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

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

How To Improve Your Car Count in Four Minutes or Less

How To Improve Your Car Count in Four Minutes or Less


Eric  M. Twiggs

“Every contact we have with a customer influences whether or not they’ll come back. We have to be great every time or we’ll lose them.” ― Kevin Stirtz

It was the worst recording of an incoming phone call that I’d ever heard.    It was so bad that I was sure that Ashton Kutcher would appear to confirm that the call was really fake, and that I was being “punk’d” as a surprise guest on his hidden camera reality show!  

“Linda”, who drove a Toyota Camry, called the shop with a simple request.  She wanted to know how much a rear brake job would cost her.   Linda was placed on hold six different times, until finally “Rob”, the new service advisor picked up the line. 

The call appeared to take a turn for the better as he asked if she was a first-time customer.   Rob then asked Linda for her name and phone number in case they got disconnected.

Next, I could hear his smile as he told her about the shops hours of operation and loaner vehicles.   I listened to the recording with renewed optimism, until Rob uttered the following words: “Ma’am, I just got back from this ATI class and they told me that I can’t give you a price over the phone!” 

This four-minute phone call resulted in Linda taking her Camry to the competitor.  Had this been handled differently, the shop owner would have improved his car count by one vehicle. 

Have you been looking for the one idea that will instantly improve your car count?  Your search ends today because here it is:  Make it as easy as possible for the incoming caller to come to your shop

Studies of consumer trends in the automotive industry have concluded that 68% of customers call first before visiting the shop

The average phone call is four minutes or less, so you are only minutes away from improving today.    Stay with me to learn two strategies to help you get the most out of those minutes:

Pay Attention

As I have stated in a previous post, for every 100 service writers that we phone shop here at ATI, only 4 offer to make the customer an appointment to visit their location.  Whenever I phone shop someone who fails to offer the appointment, the most common response I receive is: “Eric, I had two customers standing in front of me, and two other phone lines ringing when you called.” 

So, how can you make it easy for the incoming caller, without irritating the customer in front of you? The key is to pay attention.

The best way to service both your calling and current customer, is to get the name and phone number of the caller and call them back when you can pay attention.  What happens in most shops is the advisor rushes through the transaction with both customers leaving out key elements of the relationship process.   

Therefore, getting the caller’s name and number, along with the providing the promise of the call back, will result in a passing phone shop grade from ATI. 

The “perfect world answer” is to immediately execute the phone script as soon as the customer calls.  I get it.  The call back strategy is to be used during those instances when you know your attention will be divided.

There is a famous Romanian proverb that states:” if you chase two rabbits, you won’t catch either one.”   Paying attention will keep you from losing both customers. 

Play The Recording

The HBO network has a hit show called Hard Knocks.  This show provides the viewer with a glimpse of “a typical day in the life” at a National Football League Training camp.   

There are cameras that follow the coaches around as they communicate with their team, during practice sessions.   Quite often, a coach gives a player feedback on some aspect of his performance that could have been improved. 

On one episode, the coach told the quarterback “You dropped your head when you saw the pass rush coming.” To which the player replied, “I didn’t do that!” 

Later the scene shifts to the film room with the player and coach watching the film recording of that day’s practice session.  The quarterback watched the film with a look of shame as he saw that he dropped his head just like his coach told him.  The coach summed up what he saw with the following words: “The eye in the sky doesn’t lie.”

Everyone is blind to certain aspects of their job performance.   This makes “the eye in the sky” a valuable tool.  When coaching your service advisors phone performance, the audio recording is like your “ear” in the sky

 It will tell you the unfiltered and unbiased story of how your phones are being answered.   It’s one thing for you to tell your advisor, “You didn’t offer the appointment on that last call.”

The accountability increases however, when he listens to the recording for himself and says, “I didn’t offer the appointment.”   Playing the recording can keep you from feeling the hard knocks that come with low car count!


So, there you have it.  Paying attention and playing the recording can improve your car count in four minutes or less.   Will I feel like I’ve been “punk’d” after listening to one of your calls?

Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS.  Not sure of what to say when the customer asks for a price over the phone?  Email to receive three short videos that will teach you how to handle this. 


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

How To Ask For The Sale Without Feeling Like A Jerk

How To Ask For The Sale Without Feeling Like A Jerk


Eric M. Twiggs


 “If you don’t ask, the answer is always NO” Patricia Fripp

Does asking for the sale make you feel like a jerk?   This is exactly how “Kim” felt.  Kim was a service manager in a shop located in the Midwest, who prided herself on her ability to profile her patrons to determine who would buy and who wouldn’t.  She believed that presenting a high dollar estimate to a first-time customer was bad for business.    

