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Two approaches to a critical step

On yesterday’s episode of DSTR, we welcomed shop owners Frank Scandura (Frank’s European Service, Las Vegas) and Carlos Contreras (Northtown Auto Service, McHenry, Ill.) to figure out which drop-off approach creates the best customer experience.

We discussed:

  • COVID-induced solutions to greet customers and make them feel taken care of
  • Ways to best educate the customer and lead them down a path to buy
  • The importance of scripts and a well-defined process when managing your shop’s first impression with the customer

Episode Transcript

*This transcript was generated using Artificial Intelligence. Errors may occur. If you notice an error, please contact [email protected].

Tom Dorsey (00:00:03):
Good morning and good afternoon. Welcome to this week’s edition of The Digital Shop Talk Radio. I’m Tom Dorsey. We’ve got a great show for you today. I want to welcome for the first time, been twisting some arms. Carlos Contreras joining us, and if you don’t know Carlos, Carlos is first time he’s been on the show. Carlos is our resident Bolt On user in the Digital Shop Talk Radio audience, and we’ve got a great show. What we’re going to be talking about today is how has the market changed since Covid and Touchless drop off, and what has that experience been looking like and what is your customer’s expectations now? Right? And if you don’t know, Carlos is in on the Digital Shop Talk Radio chat, always driving good conversations, always in there, mixing it up. And so we thought, hey, the first thing we thought is since Carlos is a Bolt On user, maybe we’ll get on here and we’ll talk about how there’s some limitations maybe and some differences in what you’re able to deliver. Carlos had a great point while we were talking about developing the show and that’s, Hey, you know what? The game has changed for everybody due to Covid and now we’re all having to adopt some of these things and the question’s going to be what happens when we get out of Covid. And so welcome Carlos coming on the show. Really appreciate it.
Carlos Contreras (00:01:26):
Thank you very much
Tom Dorsey (00:01:27):
Carlos. Very happy Carlos from Northtown Automotive Services and we’ve got the godfather of the digital shop, Frank Scandura from Frank’s European in Las Vegas, Nevada. Now I’m not just calling Frank the Godfather digital shop because he’s an Italian guy from Las Vegas. If you know Frank Scandura, he is been with us a long time, blazing that trail. If you’ve been lucky enough to catch some of his seminars he’s done at Digital Shop Conference or with some of the coaching groups, maybe you’ve bought his book and if you haven’t, maybe Frank can give you some details on how to get that. But Frank has been out there driving us around the curve and we’ve been preparing for a lot of these things that Covid has kind of fast forwarded from a motorist and engagement perspective. We’ve been building a lot of that functionality and really looking to deliver because we see Uwe sees the future every morning. I don’t know what he does. He gets in there, lathers up his hairdo, and all of a sudden he comes out with the next big thing. And so we’ve been chasing this and now we’re a little fast forwarded. So we really wanted to bring Frank in because Frank has really been using these techniques, if you will, these best practices long before Covid hit. And it’s been a while. Frankie, welcome back buddy.
Frank Scandura (00:02:43):
Thank you. Glad to be here. And thank you for the kind words. Appreciate it very much.
Tom Dorsey (00:02:47):
You earned them. And then of course, as always, our expert panel of experts, Bill Connor and Uwe Kleinschmidt joining us. And gentlemen, welcome and let’s dig right in. If we could get started, the first question I think I would pose is, and we would kind of go around the table, the virtual table as it is, how has the market changed since Covid has kind of been foisted upon us, right? I’ll keep it as PC as I can. And now do you think it’s going to go back and if not, how has, because the motorist expectation kind of has driven the services that we’re providing, right? What do they expect? Carlos, let me kick it off with you, buddy.
Carlos Contreras (00:03:32):
Oh, thank you very much. Well, I could tell you that. Can you hear me well right now? Yes, sir.
Tom Dorsey (00:03:37):
Carlos Contreras (00:03:37):
Okay. The first thing that you notice is that the front counters have become a goldstone and it’s just changed, like you said earlier, the whole business has changed dramatically. I could tell you that one thing that saved us is that back in May of last year, we started with the digital inspections not knowing that it was going to be a saving point during the covid because what we experienced was that the people didn’t want to go anywhere. So how do you reach your customers? So thank God we were already into the digital world and we were able to communicate with customers. We never lost track of our customers. So that changed dramatically. And then it came to the how do you welcome the customers and make them feel safe to come to your vehicle? So we send a lot of endless emails and texts, letting them know that they could just drop the vehicle up front.
We have all the covers, we have all the disinfectants, and there was basically a no touch contact kind of experience and they could drop ’em off front. We also dedicated two parking slot for a touch free service. Can you check my tires? So if you just wipers and stuff, they don’t even have to come in the shop. Before the covid, we were already experiencing the digital world with the tablets where we’ll try to go out into the vehicle and just scan the van and do all that stuff and open the doors to customers. And Kristen and Mark Hartman, the owners of Northtown Auto, they joined and she spent a lot of money in rebuilding the front counter. Believe it or not, we have brand new chairs and all of that real nice coffee bar, big TVs, and all of a sudden I looked at it yesterday, there’s nobody here with a beautiful counter.
You know what I mean? So yeah, it has changed a lot, but I could tell you that if we didn’t embrace it and we didn’t think twice about, oh my God, what do we do? We just did something a couple of shows before we were talking about if it doesn’t feel good, we’ll find out what does. So we are not scared of trying whatever happens, whatever we have to do in order to communicate with our customers. So to answer your question now in Covid, for us it’s been great to the point where our AROs has increased, the car count is down, the sales are done a little bit, but not much. And the only answer I have for our AROs going up is because we have more time for the digital inspections, we send it to the customers and they review it, they’re more comfortable.
