up on old times. 

I told Glen that I was at his shop and Jeff couldn’t look at my tire.  He advised me to go back to the counter and give Jeff my phone.  The look on Jeff’s face was priceless as I handed him my cell and said: “Glen Franklin would like to speak with you!”  I don’t know what Glen said, but Jeff suddenly became a different person.   “Mr. Twiggs my apologies, I’ll have my guys stay late and we’ll get you taken care of!”

His team worked on my car with the speed of a NASCAR pit crew!    He treated me like a VIP.   As I left the shop, I wrestled with the following question:  What if Jeff treated every customer like they were close friends with his boss? 

Here's the big takeaway: You never know who will walk through your doors.   The lady with the old car may have new money.  That irate fellow you just spoke with may have an Instagram following.  The key to attracting your ideal customer is to assume that everyone is a VIP. 

This is important because VIP’s associate with others who are like them, and studies show that the customer who’s” wowed” is three times more likely to refer you than one who’s merely satisfied.    

Stay with to learn two specific strategies to help attract your ideal customer. 

Tailored Recognition

Discretionary effort is that extra level of effort that’s not required, but can be given by employees if they really wanted to.   Helping a customer with a flat tire after closing hours, would be an example of discretionary effort.    In his book Bringing Out The Best In People, Aubrey Daniels reports on an employee engagement survey conducted on a sampling of employees working in small businesses. 

Only 23% of the participants said they were working to their fullest potential.   44% of the respondents admitted to only doing what was required and nothing more.  Jeff from my previously mentioned story, would fall into the 44% group.  So what can be done to get your people to go the extra mile?

A tailored recognition program is a great place to start, because you will get more of whatever behavior you reward.  If you want to create a culture where everyone goes the extra mile, then implement a recognition program that rewards those who do.  The key is to tailor the recognition you provide to the interests of your employee.

Is your writer a football fan? Then recognize her raving customer testimonial by giving her tickets to the Ravens game.  Is your technician motivated by time off?  Surprise him with a day off with pay for staying after hours to help a stranded customer.  When discretionary effort is consistently rewarded, your customer will feel like a VIP.  

Formal CSI Program

In a previous blog, I wrote about the importance of being self-aware, as it relates to keeping good employees.    When it comes to providing VIP level service, the shop owner who is self-aware has the ability to look at his shop through the lens of his customer. Having a system in place to get feedback on their experience is critical. 

Do you have a formal CSI (Customer Satisfaction Index) program in place?  Many of the shops I work with pay an outside company to randomly contact their customers and ask specific questions related to their experience. 

The customer is asked to rate their experience in several areas based on either a five or ten-point scale.  The total number of respondents are averaged to come up with an overall  score. This number is a key indicator of whether or not your customers are being treated like VIP’s.

If you prefer to do it yourself, you can make random CSI calls asking specific questions.  I recommend having someone who didn’t wait on the person to make this call.  People are more likely to open up to someone they perceive to be neutral to the situation.

You can also use Survey Monkey to create questions that you email out to your patrons.  Generally, those who respond to survey’s without any prompting are either in the extremely happy or extremely dissatisfied group, so offering an incentive for responding will help you to get feedback from those who aren’t in one of the extreme groups. 


As I was leaving the shop, Jeff said: “You should have told me you knew Glen.”  To which I replied: “I shouldn’t have to!”    If you commit to a tailored recognition and formal CSI program, your people will be motivated to treat your customers as if they were the boss.    


Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS. Interested in a CSI program but don’t know where to start?  Email and I will send you a list of questions to ask along with a listing of companies that can survey your customers.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

What Are You Tolerating?

What Are You Tolerating?


Eric M. Twiggs

“What you allow is what will continue”   

Are you holding your people accountable?  When I was a district manager for a national automotive chain back in 2001, I would have answered this question with a definite “YES!”.  After all, I always “preached” the right things.   

During team meetings, I preached about the habit of filling out a courtesy check for every customer.  I preached about the importance of wearing safety glasses and safety toed boots while working in the shop.  I would preach to the writers about doing a vehicle walk around at the car with each customer.

“Mike”, The National Vice President of Operations, was scheduled to visit my shops and audit the previously mentioned processes.  Since I had given my people specific direction of what to do, I was looking forward to the upcoming visit. 

We visited three locations, and I watched with growing despair as my people failed to fill out the courtesy checks, wear the safety equipment, or do the vehicle walk arounds!  I found myself repeating the following phrase throughout the day: “Mike, I told them to do it!” 

After this visit, I wondered what I could have done to make the message clearer.  I now realize that my problem was best summed up by the former Navy Seal and author Jocko Willink, when he said: “It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.”

I may have preached about doing courtesy checks, but my failure to confront the technician who handed me a blank form, sent a different message.   I was tolerating non-compliance.

What are you tolerating? This is an important question because your silence is your acceptance.  How you respond to non-compliance is where the rubber meets the road. 

A one-hour meeting without follow up and follow though, is an hour of your life that you just wasted! Keep reading to learn two simple strategies to help you hold your people accountable. 


When I worked for the national automotive chain, we had something we called “the flavor of the month.”   This was when the corporate leadership would communicate what they believed was a game changing directive.  For thirty days this initiative was preached during conference calls and store visits. 

Employees were told that compliance was mandatory and that the failure to comply was a career limiting move.  An example of this was the directive to place the work orders in special plastic pouches and to hang the pouches on the customer’s driver side mirror, once the vehicle was in the bays.

After about forty days however, things changed.  The initiative was no longer enforced and the leader would walk past a technician failing to hang the pouch, with no reaction. 

The experienced employees knew that eventually the focus would change, because the directive was just “the flavor of the month.”   Since there was no consistency, there was no accountability.
Holding your weekly one on one meetings at the same day and time is a great way to leverage the power of consistency

Pick two or three standards that you constantly preach about, but struggle to get compliance on. Make a point to keep those three items on your agenda every week. 

For example, if exit appointments are your struggle, get in the habit of asking your writer how many appointments he has scheduled since the last meeting.  He will get the message that the exit appointment isn’t just the flavor of the month, and will dread having to tell you he’s non-compliant every week.  


I was talking with a shop owner named “Laura” recently who was blaming her people for the shop falling short of its benchmarks.  She said she has regular team meetings, but her technicians are still failing to arrive to work on time. 

I asked her what the consequence was for those who failed to do what she asked.   There was silence on the other end of the phone!  Before laughing at Laura, consider the following scenario: If I work for you and am not doing what you ask, what are the consequences? 

The progressive disciplinary process is the best place to start.  Let’s say, the issue is that as your employee, I am late to work every day. 

The first step of the process is the verbal warning.   Acknowledging that you noticed I was late, reminding me of the importance of timeliness, and asking if you can count on me to be punctual, will certainly get my attention. 

If I continue to come in late, the net step in the process is the write up.   With the first write up, it’s important to notate the day and time of the verbal warning.  This shows a pattern of poor performance. 

Once you have a verbal warning and three write ups, you will have provided consequences for non-compliance, and have the necessary documentation to terminate the employee.    For additional information on the progressive disciplinary process, contact SESCO at 1 800 764 4127.   


So there you have it.  Leveraging the power of consistency and providing consequences for non-compliance, will enhance your ability to hold people accountable. 

My visit with Mike would have gone better if I had embraced these strategies.   What do you need to stop tolerating? 

Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS.   Don’t know what to say during your weekly one on ones?  Email  to receive a weekly on one meeting agenda.