One fateful day, her technicians handed her an estimate that totaled over $2700 for a first-time customer named “Linda” who drove a luxurious, elegant, and stylish Geo Metro with 163,000 miles on it!   

Kim’s goal was to present “the bad news” to Linda, without coming across as being pushy. She had profiled Linda and determined that she would NOT invest in her car.   Kim called her to review the estimate and here’s how the call went:  

“Linda, I have some bad news, hopefully you’re sitting down.   You will need to have all four tires replaced, an alignment, new front and rear brake pads, an AC compressor, and a cabin air filter.  I’m sorry but your total price comes to $2720 dollars.”   

Kim felt like a jerk!  She was shocked by Linda’s response:” $2720 you say? What a relief!  I thought you were going to tell me it would take five grand to fix my car.  Go ahead and do it!  I would rather pay the $2720, than buy a new car!”   As it turns out, Kim was wrong.  

Have you ever profiled a patron and been proven wrong?   Stay with me to learn two strategies that will help you ask for the sale without feeling like a jerk.   If you embrace these strategies, your profiling days will come to an end!      
Embrace The Three B’s

When your mailman delivers you a bill in the mail for a large amount, do you ever think: “This is unacceptable! I need to find a new mailman!” NO!  He’s just doing his job by delivering you the message.    

Whatever you decide to do with the information is up to you.  Since he didn’t create your bill, or conspire with the collectors, he doesn’t feel like a jerk after he hands you your credit card statement.  When presenting future estimates, embracing The Three B’s will keep you from feeling like a jerk, as well.   

When it comes to your customer’s car, The Three B’s can be summarized as follows:  You didn’t Build it, Buy it, or Break it.  Like the mailman, you are simply delivering the message.    

Let’s stay with mailman metaphor for a moment.  Imagine how you would feel if you had to pay additional late charges because your carrier didn’t deliver the credit card bill to your house on time. 

Now, imagine how your customer feels when she must pay for a parts failure because YOU didn’t communicate the maintenance recommendation on time.  Embracing the Three B’s will keep you from feeling like a jerk and your customer from feeling the urge to go to your competition.
Use The Consistency Principle

In his book Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion,  Dr. Robert Cialdini introduces the consistency principle as a method of persuasion.   He cites a study that was done on health centers that reduced their number of appointment no shows by 18% by having the patients write down their appointment details and make a verbal commitment to come back as scheduled. 

He also studied a restaurant that reduced its appointment no-show rate by 30% when they had their phone customers verbally commit to calling the restaurant before canceling their appointment.   These studies prove that people like to stay consistent with the things they have previously said.    

Making a quality visit to the car, gives you a great opportunity to put the consistency principle to use.  For example, when I worked as a service advisor, I visited the car with a customer and asked him the following question: “How do you currently use the vehicle?” To which he replied: “I use this car to get back and forth to work. I plan to drive it until the wheels come off!”   

We discovered that the vehicle was due for its 60K service.  When I presented the estimate to him, I said “John, we see that you are due for your 60K service. You mentioned that you wanted to drive it until the wheels come off, so investing in this service will allow you to do that!” And what was John’s response? “Go ahead and do it!”  

I didn’t feel like a jerk, because I was simply restating what the customer told me he was looking for.   Making the visit to the car, will give you the opportunity to use the consistency principle and change how you feel about asking for the sale.      



So, there you have it.  Embracing The Three B’s, and using the consistency principle will help you to ask for the sale without feeling like a jerk.   Unfortunately, Kim no longer works at the Midwest shop as the service manager.  

Applying these principles would have been a better path for her than profiling her customers.    Which path will you choose?  If you just chose to apply the principles, then go ahead and do it! 




Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach


PS. Email to receive a  bonus video on how to ask for the sale. 


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Take the Headache Out of Hiring Your Next Service Manager

 Take the Headache Out of Hiring Your Next Service Manager


Eric M. Twiggs

“The closest anyone ever comes to perfection is how they present themselves on their resume.” Stanley J Randall

Are you sick and tired of working IN instead of On your business?  Well, so was “Rachel” a shop owner in the Midwest, who asked me to do a phone interview with “Ann”, a local service manager prospect. 

According to Rachel, Ann, was “the cat’s meow”, “the greatest thing since sliced bread”, and any other metaphor you would use to describe a high potential prospect.  

