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

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.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

How To Build Your Business on Hidden Diamonds

How To Build Your Business on Hidden Diamonds


Eric M. Twiggs

 Sometimes what you want is right in front of you. All you have to do is open your eyes and see it.”  Meg Cabot

How do you build your business on hidden diamonds? I pondered this question after reading a passage from the book Acres of Diamonds, by  Russel Conwell.  He tells the story of an old farmer who had done well in life but wasn’t satisfied.  One day he heard that a number of other farmers had gone off in search of diamond mines and become instant millionaires. 

He decided to sell his farm and go out to find his own treasure.  He searched the African continent for thirteen years without success.  Sadly, in a fit of despair, he gave up and threw himself into the ocean and drowned. 

Back at his old farm the new owner was out feeding the mule one day and noticed a rock beneath the creek that had a strange light to it.  He took the rock to an expert who confirmed it to be a priceless diamond!  As he continued to walk the property, he saw these rocks everywhere.   

The farm that the original farmer sold in an effort to find a diamond mine, was discovered to be the greatest diamond mine on the African continent!   Instead of complaining about a lack diamonds, he would have done better if he spent the time mining his existing farm. 

Have you been looking for that one new acquisition strategy that will make you a millionaire?  Like the farmer, you’re already surrounded by your best source of wealth.  What if you successfully mined your current data base and achieved a 10% improvement in the number of returning customers? 

Well, I did this math on a shop with 1,514 active customers (10% is 151).  Based on the shop owners average repair order ($493.85), and visits per vehicle (1.85), she would pick up an additional $137,957 in sales for the year! (151 x $493.85 X 1.85= $137,957) 

The math doesn’t lie!  Aggressively marketing to your existing customers is the key to building your business on the hidden diamonds.  I’ve discovered that its hardest to see the solution that’s right in front of you, so keep reading to discover two mining strategies you may have overlooked. 

Wedding Rings

According to a recent study conducted by Experian Automotive, the average family has 2.28 vehicles, with 35% of households owning three or more cars.  Chances are, your customer who’s wearing a wedding ring owns multiple cars. The question is, are you servicing her other vehicles? 

Pay attention to who is wearing a wedding ring and check your customer history to see how many cars they have brought to you. 

The following are the most common reasons customers don’t bring their other vehicles to you:   1. They’re unaware of all the services you provide. 2. They believe they have to take their newer vehicles to the dealer to keep their warranty intact.  3. Their previous experience wasn’t remarkable, so the spouse didn’t remember to suggest bringing the other vehicles back.  For example, If the wife was wowed by your servicing of the Honda, she would remember tell her husband to bring the Volvo to you. 

The best form of marketing is to create an experience that’s so memorable, people refer you without being asked to.  If you create an exceptional experience and educate your customer on the services you provide, you will get their second and third vehicles by paying closer attention to who’s wearing wedding rings.

Oil Changes

Hall of Fame Hockey player Wayne Gretzky is credited with the following quote: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”   If you fail to include oil changes as a part of your retention strategy, you’re missing the shot that can improve your retention.   

In most markets, there is a major oil change retailer offering a low price basic oil change.  What they’re really doing is creating a low price impression by marketing the lower priced entry level option and then upselling to a more expensive package that’s comparable to what you charge.   

The key is to make sure you offer a competitively priced oil change service. Here’s a news flash:  Holding margin on every oil change won’t make you rich.    What will improve your wealth, is having more of your customers come back to maintain their vehicles.  I challenge you to shop your basic oil change prices to ensure you have a competitive offering. 

One of the most overlooked aspects of oil change marketing is refreshing the sticker and using this to initiate your exit appointment conversation.  Here’s how it would sound: “Mr. Smith, we refreshed your oil change sticker on the window and scheduled your next service for Friday January 6thth at two o’clock.”     


So there you have it.  Paying attention to the wedding rings and marketing with your oil change service, will help you build your business on the hidden diamonds.  If the old farmer was able to give advice, he would tell you to look in the creek before selling the farm! 

Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS.  I’ve created a checklist to help you master the fundamentals of car count.  Email  and I will share it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Secret To Keeping Good People

The Secret To Keeping Good People


Eric Twiggs

“If one person tells you you're a horse, they’re crazy. If three people tell you you're a horse, there's conspiracy afoot. If ten people tell you you're a horse, it's time to buy a saddle” Jack Rosenblum

What’s the secret to keeping good people?   As I ponder this question, I’m reminded of something our CEO, Chris “Chubby” Frederick shared about his experience during a recent shop visit.   He stopped by to visit “Ron”, a local shop owner. 

When Chubby asked how things were going, Ron replied: “Everything’s great! ATI is great, business is great, and I have a great team.” To which Chubby replied: “I’m glad you’re doing so well. Tell me, how would you describe the culture here?” 

“Chubby, we’re one big happy family. The morale is high and everyone likes working here.”    As Ron stepped away to meet with a vendor, Chubby walked out to the bays and was approached by a technician. 

After speaking with the tech, he realized the picture Ron was painting, and the perceptions of his people were different! 

“Jack”, his best technician, mentioned that Ron was impossible to work for and that he and the others were looking for work at other shops!  Ron was missing out on the most critical skill, necessary to keep good people: Self-awareness.

Before laughing at Ron, please answer the following question: Have you ever been blindsided by a key employee’s resignation?  If you answered yes, you and Ron have something in common. 

Self-awareness is the secret to keeping good people. Self-awareness is the ability to see yourself the way your employees see you.  This is important because a recent Gallup survey concluded that 75% of employees voluntarily leave their job because of the boss and NOT the job itself. 

So what can you do to make the most of this concept, and put a stop to the revolving door of turnover?  Stay with me and you’ll learn one big idea to increase your self-awareness.

The Debrief

In most shops, if an employee gives his boss negative feedback, it’s considered to be a career limiting move.  As a result, most people are unwilling to communicate an honest assessment of their supervisor’s shortcomings.    The solution is to use the debrief technique to improve your self-awareness.

This technique started in the military, and is used to create a safe place where everyone on the team, regardless of rank, can share honest feedback on how their team members performed during the mission.  To encourage open communication, everyone is required to remove their rank insignias and name tags before the meeting starts

As a result, the high ranking Captain increases his level of self-awareness, because the lower level Private has the freedom to communicate his perceptions of how the Captain lead the mission.

Getting everyone to speak openly is a process, so a good first step would be to get anonymous feedback from your team. 

I recommend using the three ups and three downs technique where you have them anonymously write down three things they like about you or the shop, and three things they would change. You can also use the 360-degree survey form as a feedback tool. 

Next, you would schedule a meeting where you list the most common changes that were recommended and encourage open dialog. These debriefs should be done on a monthly basis.

The Follow-Up Debrief

The goal for the next meeting, is to have them provide their feedback with you in the room.  Trust is built when your employees, see that you’re acting on their suggestions, so kick off the follow-up debrief by letting them know what you’ve done to address their previous concerns. 

For example, if was mentioned that you don’t provide enough recognition, open the session by recognizing the top performers for the month and let them know you are working to get better.  From there, you would ask them for additional suggestions regarding what’s working well and what needs to change.   

The key to improving your self-awareness is to receive regular feedback on how you’re being perceived.  For those employees who aren’t comfortable with responding in public, incorporating private surveys can give you the most accurate information. 

You can set up an account with  Survey Monkey  which will allow you to create survey questions for free that your people can answer anonymously. 


Like a military Captain, you’re on a mission to accomplish a specific objective.   Implementing the debrief meetings will improve your self-awareness and increase your chances of victory!

If Chubby walked into your shop, what would your technicians tell him about working for you?

Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS.  Want to know how both your internal and external customers are perceiving you?  Email and I will send you exit interview questions along with the 360 degree survey form  that can be used to increase your self-awareness!