So by the time the conversation comes or what the car needs, it’s more an educated decision versus before we were hoping that we’re here and we take ’em into the shop and show ’em that old fashioned show and tell. I think that’s an old word that I don’t think is coming back. Quite frankly, I don’t think that we are ever going to try to push for people to wait in on counters for two reasons. One, it’s better for our service advisors to have their own personal time quiet without interruptions. And two, the customers don’t need to waste their time just sitting here doing nothing and they get antsy. You know what I mean? Yeah,
Tom Dorsey (00:07:02):
No, that’s fantastic. That’s brilliant. And so Frank, same question to you buddy is, and like I said, you’ve kind of had blazing a trail really in that digital drop off experience. Have you noticed a big change since Covid hit or is it just kind of business as usual for
Frank Scandura (00:07:21):
You? Yeah, for us it’s really been business as usual. And like you said, Tom, we’ve forged that path sometime ago. I’m a lot closer to a hundred than Carlos is. And we used to say, Johnny, you’ve got to come down and see this. So you make this poor guy or gal, get out of work early, come down to the shop to look at something, you have no clue what they’re looking at. And they go, okay, I guess that’s bad. How much? And then we moved to, I was actually able to take a picture and then if I downloaded that picture to my computer, I could upload it into an email and I could send them, here’s a picture, it really is bad. Then we were able to actually send text messages from our personal phones. Now being a digital shop, I’ve taken all of those things that we’ve used to be able to do, and actually I can measure it now.
I can track it. I can give the entire team the tools they need, and Carlos is a hundred percent right. We don’t need customers coming down for show and tell because now we’re sending them the information for show and tell. So we’ve been able to capitalize on those processes we’ve always been doing to keep us going and keep us busy. And I hope that shops are listening to this and understanding that there’s a couple of guys here in town, they lock their front door, they put these little makeshift tables out in front. We’re not going to let anybody in the door. We’re going to make them wait outside. That’s not what customers want. They want the same service they had before. Okay? We’ve had a handful of customers that were totally afraid, I’m not coming in. If you want to service my car, come and get it.
No problem. And they don’t leave the house. We’ve got instructions, put the keys in the planter with the green flowers and then I’ll come back and get ’em after your guy’s gone. No problem. Then we have other people that come in and we’ve had ’em walk in and said, Hey man, I don’t have a mask. Do you have one? Absolutely. Here you go. The state has even allowed some exceptions to mask wearing, which we’ve posted on our door. If you have any of these conditions, you’re exempt from wearing a mask. And sadly, homelessness is one of them. So now we have a lot of people identifying as homeless, bringing a Mercedes in for repair just so they don’t have to wear a mask. Trust me, it’s okay. I get it. So it’s just people are adapting, and I think now we’ve gone deep enough into this where they’re like, you know what?
I’m over this. My life’s got to get on. I need to get these cars fixed, and we’re actually seeing more expendable income. And here’s my theory on that, and I even ran it by a friend of mine. He goes, yeah, you’re right. People are at home, they’re not going to dinner, they’re not traveling, they’re not going to the movies, they’re not going shopping. But for the most part, most of them are still earning the same money. So their bank accounts are just kind of piling up and people’s general habit is a spender, their spenders, and they see this money and they go, oh, maybe we should drag this old car out of the garage and get it running again, this old convertible or this old whatever. And we’re seeing a lot of that across the country where people are dragging these older cars that have been sitting and spending quite a bit of money on it or just doing repairs that they’ve been putting off and deferred maintenance. More people are driving now because they don’t want to take trains, buses or planes, and they’re getting out of town. I was just in Utah over the weekend. It was amazing how many people from Nevada were up there. It was crowded. So that’s what I think is happening with Covid.
Tom Dorsey (00:10:43):
Yeah. Well, I tell you what, this weekend, I’ve never seen so many people in my neighborhood. We had a heat wave too, and so that drove a lot of it, but it was insane how many people came down and they closed the beaches in San Barbara County too. So there we go. But some things that have happened, and you touched on is being able to be flexible because that stuff’s not going to go away. You’re going to have a segment of people who are like, woo-hoo. They’re going to run around nude in the street because these restrictions are lifted, and then there’s going to still be people who are still wearing the mask next year. And so now you have to accommodate both those sets of people. And I just think that with these changes, it’s like we’re not going back. This kind of touchless digital interaction is I think really, and not just in automotive, it’s everywhere. There’s people thinking to themselves, why am I getting up in the morning to go to some campus somewhere when this stuff’s working? Or why am I going into the office when I’m not driving a forklift? So Uwe, why don’t you, I know you have prepared for us kind of a nice infogram and really I think it ties it together well on what the current situation is and how a lot of people have been operating. And then a nice picture of what the possibilities and might be the standard is going to be here shortly.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:12:23):
Sure. But let me really start a little earlier and say, in my opinion, COVID has just accelerated a trend which has happened and was inevitable anyway. We have gotten so used to digital interaction making, buying decisions, organizing our day and so on and so forth. And now there was an additional nudge by Covid. So why don’t we take it to the next level a little faster than we originally wanted? And that has disrupted the service advisor experience at the counter for sure as call set it so nicely, ghost Town. Another question is why should we use that as a limitation and not an opportunity? Why don’t we look at this, see that it works, and ask ourselves, okay, where does it go from here? What’s the next step in that direction? And so that’s really, I think it makes us now, especially at AutoVitals, think what can we do more in digital engagement where decisions are being made digitally online, you would’ve never thought of being made without talking to a person. And so that’s kind of the backdrop to the infographic. But Dustin, you might want to show if that’s possible, let me know when it’s visible. I see Tom still,
Bill Connor (00:14:19):
Dustin said he’s having some computer issues, so let me see if I can go ahead and share my screen with it on
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:14:24):
It. Okay, awesome.
Frank Scandura (00:14:27):
That’s why you get the big bucks, Bill.
Tom Dorsey (00:14:29):
That is correct.