Rachel desperately wanted to replace herself on the counter and believed Ann was the missing link that would free her up to focus on the bigger picture.   

There was one small problem.  I wasn’t impressed after interviewing Ann.  I now look back on that time as twenty minutes of my life that I will never get back!

Ann spent most of the twenty minutes telling me how bad things were at her current job at the local parts supply store, where she had worked for the past six months.  She said that the main source of the problems was her boss and her unethical co-workers. 

Prior to working at the parts store she worked at the local auto repair competitor in town, but was laid off due to “the area being slow after the election.”  She had been out of work for two years prior to working at the parts store, which she attributed to “the economic downturn during that time.” 

I conducted a virtual call with Rachel where I shared my concerns and I could see her frown as if she had a headache.  “But Eric, I have this gut feeling about Ann that I can’t explain.”  She said.  

We were at an impasse. To break the tie, I suggested that she call Ann’s former supervisor at the auto repair shop and do a reference check.   

The following week Rachel and I spoke and here is what she found out: “Well, Eric, I spoke with Bill her former boss and he told me that Ann was let go, because she struggled to generate sales and because she blamed everyone except herself for her results!”

Sometimes, the decision NOT to hire, is the best hiring decision you can make.  Recognizing this reality can help to take the headache out of hiring. 

A bad hire can cost a business anywhere from six to twelve times the salary of the employee, when you factor in pay, benefits, training, lost customers and lost opportunities. 

If Rachel paid Ann $50,000 per year and Ann cost the business six times her salary, Rachel just avoided a $300,000 hit by deciding not to hire.

Are you still feeling the hit from your last hire?  Stay with me to learn two strategies to help you take the headache out of hiring your next service manager. 

Avoid The “Same Bird Syndrome”

The four personality types are described as the following four birds: The eagle, peacock, owl, and dove.  The eagle is the “type A” personality who is competitive and results driven. The peacock is assertive, outgoing, and dislikes the details.

The owl tends to be introverted, analytical, and more process than people oriented.  The dove is sensitive, likeable, and prefers to avoid conflict.  Which bird are you?  This is an important question to answer, if you want to avoid “the same bird syndrome.”

The same bird syndrome occurs when you are attracted to employment prospects because they are the same “bird” as you.   

Think about your most recent trip to the beach.  You probably didn’t see ducks and seagulls mixing in the same group. The ducks were with the ducks and the seagulls were with the seagulls proving that It’s natural to want to seek out similar “birds.”

The problem is that looking for “the same bird” can cause you to make a bad hire, if the personality isn’t a natural fit for the role.  For example, both Rachel and Ann are “owl” personalities.  Rachel felt a connection because they had the same personality type. 

As mentioned earlier, owls tend to be introverted, and can struggle to connect with customers.  Over the years, I have found that peacocks and eagles are the most natural personality fits for the service manager role.   Matching the bird with the role can help you avoid the same bird syndrome. 

Do A Ride Along

The familiar story is told of a candidate who was interviewing for a high paying, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) position with a Fortune 500 firm. He would be responsible for twenty-five million dollars in annual revenue, and had just completed an interview in the office of the firm’s president, which he passed with flying colors.

The president decided to take the CFO prospect down to the cafeteria for lunch, to work through the details of the offer.   While in line to purchase their food, he noticed something interesting about his candidate.

The cafeteria charged an additional twenty-five cent fee for butter.  He watched as the candidate hid the butter behind his cup so the cashier wouldn’t notice it, saving himself twenty-five cents.  Based on this observation, he decided not to hire him.

After all, how could he trust him with twenty-five million dollars if he couldn’t be trusted with twenty-five centsWitnessing him outside of the interview environment gave the president the information he needed to make an accurate decision.

Dong “a ride along interview” with your candidates will give you additional information that can help with your decision making as well.

A ride along is when you allow the prospect to spend part of their day at your location, shadowing you to observe “a day in the life.”  This gives you the opportunity to see the individual outside of the formal interview.  Does she pick up trash on the floor, or just keep walking?

Does she greet your customers, or is she more introverted?  How does she interact and engage with your employees?  The ride along will provide you with information you need and help take the heading out of hiring.


Several weeks later, I interviewed an excellent service manager candidate with a peacock personality for Rachel.    She had him spend the morning at the shop observing “a day in the life.”  I conducted a virtual call with her and noticed that she was smiling. 