Bill Connor (00:14:32):
And so now if you would let me know if you can go ahead and see it. Yes
Tom Dorsey (00:14:35):
Sir. Yep.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:14:36):
Awesome. Thank you very much. So if I just talk about me as a motorist, right? Bringing the car into a shop changes my rhythm every day. I normally, right? Whether that’s a workout routine or whatever it is. And if you have a busy life, then you have to arrange being picked up or the shop arranges for me. So the question is really why can I not go to a website, look at my service records talk, engage with somebody at the shop maybe and don’t beat me when I’m going to say that maybe at 5:30 AM
So maybe there is a service advisor on standby where I see my services, where I know what’s up, I can describe my problem, and it all comes down to the shop’s website user experience. If it’s done easy for me and I can express myself with a lot of help and not need to type out everything or use voice to text, everybody who has ever chatted with an Amazon customer support person know what I’m talking about, right? It is so easy and so fast to interact with a human on the other side without typing. I believe that’s the future. So if that’s possible, then there’s either a drop off and pick up service offered by the shop, or I drop off the vehicle at five 50 after I had a little engagement, or I do that the night before. So I’m predicting that there is the ability to go to the shop’s website at any time I want as a customer. So there is somebody on the other hand, I can look up cost specific things I need to know to make a decision, look at past inspection results, whatever it takes for me to make a decision. And then maybe I even get an estimate drop off the car or the shop sends me somebody who picks it up and then in the evening drops it off again. That’s what I envisioning is going to happen. What do you guys think?
Frank Scandura (00:17:25):
I think it’s happening now. And let me tell you, so I relate what I do for my motors based on my personal experiences. I am a customer when I’m not at work, we all are. So what happens when I’m looking for something and when I do my research, if there’s no way for me to interact with company online at my convenience to get the information I’m looking for, I’m out, right? That’s it. And if I’m doing it, my customers are doing it and I think that it’s time for us to get up to speed. And that’s what I love about this idea to communicate with our customers, the information they want, that they need when they want it. I’m open from seven 30 to five 30. It’s not uncommon for me to get appointment requests that are coming through at 1, 2, 3 in the morning. Now these could be people just getting off of work or it could be sometimes I got to a sleepless night and I’m just sending off emails and catching up on stuff. Whatever it is, they need the information when they need it. So this is absolutely perfect. Next step for where we’re at
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:18:40):
And would you consider increasing your online hours as a shop to not only catch appointment requests, but become the expert for any question somebody might have online? Right? That’s the next step. An appointment request is already a decision made, but there will be more and more people who to today may be browse in aficionado networks and groups or just believe what Google tells them, and now could talk to a shop at their convenience outside of business hours.
Tom Dorsey (00:19:18):
Well, and it makes sense for Frank. He’s in Vegas, there’s 24
Frank Scandura (00:19:21):
Hours, 24 hours, they don’t sleep, they don’t sleep. But
Tom Dorsey (00:19:26):
What do you do? You got a call center employee that is providing 24 hour kind of support or are you using some artificial intelligence to have those conversations and then serve up from the point of sale information pertinent to that vehicle? As a matter of fact, whether they’re even an existing customer, because we can take market data and we can serve that up as well.
Frank Scandura (00:19:51):
So I’m not clear extending the online hours mean, do you mean putting somebody available to answer those questions after hours?
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:19:57):
Frank Scandura (00:20:01):
Family and rest time is really, really important for me as the owner. I don’t mind answering certain emails over the weekend. I don’t know that I would ask somebody to do that. I would prefer the customer to be able to get as much information from our database as possible to answer their questions if that’s possible first. And I think most people respect the fact that you’ve got a limit on the number of hours that you’re available. When I first got into business in the late nineties, I used to forward the shop phone to my cell phone because I didn’t want to miss any calls. I might lose a customer if I miss a call. And I learned that was foolish when I picked up the phone at two in the morning and the guy says, oh, I was going to leave a message about bringing my car in next week.
So there just needs to be a limit. And I would allow my team to have access to the information and decide on a case by case basis. I would much rather have somebody available to answer a question for a customer that just needs an answer right away in a panic. Because most people panic when they have car trouble because those of us in the industry forget how much those outside don’t know men, women and child don’t know. And if you think women know less about cars than men, you’re a fool. And I could teach on that for hours. That’ll be another subject, but they just don’t know. And when they don’t know, it’s the unknown that frightens them. So
Carlos Contreras (00:21:40):
I like to agree with Frank on that as far as putting a limit on when are you available because most people, they know if it’s between eight and seven o’clock in the morning, most people are at home and trying to have a good time. But we have experience and we have talked a lot about upgrading our website. I think that going forward, the old fashioned acceptable website that we most of all have I think is not going to do it anymore. Because now when we look at ours, it should be that you click do two or three clicks and you’re on where you want to be. You don’t have to go through the whole thing and trying to figure out, and it’s complicated. If I want an appointment, I should just click the phone number and boom, put my name and somebody’s going to call me when the shop opens right away. The key is to answer right away. As long as people get a response, the feel more comfortable, they’re already connected. They have a lifeline if you want to call it, and they’re going to get to me and they’re going to take care of me. The websites we play with, the idea of putting a way of an app where people could just get a guesstimate because it’s never a hundred percent, that’s another problem. You can’t tell ’em a hundred percent. They don’t even know what the problem is.
The other thing with Covid in a couple of shows before we all agreed that we found different gears in our motor that we never knew we had because we didn’t have the need to communicate without having to be in person. So with that said, text to me is going to overwrite emails any day.
Frank Scandura (00:23:32):
Yeah, I think it did already,
Carlos Contreras (00:23:34):
Right? If I call my customers, they don’t answer, but if I text immediately, I get it back. So that’s the way to communicate with them as far as we are concerned and as far as changing the way that we explain things, like Frank was saying, the digital inspections, we have to redo ’em over and over and over and over every few months because it’s got to be simple. It’s got to get to the point and the explanation on why it’s needed and why you’re recommending it. It has to be plain and simple because most people don’t want to know the technical and all the engineering built of any part. And you’re right, Frank, when you set up about women, our majority of customers are, and they are huge spenders, as long as they understand what you’re telling them, you’re treated precisely, equally, equally and respectfully, and you give them options the minute they feel threatened or you feel like you’re trying to pull one over them, it’s all over, buddy. It’s done.
Frank Scandura (00:24:36):
Listen, here’s why. Okay? I tell the guy he needs a bulge, right? And I tell the story all the time. He goes, I’ll do it next time. He has no clue what you’re talking about. You tell a woman she needs a ball joint. She goes, what does a ball joint? What does it do? What happens if I don’t do it? How long is it going to take? How much is it going to cost? And she’s gathering information and most of us guys are so small-minded, we go, oh, that’s so irritating. She’s gathering information because she needs to be able to make an informed decision. And that’s why they spend more than the average guy because they’re asking questions. And that’s why it’s up to us to provide that information, that educational information before to everybody so they can gather that information and go, oh, look at that.
It’s a bul joint. Here’s a picture of it. Here’s where the arrow ISS pointing to the crack boot. Here’s why I need to do it. Here’s how much it’s going to cost. Here’s how long it’s going to take. And then they could just click that approve button, right? And we’re getting to the point where we’re seeing more and more people now that we switched to shop, wear, click, approve, approve, decline, decline, approve, approve decline, which means to me they’re reading it and when it says pending approval, they didn’t read it, they didn’t look at it, they didn’t act on it. So we’re liking that a lot or they’ve approved the testing and they’re waiting for the results of the testing before they approve other work. So the more information we give them, the more informed they are, the more they’re going to make buying decisions. And it’s not about selling, it’s about educating the customers so they have safe and reliable transportation
Carlos Contreras (00:26:03):
Here at the shop. We don’t use the word sell anymore. We try to educate everybody where the customers buy, we don’t sell, they buy because it depends how well you educate ’em and explain what they need. They make their own decision, and that’s why I said earlier with the digital inspections,
The verage of those things and the explanation, the detail, we review that all the time and we don’t allow anybody to write what they want. It has to be perfectly done and it’s simply to the point. We also had the virtual videos that we could attach. If somebody, you’re trying to sell him a timing belt over the phone and explain what’s going to happen, one of my service writers could take 20 minutes. Why don’t you send them the one minute video? It’s well done as educators professional. And then when they call back says, you know what? I don’t want that to happen to my car. Why don’t we just do it? You know what I mean? But the key is to be willing to change and try the technology versus I could do this better if I could talk to the customer. That’s just yourself confidence that you’re trying to keep to yourself. I handle this myself. Forget that, man.
Frank Scandura (00:27:17):
The technology
Tom Dorsey (00:27:17):
Window, right? That’s like an eight pack tape because at times have changed that drastically. Have you noticed Carlos, or are you getting more after hours communication engagements? Let’s just say that they’re not calling you trying to get you on the phone at 10 o’clock at night, but they’re putting in a appointment request or they’re doing some other, maybe they’re interacting with your appointment reminder or your appointment confirmation or something like that. Are you noticing that more now since Covid started?
Carlos Contreras (00:27:52):
Yes. Yes it is. It’s getting better and I think it will be a lot better if we do a couple of tweaks to it that we are working on it, but definitely yes, absolutely. Yeah, that’s a
Tom Dorsey (00:28:05):
Key. You, well, I know some guys that can help you with a website if you ever
Carlos Contreras (00:28:10):
Right, right. I knew that was coming. Damn it.
Frank Scandura (00:28:14):
Carlos, send me an email. I’ll set up a demo for you.
Carlos Contreras (00:28:16):
Frank Scandura (00:28:19):
Tommy answered it.
Tom Dorsey (00:28:21):
Oh, Frankie, I’m sorry buddy, go ahead.
Frank Scandura (00:28:22):
I wanted to speak to the texting again some more. If you guys aren’t texting, you’re missing out. I’m pretty sure it was an AutoVitals event. I spoke to, everybody was in the room and we’re having a discussion about texting versus emailing, and I said, how many of you have responded to an email since you’ve been in his room? No hands went up. How many of you responded to a text message since we’ve been in his room? Four guys on the stage speaking, 90% of the hands went up.
Carlos Contreras (00:28:49):
Frank Scandura (00:28:50):
That’s why texting is important because your customer can respond to a text message while they’re doing something else. They cannot open that email, they cannot address it. It’s truly communicating on the level they want to be communicating with and get
Tom Dorsey (00:29:04):
Open. Yeah,
That’s a great point. But you got to keep it in the system, right? Adam Bench, just you chatted in and says he got a text from a customer this Sunday asking if he’d give him a free oil change since his oil change light came on 2000 miles after they did the oil change. Apparently I made the mistake of texting him from my personal cell phone of a picture of a part after hours. And so you got to kind of be careful because then they save that number and then here they come, Hey, I’m bored at midnight, you guys running any specials? I don’t have to get up at 6:00 AM But that’s a great right, is that you got to keep it in the system and then let them engage with the system. Because then I think, and I really want to get into this conversation if we can a little bit, is how do we layer in some ai, some artificial intelligence as well as human interaction, even if it’s behind the chat or behind the text that is received. But how do we get automation to be more accepted? I think in the customer service experience, or let me put it like this, how do we get it to be more beneficial to the shop, more profitable to the shop using that ai? Because I mean, we’ve been looking at it and I know you’ve been doing a lot of testing and right now it’s a lot to be desired. It would be my quick
Carlos Contreras (00:30:28):
Takeaway. I could tell you that in our shop, we already are working on that. It came very clear where I told my service writers, you call the customer and I take the customer, see who answers first. I got an immediate, it was quick. Boom, there you go. How about you? You’re still leaving a voicemail. So it was that fast. The other thing is if you want to stay in touch with your customers and make it feel at ease, because most people drop the cars, we have about 90%. I know Frank is about a hundred, which is I would love to be there, but when they leave here and let’s say it is a drop off and you drop it off at eight o’clock the latest by nine 30, about an hour later the latest, we send them a lease one text saying Your vehicle is in the shop real soon you will receive a digital inspection.
And the answer is, thank you for keeping me informed, period. Now there is. And then we send them the inspection, they look at it and we ask them to call us after they review, they call us. And that’s where the human interaction comes in with the service writer grabs it and explains and ask him different questions and they come up with a decision of the buying decision. You know what I mean? Yeah. I mean both are so important, but you have to do ’em in the right order and consistently. And then your customers, you will educate your customers that that’s how you do it. And it works wonderful when it works
Tom Dorsey (00:31:58):
And during operating hours. That’s a great process. What happens when we want to have that same maybe interaction but it’s after hours
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:32:10):
And it is triggered by the customer or not by the shop. So back to Carlos’s point, that’s what our workflow notification does automatically, you move the vehicle into a different workflow step. If you have configured it the way, then the customer gets an update. And that’s highly appreciated. Exactly for the reasons you mentioned. What becomes tricky is everybody who has a chat on their website starts complaining about bots interrupting an already busy service advisor on chat or people asking for parts pricing all day. That’s the biggest turnoff for using a well established technology on many, many online sales portals, right? There’s always a chat where you can talk to customer support for example. And so after we investigated what’s out there, we thought the current AI implementation of those things we looked at is not up to par. Just to give an example on Frank’s website, he’s European course a B two service for BMW is a normal language portion.