And then it hit me: By avoiding the same bird syndrome, and doing the ride along, she had taken the headache out of hiring her next service manager. 


Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS.  Email and I will send you my "Four Birds Cheat Sheet" to help you avoid the same bird syndrome with your next service manager hire. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

How To Crush Your Competition And Grow Your Car Count

How To Crush Your Competition And Grow Your Car Count


Eric M. Twiggs

“Having no competition is a bad thing. Competition makes you try to improve yourself all the time. Shu Qi

Your competition doesn’t want you to read this post.  Stay with me and you’ll understand why.   I recently called three automotive repair shops at random expressing the following concern:  

“I’m new to the area and looking for a good shop.  I want to do business with you, but my wife wants to use your competitor.  So, what makes your shop better?

I called the first shop located in the New York area and “Michelle” answered.  Here was her response: “Uhmm, uhhh, can you please hold?” Before I could respond, I was patched through to a voice mail where I couldn’t leave a message because the mail box was full!

The second shop was in California. “Jack” answered the phone.  Jack replied with a deep confident voice: “We’ve been in business for 20 years, have ASE Certified technicians, and we have state of the art technology!”

This was brilliant compared to my last call, so I felt better as I called the third shop located in Ohio and Brian answered. 

Without any hesitation, Brian said:

 “We provide a vehicle pick-up and drop off service that allows you to keep working while we work on your car.  We perform a FREE 65 point courtesy check and will email you pictures of what we find that’s good and of what needs to be addressed.  We also offer a 3 year 36,000-mile parts and labor warranty.  This is the best warranty in the business, so you’ll be worry free with our guarantee!

Which shop would you have picked? If you chose Michelle’s shop, you probably won’t be crushing your competition any time soon!    My guess is that you chose Brian’s shop ahead of Jack’s.  What gave Brian the edge?

Unlike Michelle and Jack, Brian was listening to the same radio station that all of your customers listen to.  Its WIIFM on your radio dial:  What’s In It For Me? 

I have some bad news.  Your customers don’t care about YOU, your 20 years in business, your state of the art technology, or your ASE certified technicians.  They DO care about the specific BENEFITS that will solve their problem.   

The good news is that even if your competition has the same offerings, you can sell your benefits and get the business.    So how can you use these specifics to crush your competition and grow your car count?   Read on to get the answers.

Define Your Brand

When I mention the name McDonald’s, what are the first words that come to mind? Words like consistency, convenience, are the typical answers.  So if you’re traveling late at night in an unfamiliar area and have to choose between McDonald’s and “Eric’s Burger Joint”, which would you choose?  

Even though I make a great burger, have ASE certified cooks, and have been in business for 20 years, McDonald’s would be the safe choice because they have defined their brand.  You know you will get a consistent convenient experience from McDonald’s. 

What words come to mind when I mention the name of your shop?  Answering this question is important because customers are looking for the safe choice when searching for a shop.

To help define your brand I recommend studying your 5-star internet reviews and looking for the common words that are used.  For example, you may notice that multiple customers describe you as honest, fair, convenient, and friendly.

These are the first words that come to mind when they think of you.   Your brand communicates the specific experience they will get and will make you the safe choice. 

Dare To Be Different

I know what you’re thinking: “But Eric, we have a clean shop, offer a courtesy shuttle, and have great reviews.   Why should I dare to be different?”  Well, your customers expect these things and aren’t wowed by what they expect.  As mentioned in a previous post, the “wowed” customer is twice as likely to come back, and three times more likely to refer you than one who is merely satisfied, so daring to be different can improve your car count.   

Since the extra mile is a lonely road, you will stand out from your competition by creating the wow experience.   For example, most shops offer a shuttle service.  Brian’s shop that was mentioned earlier, provides pick-up and drop of service at the customer’s workplace.

Most shops offer a 1 year 12,000-mile warranty.  Brian’s shop offers the 3 year 36,000-mile warranty.  If you had a relative traveling in the Ohio area in need of auto repair, would you refer them to “most shops” or Brian’s shop? 

I challenge you to schedule a meeting with your team.  Ask them to name the specific aspects of your service that wows the customer, and makes you different in your market.  If the response you hear is the sound of crickets, take it as an opportunity to brainstorm specific offerings that can separate you from the competition. 

After creating your list of wow experiences, be sure to revisit what you came up with at your future meetings.  This regular review will keep these benefits top of mind and easier to communicate to your customer.


So, there you have it.  Defining your brand and daring to be different can help you crush your competition and grow your car count.  When I call your shop and ask what makes you different, will I hear from you or the crickets? 


Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

Looking to create a wow experience, but don’t know where to start?  Email and I will send you a list of 7 Ideas That Can Differentiate You From Your Competition.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

How To Stop The Car Count Drop

How To Stop The Car Count Drop


Eric M. Twiggs

“Problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines.”  Robert H Schuller

“Tell me why my car count is down!  I thought ATI was supposed to help me with that!” said Larry, a member I worked with several years ago.  It was the middle of July and Larry had been in the ATI program for two years. He had attended each of the Shop Owners classes, to include the Always be Marketing module.  

I asked him, “So how many exit appointments have you scheduled since our last call?”  ‘None” he replied.  “Ok, how many follow up calls have you made to your customers who declined previous recommendations?” “We haven’t made any yet Eric.”  

“Well Larry, I need to dig deeper to answer your question.  Please send me 10 completed courtesy checks from last week. “Ummm, our techs don’t actually fill out a courtesy check form. They just look over the car and write down what they find.” 

After pausing, counting to ten, and taking a deep breath, I asked: “So, you’re not exit scheduling, you’re not making follow up calls, and your techs don’t courtesy check, but you can’t understand why your car count is down? 

To which Larry replied, “Yeah, I see your point, it’s not ATI’s fault, it’s my area! My vendors say everybody’s slow this time of year!   

Larry’s story reminds us that being exposed to the right methods while having the wrong mindset is a recipe for failure.   As stated in a previous post, experience has taught me that 80% of what keeps someone stuck ties back their mindset, with only 20% relating to their methods.   

So, what is the mindset requirement if you want to stop the car count drop?   You will learn the answer if you don’t stop reading.  

Take Extreme Ownership

In their best-selling book Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, recall an incident where Willink was the Commanding officer of a failed Navy Seal mission.  After the mission the entire unit was gathered into the debriefing room.  “Whose fault was this?” Willink asked.  One of the soldiers responded: “It was my fault sir! I should have identified my target!”

To which the Commander replied: “No it wasn’t your fault. Whose fault, was it?” The radio man chimed in with: “It was my fault sir! I should have passed our position sooner!”  Willink responded: “No it wasn’t your fault!”

As other Seals were positioning themselves to take the blame Willink interrupted: “You know who’s fault this was?” Everyone sat in silence as he continued: “There is only one person to blame for this. ME.  As the Commander, I am responsible for the entire operation.”  Willink and the Seals were quick to take the blame because they recognized that you can’t fix what you don’t own. 

Have you taken Extreme Ownership of your car count situation?  Blaming your local economy is easier than admitting that you haven’t been exit scheduling.  I get it.  The problem is that blaming the economy will motivate you to sit back and wait until the economy improves. 

Blaming yourself, will motivate you to move forward and take the necessary actions that lead to improvement.  The advantage of YOU being the problem is that YOU become the solution! 

Become a Forward Thinker

Several weeks ago, I posted the following question to a group of shop owners on Facebook: “What marketing do you have planned for Back to School?”  Twenty-four hours went by and all I heard was the sound of crickets! 

After calling Verizon to verify that I was still connected, I realized that the sampling of shops hadn’t responded! I threw the question out there again and two shops replied with detailed plans that included dates, promotional offers, and targeted customers.

Upon further review, I realized that the two shop owners that responded with such detail hade one thing in common:  They were recognized on stage last year for being one of The Top 12 Shop Owners in America.  Being a forward thinker, carries over into the other areas of running a successful operation.

Most shops complain about the car count drop going into the fall and winter months.   Top shops anticipate the seasonal slowdowns and have targeted marketing planned to drive traffic.  Are you a top shop or like most shops?

Answering the following questions can help you decide:  

1. What marketing do you have planned for the week that your County Fair is in town?  2.  Labor Day is Monday September 4th.  What specials do you have set up for the days leading up to it?   In October, you have Car Care Month, Shocktober, and Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  What proactive promotions do you have scheduled on your marketing calendar? 

If you had immediate answers to all three questions, congratulations!  You are a forward thinker.  If you didn’t have answers to any of my questions, I challenge you to take extreme ownership of your car count situation!


Larry couldn't stop the car count drop because he blamed everyone except himself.  If you commit to taking extreme ownership and becoming a forward thinker, you can stop dropping car count and start dropping more money in your bank account, which can help to improve your local economy!   

Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS. Email to receive a checklist of the 5 Habits of Forward Thinking Shop Owners.