Every BMW driver probably knows. And if you ask how much is your B two service, the AI would say, do you want to replace oxygen sensor one or two on bank one or bank two because there was B two. So that’s the quality of AI we are going to encounter today. So there’s a lot to be desired still, but what we think is really possible, let’s call it the Pullman’s ai, which is just go into existing communication we have from websites, contact us forms, inspection results, inspection results, have a description of the symptoms. There is already words there in our database, millions of them. We don’t need to guess what 90% of the requests are going to be. So in our case, and we are testing this with Frank’s website this week, if I’m not mistaken, if not this, then next coincidence detection of how, detection of existing customers, detection of their recommendations, show that to them, allow Frank to define what the first and second level of communication is going to be.
So for example, if somebody says, can you give you an estimate on X? Then Frank has to find what a typical answer to somebody is who just wants an estimate on chat. It’s like an estimate on the phone, right? So there are two lines of defenses you can basically put in place without doing the oxygen bank two error and still provide value to the motorist before even the service advisor gets involved as a human. So we link the website directly to our workflow small flow system where you just get another alert, you get an alert from attack about a vehicle is done. Now you get an alert from a motorist to went through the first two lines of defense and now wants real stuff where a person has to say something that’s call it ai, I don’t know. That’s what we are implementing.
Tom Dorsey (00:36:09):
Well, that’s an interesting, I mean you could even go as far as it, they pass a couple levels of the poor man’s ai. Well then it hits me with a Calendly link and I book an appointment first thing in the morning or something like that to receive some callback, right?
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:36:27):
So that’s going to be a lot down the road, right to come, right. So
Bill Connor (00:36:37):
I lost you. Now I can hear
Tom Dorsey (00:36:47):
You. Can you hear me good? Yeah, it looks like we’re going, I don’t know what’s happening. Somebody’s dropping.
Bill Connor (00:36:53):
So while we was waiting to get back, one of the things that we really like to think about is at the beginning of this year, a cloud kind of come over the whole planet. And what the automotive industry did is they really looked for that silver lining. And what we did is we learned that to go ahead and change our business model to get customers to drop ’em off is actually work well for the customer, is work great for the shop. Now what we need to do is start thinking about what do we do to go in and make this behavior be reinforced. So afterwards that we go and get our customers to keep doing the same thing.
Frank Scandura (00:37:26):
I’ll tell you, let me jump in and say that I often teach that the customer is waiting for their vehicle, that they’re standing in front of my supervisor, they’re at the movies, at the grocery store, at their office, at home. They’re waiting for their vehicle. So it’s how we set those expectations that drop off
That makes a difference. And it’s truly education right out of the gate, right from the first time they search us or find us online or whatever they’re doing. Because still amazes me that people today, in today’s day and age think making an appointment for their car is when they pull up to the front door, somebody’s going to run out in a mad rush, jump in that car and pull it right into the shop. And because they have that expectation, if they’re waiting in the lobby that that pacing is, it’s 8 0 6, my car’s still outside, what’s going on? They don’t understand. That’s why we have to educate ’em. And that’s why this education is so important. And being able to communicate that to them through the AI that we was talking about to me is a game changer. This is not an appointment. You’re not making an appointment, you’re requesting an appointment. Oh, you need a price? No problem. Let me have one of my certified technicians inspect the vehicle for you. When would you like to bring it in? Right? Because that’s what we want to do. I don’t want to give ’em a price over the phone for breaks to have them come in and they need to brake pass. They need brake rot is to brake, causes are cracked, the brake fluid looks like mud and now all of a sudden, Hey, you told me $200, now you want 900? What’s going on here?
Bill Connor (00:39:02):
So we’ve got a couple different ways of entry into the shop right now. So that is a customer, that’s an existing customer going to your website, making an appointment coming in, and that’s one thing. We got one for the future, which is talking about using the ai. What about the customer that calls you on the phone today? How do we go in and leverage that conversation to get them to come in? What does that conversation explain the digital shop to them sound like? To get ’em to come in for a non-existing customer? How do we go ahead and encourage them to come in and actually make an appointment and drop off their vehicle versus trying to answer all those questions over the phone?
Frank Scandura (00:39:41):
Great question. Because we have to learn how to get that message to them electronically because my service advisors are trained to ask, have you been in before? Oh, you’re going to be so glad you chose us. Let me tell you why. And they go into, we’re going to do the complete inspection and we’re going to send it to you, either text or email, whatever’s more convenient, and we’re going to review those results with you and all of the things that we do that set us apart, whether it’s our warranty or shuttle service or free loaner cars, we wash the car and vacuum and do the inside and the outside of the windows because a lot of guys run the cars through the carwash and don’t touch the inside. So we always do those. Try to mention those little things that people forget. Bob Cooper, when he taught us about marketing years ago, told a story of somebody who was helping a beer company market their beer.
So he took a tour of the factory and he saw the bottles getting sterilized and he asked the people at the factory, what is that? And he goes, well, that’s the sterilization machine. Everybody does that. And the guy said, well, nobody knows everybody does that. So let’s market that. Your bottles get sterilized before they get shipped to you. Boom, sales jump, right? What did he do different? So that’s why we need to communicate. What are we doing for you, Mr. And Mrs. Motor is so that you understand why we’re the best selection for auto service at any price.
Bill Connor (00:41:02):
That’s interesting. You actually started out the conversation by answering Uwe’s favorite question, which is why you should do business with me. And then you talked about how you’re going to accomplish it. So that’s kind of interesting. You kind of flipped it around.
Carlos Contreras (00:41:15):
It is true. And then I agree with Frank. We do the same thing. And I like to go backtrack a little bit and say that the key for us is to educate the customers the way we do business. Because honestly, we’re trying to do the best way possible for the customer where when they call in, we tell ’em thank you. Well thank you for choosing us. You’re a new customer. And we explain to them how we do it about the digital inspections and so on. But more importantly, you always have to remember what sets us apart. If you want to be the best, you got to continue changing and improving and you cannot be part of the norm, everybody else, because you never grow. So with that in mind, you have to transfer that to the customer. We are the best. And let me tell you why we do all these inspections and everything.
And more importantly, when you come in here, we’re very honest. We will look at the whole complete state of your vehicle. We’re going to let you know everything about your vehicle, and more importantly, we’re going to give you options. You will have the buying power, not us. We’re going to educate you and you’re going to make the right decisions. They feel like they’re under control. They give you more of a chance to come in knowing all this stuff. And like you said, you cannot give him a price over the phone. I hate that too, because 98% of the time it’s never accurate. And then you have to backtrack and overcome that price difference and just get dance. You got to do whatever you have to do to make the customer feel great. So we believe in top-notch customer service, 100%. We do whatever it takes.
Like Frank was saying, well, I want to drop my car off, but I don’t have a way back. Don’t worry about it. We’ll take care of it. You need a lift. We got Lyft, we got Uber, we got a shuttle. Whatever it takes, we don’t let it. That’s not an excuse for us. We’ll find a way to get you home. Or we pick up the car, we deliver the car, it doesn’t matter. We try to tell ’em all the good things about us, why they chose us, that it’s a good choice for them for now and the future. Now to transfer that into a technology, that’s very, very interesting point. How can somebody click in the website and go in there and maybe something like a little video of the person talking, this is why you should come and do business with us instead of asking for a price. Let me explain to you why that’s not good. A little short video, one minute,
Frank Scandura (00:43:56):
And here’s, that’s the trip, right? Here’s my notes. Drop off video for instructions on dropping off your vehicle before or after hours and picking it up. You did that. I made notes on that already earlier today, so thank you for that.
Carlos Contreras (00:44:06):
Frank Scandura (00:44:07):
So one of the thing, lemme say something real quick. Go ahead. Don’t wait for the customer to tell you, oh, I don’t have a ride. They’re not going to tell you that. You want to tell them what you do before they have to ask, do you do this? That’s why they call and say how much because they don’t know what else to ask. We going to talk, and just
Tom Dorsey (00:44:27):
Real quick, I want to add to it is the trick from a digital perspective is anywhere I land in your engagement cycle, I need to get that message, whether it’s on a webpage, whether it’s on your Instagram page, whether it’s in an appointment reminder, Hey, here’s the type of business we are, here’s what you expect, here’s the process S. And in there it says, we do this digital inspection and we’re going to inspect your vehicle and then we’ll know enough to give you some pricing options, not beforehand. And so that really kind of circumvent, I think the price shoppers to some degree, but most importantly it sets a consistent expectation. And then you follow that up with your dropoff script. So if I got you on the phone, I’m saying the exact same thing that pinned video on my Instagram page is saying,
Frank Scandura (00:45:19):
And the same thing the other people in the company are saying. And I’m glad you mentioned the dropoff script because the dropoff script, if you don’t use one, you should Reason number one, it creates consistency. There’s nothing worse than me going to a restaurant that I had a fantastic experience at on Monday to go the next Friday to take my friends and have a completely different experience. No reason for that. Same thing for automotive. And the drop off script sets the expectations of the transaction. And if I don’t set the customer’s expectations on my terms, then I’m going to have to live up to them on their terms. And that is a train wreck.
Carlos Contreras (00:46:00):
A hundred percent. Yeah, because how many terms are there? You got what? 7,000.
Frank Scandura (00:46:04):
It’s not cheap. I want it good.
Carlos Contreras (00:46:06):
Yeah, you’re right. We do the same thing with the inspections and the way we treat people. It has to be consistent because like you said, the husband comes in or the wife that likes it two weeks later, my son Scott, is grinding breaks. Once you go over there and we don’t even do an inspection, we don’t do nothing. We blow it, we blew it. It’s just you cannot afford that. So there’s certain things that I call zero tolerance. There’s no talking about it. There’s nothing. This is the way we do it and there’s no questions asked. Period. You know what I mean? As far as the customer, you’re right upfront. You got to let ’em know all the stuff. When you do business with us, this is what we give you. This is our benefit. This is what’s in it for you. If they know what’s in it for them. For us right now, we’re experiencing a lot of the diagnosis, right? Cars are very hard to diagnose. Somebody calls in, I want to make an appointment for the diagnosis and I want to wait. If you say yes, what’s going to happen? Frank, you are in for a beating,
Frank Scandura (00:47:05):
You’re in for it. Yep.
Carlos Contreras (00:47:06):
Yeah. And then we tell the customer, listen, let me explain to you why it’s better for you to leave it here with us. We charge by the hour. Let’s say you’re going to pay me an hour and I go an hour and a half, an hour, 40 minutes because I have it for three or four hours. I don’t mind giving you for one hour. You know what I mean? Because I could take my technician to help me with other cars in the meantime. And I don’t rush with your car properly. We find their and all that stuff. And you’ll be at home doing whatever you got to do at work, try to get them out of here. That’s the key. And the drop off is something that we also looking at it in different ways. You go from having an envelope filling the stuff, put the keys in it, throw it in the little mailbox to maybe electronically, put a kiosk over there, a tablet in there where they just check in and then have some boxes, like the real estate boxes where they get, okay, put your key in box number three, this is the number.
And we want to use that also for pickups. A lot of customer says, I want to pick up my card later. Okay, we’re going to lock it outside. And I always wonder, what do somebody break the window and they go with the car? So it’s a lot of people maybe don’t like that they agree with it, but in the back of their mind it’s like, is that secure? Then they think, is that how you do it all the time? So we really thinking on the customer’s perspective, not just one, all of them. So this says 7,000 ways of doing everything. So now we got to figure out what works for us to deliver the best service.
Tom Dorsey (00:48:32):
So I’ll tell you in the future, Carlos, you’re going to have an ATM stuck to the side of your shop. And then I’m going to come up and I’m going to put in my card. And then matter of fact, then I’ll just, I’ll stick a sensor into the O BD two, and then it’s going to dag me right there at the ATM machine. It’s going to pull my service history in. It’s going to give me a recommendation and I’m putting my credit card in, drop my keys in a slot and it’ll print out. My RO for me
Frank Scandura (00:48:59):
Could print, you know?
Carlos Contreras (00:49:02):
Tom Dorsey (00:49:03):
I was
Carlos Contreras (00:49:04):
No, but you touch a good point. You touch a good point because I’m telling you, if you come in and you have that and you key your name and all that stuff, you got an appointment for your car at 10 o’clock and then all of a sudden the menu comes out for client services, would you like to also take care of this? More than likely people are going to upgrade to something. Oh yeah, do the transfer this time. It’s like, yeah, it’s self service,
Tom Dorsey (00:49:28):
Rain, get me my windshield wipers.
Bill Connor (00:49:30):
So Frank had talked about the dropoff script being extremely important. It is. Now how do we modify that for the new customer in the digital world? Do we have the same conversation except we go in and text them a link to a pre-canned inspection so they can see what good looks like? What are some of the tips that you would have of transitioning that drop off at the counter to the digital drop off?
Frank Scandura (00:49:53):
Good question. I dunno. Gee, Bill,
Bill Connor (00:50:00):
Thanks. Frank is stumped. I’ve never done this before.
Frank Scandura (00:50:04):
Another notepad. That’s a good question. How do we set that up? And I’d almost like to explore that a little bit and do that as a video. What to expect that, and that’s something that’s been in the back of my mind. What to expect when you bring your car in would be really valuable. And not necessarily send them a link for a good inspection, but have process. Show them here’s what the inspection looks like. I don’t want them to think just in terms of, oh, okay, my car’s okay, it’s perfect. They all know it’s not. You know what? It’s been on my past list for about a year and I haven’t quite come up with, and I’m kind of sidetracking here, rabbit hole. Thanks Bill. Digital welcome pack for a customer, right? Because we all talk about hand them something to tell them about you. Here’s something to read. And I’m really getting away from printing, so I’m writing this down. Digital welcome.
Carlos Contreras (00:51:05):
That’s a great point because even on your website, you could put in there, somebody’s going to make an appointment and you explain all that stuff to ’em right there, right? I mean that’s the way we’re going right now. And just to show you guys a little bit, we just, I’m proud to say what we’re nominated for the seventh year of the best of the facts. And what I want to show you, we have one of those little, lemme see, what is it right here? The little thing that you could put your camera to it
Frank Scandura (00:51:36):
And then a little code. Yeah,
Carlos Contreras (00:51:37):
Yeah, a little code. And then right away it prints unless the customer see the digital inspection.
Frank Scandura (00:51:45):
That’s brilliant.
Carlos Contreras (00:51:46):
Yep. We made one. Yeah. So the customer say, oh yeah, go there. This is what you get in every visit. And they look at it, oh that looks cool. I mean that was an idea that we came up with and our guy, Jose is the one that came up with it.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:52:00):
I would go in the same direction. Frank, why would you not? I would even go a step further. Once we know what car they drive, this is a typical inspection for a car you drive. I would even go to an inspection with a picture of whatever the call make is.
Frank Scandura (00:52:17):
So is that a feature request to have that linked directly to their spread their data, their request for information? Yeah.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:52:25):
Interesting. Yes, exactly. I’m envisioning back to the chat we talked about, right? When they want an estimate and you explain the process you have in your shop, you use the typically example of an inspection with a similar money range. And they can look at this right at there on their phone when they chat with you. I think pictures speak more than a thousand words. We keep repeating that. We’ve been
Frank Scandura (00:52:53):
Saying for years here. Matter of fact,
Carlos Contreras (00:52:57):
Something came to mind before I forget. It’s like, you know how we get the virtual videos? If a customer says, okay, I think I need an action sensor, and then on the website or something, you should say, okay, click here, play the little video, but action sensor. And right after that, this is why it’s important that you bring your vehicle for us to do.
Frank Scandura (00:53:15):
Carlos, let me interrupt you. If you had an AutoVitals website, you’d have that video on it. I have them. So yeah, I do. No, I have
Carlos Contreras (00:53:22):
It. I it have it. That’s what I saying. But that would be great because then oh, I need breaks from breaks, why? And then it shows a picture, the little one 32nd video and then says, this is why, let’s make an appointment.
I mean it’s endless, man. Like I said, it’s 7,000 ways to do this and I’m excited because this is the future. And for us, it’s been a blessing that we jumped into this kind of thinking. We’re always growth-minded kind of persons here at the shop where nothing is a fixed thing. Everything could change tomorrow and everybody’s adaptable to it from the new tech all the way to the owners. Everybody’s willing to do what it takes. And you know why? Before with the shows, I was looking at the service advisors and I’m trying to figure out, like we were talking about who’s going to handle the website and stuff like that. It’s impossible that we ask the service writers to do all that. So we had the production manager and we had the difference, make a difference person in the front and all of that come to who’s going to handle this?
So we need different people to handle this kind of stuff because I give you a quick list of my service advisors. I started writing it down and says, answer phones, checking customers, dispatch work to text and gss managed schedule, edit inspections, generated estimates, measure customers when the vehicles non invoice customers walk the shop to check for flow, status, price returns, make sure the second visits are follow up on customers. Automated oil changes. I mean, come on man, who can do this? So now that we identified this roadblock, all of this that we’re talking about, it’s got to be a person in charge of those appointments because it’s a shame when the appointments get made and we miss one or two, that’s huge because whatever happened is not right.
Frank Scandura (00:55:29):
There’s some truth to that. I think if you build a team environment, you got to be careful. You don’t understaffed your front counter, right? That’s for sure. So one advisor to two and a half texts is really ideal. And it took me a long time to realize that you need a good team environment. I hear my guys all the time when a message pops up where a text comes in, did you see this? Hey, did you see? So-and-so texted you, Hey, did you see this come in? Making sure that, Hey, did you guys reply to this guy? Or I’m going to. And while that may not be extremely efficient, I think it’s extremely good for team building and communication to each other, especially with the new TVPX. Being able to sign tasks really helps with that to, Hey John Caldwell, you’re at lunch, call ’em back, whatever the case may be.
So there’s a lot to be said for allowing them to do those jobs. They were doing it anyway, they just had to wait for the phone to ring or somebody to walk in the door. So they’re doing it anyway. So now people aren’t calling and they aren’t walking in the door, they’re messaging electronically. So I think they still need to be able to do that and then take some of the mundane work away from them of the stuff that somebody else can do. For me, it’s very valuable to have somebody dedicated to looking up parts, right? Absolutely. Service couldn’t look up parts, but I don’t think it’s best bang for the buck.
Carlos Contreras (00:56:52):
Hey Frank, let me ask you something. First of all, I love your shop. I looked that up and it’s thank you. Well said. And I’m sure you got great clientele there. And are you using somebody west up to the car and use the tablet to welcome them or?
Frank Scandura (00:57:09):
That’s a great question. Our process is the customer makes the appointment. We get as much information, we create that repair order as an estimate before they ever show up. When the customer gets here, the service advisor must do the initial walk around. And the reason for that is I want them to see mileage. I want them to be able to take a quick glance around the car. I want ’em to see that little scratch, that little dent, that little crack in the bumper that the customer never saw until you got the car back. You know that guy because I want them to say, Hey, did you need an estimate to get that dent removed? Hey, did you need an estimate to get that bumper fixed? The customer will say one of two things, what? Dent or No thank you, and they need to see how many miles are on a car to recommend the right service?
What light is it actually on, right? How many times the customers bought a car and said, I need my oil changed. You change the oil, you give ’em the car back to get back in the car and say, Hey, how come the light’s still on? And you go, well, that was the check engine light. You told me to do an oil change, right? That’s not customer service, so it’s critically important to verify all of that stuff. Then my porter goes around and then takes the detailed pictures of the walk around, and I think it’s like seven pictures is my minimum requirement for the walk around.
Carlos Contreras (00:58:28):
Frank Scandura (00:58:29):
And every scratch, every dent, every tire rub, every curb rash on the wheel gets documented at that time. But it’s really critical for the service advisor to get out there immediately, do that initial walk around, look for any of that obvious damage, crack windshields, how many miles are on his car, what services are you actually due for? And when you do that, and you couple that with reviewing service history and prior recommendations at off, you don’t get up to a thousand dollars ARO. You start with a thousand dollars ARO, and it’s a complete game changer. Bill’s smiling. Yes, he knows.
Carlos Contreras (00:59:04):
Yeah, because if you’re closing ratios about 70%, you’re still great, 80%. But you mentioned something really good as far as make, should you ask all the right questions. That’s something that we tried on the phone script. Try to ask him all the questions that we need over the phone. So when they drop the vehicle, it’s just a matter of walking around, taking pictures, like you said, and just taking the keys. They don’t have to repeat themselves, because quite often if they had to repeat themselves at the front counter, maybe they’re telling you a different story or maybe they’re in a different mode or something happened between there and here and they forget to tell you something else. Now they will forget. Yeah, it’s all up. Don’t forget until they get back in the car and they hear that noise again and they go, ah, yeah.
Or somebody’s waiting when I called them, right? Yeah. Or somebody is waiting behind them and stuff like that. But yeah, absolutely. So I think that I need somebody, we need somebody in the front besides the service advisors to do that kind of stuff. I want my guys, the way we are going is I want my service writers just do service writers. Just take care of the customers and the sales and the second visits. And I was thinking on the front, it’s better to have somebody that knows nothing about cars. That’s great, but knows a lot about customer service because that way they don’t get into trying to diagnose, you know what I mean? It’s so easy that, oh, I don’t think that’s the problem in your vehicle. I had one yesterday come in and says, it’s a 20,000 mile truck, 2,500 Chevy. It’s like, yeah, I was with my daughter and started losing air, and I just put a plug in it.
My immediate thinking was, well, you plugged it, man, how are we going to pass that, right? But I said, don’t say at work, Carlos, just take the ticket and bring it in. So I brought it in. He put a plug back. He didn’t just glue. It was just barely there. Then I explained it to him, but sometimes the service advisor could get into a discussion with the customer trying to explain why you can’t take a plug out of there and put another patch. That’s the kind of stuff I already have. Somebody very friendly, smiley, and just, yes, yes, yes. Take care of whatever it needs. A short conversation when they’re dropping off the vehicle.
Tom Dorsey (01:01:08):
Listen guys, we’re at top of the hour. I really want to move this conversation into the Facebook form if we can, because we kind of started to get into the meat and potatoes really on what we wanted, what we were going to originally base this episode around. And so I think as a continuation, it’d be a great place to continue that into the Facebook form. And I want to leave you with this. What if, and I’m sure there’s pros and cons of this, but what’s to prevent us from in our appointment request widget or our mobile website requesting that they take a few pictures with their appointment request so that the customer takes the four corner walk around in the picture of the dash and the vin. I mean, just food for thought, but I really appreciate you guys coming on. Carlos, it was fantastic having you on, buddy. I want to have you back. Got to
Carlos Contreras (01:02:00):
Tell you, man. Thank you.
Tom Dorsey (01:02:01):
Yeah, thank you Frankie. Same to you, man. Thank you for coming on. Always dropping just nuggets of wisdom like out of a B 52 or something. And if we can, like I said, keep that going. I know my mind is kind of, I’ve got some really neat, I think follow up that we’d like to run, probably have you both back on if you’re open to it, but we’ll kick that stuff offline. Bill Uwe, thanks as always. Thank you. Really good show today. I hope people took away some. I know even Frankie was taking notes and so that says something, right? Yeah. I always learn, man. I’m not too old to learn, so that’s fantastic. Tune in next Wednesday, same time, same place. We’re going to do it. Again, appreciate your time and attendance. Have a great day.
Carlos Contreras (01:02:50):
Thank you, sir. Thank Bye-Bye.

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