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Episode Description

We have a Hall of Fame lineup on this week’s episode of Digital Shop Talk Radio!

Having talented techs in your shop is crucial, but any successful shop will tell you that their techs’ success is due in large part to a team of skilled service advisors. This week we have two shop owners who truly understand the value and potential that a proficient SA wields.

Frank Scandura of Frank’s European Service in Las Vegas and Russ Crosby of Russ’s Wrench in Clinton, NJ, join the show to discuss the hills and valleys of finding and training good Service Advisors and how the reward is truly worth the investment.

Episode Transcript

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

Tom Dorsey (00:01):
Good morning and good afternoon. Welcome to this week’s edition of The Digital Shop Talk Radio. My name’s Tom Dorsey. I’m coming at you on location from Atlanta, Georgia in the Mobile Digital Shop Talk Radio studio. And today we’ve got a great show for you. I know I say that every week because that’s what I do. And get a pencil, get a piece of paper. You’re going to want to take notes. We’re going to be talking about how to build high power service advisor teams up at the front counter there. And I got the master of culture building. Russ Crosby, you all know him from a couple different episodes. He’s been on with us drop in knowledge and insights on, he’s the guy with the book club, so you know that he’s going to be giving us some solid insights on how to build that strong team up at the front counter. And then of course, a frequent guest on Digital Shop Talk Radio. Frank Scandura from Frank’s European in Las Vegas. We’re, we’re happy to have you back, Frank. Russ, welcome guys.
Russ Crosby (01:01):
Thank you.
Tom Dorsey (01:02):
So let’s talk about it. So stuff has changed, right? I mean that’s the bottom line is back in the day, the guy at the counter was probably a master tech and he was just kind his back hurt from bending over the fender for 30 years and that you needed to have that level of a guy up at the front to be able to take the technician’s information and convey it to the customer and order the right parts and get all of that ducks in a row. But times have changed. And so what would you say is maybe your biggest criteria when you’re looking to recruit a good service advisor or develop one?
Russ Crosby (01:42):
Well, it all starts with the personality and who they are as a person. So initially what happens is I’ll have, whether it’s whoever’s looking for a job, we have them talk with my wife first. So my wife will take the initial phone call interview. I want to see how they interact, whether it’s a male or female advisor that’s looking to come on board. So I want to see how they interact, especially now that I think women are 70 or 80% of the buyers in the country. So I want to see how they react with my wife. And she has very standardized questions that we ask. And it has nothing to do with really the automotive industry. It’s more on who you are as a person, what are your goals? Do they have goals? What are they looking to get out of coming to work with our team?
And we kind of break ’em into some of the things that we do differently as a shop. And I just had a guy, it’s his one year anniversary at my shop and his name’s Alex and Alex came in for a job interview as a technician. I was looking for a general service technician. And Alex came in with really no knowledge of the automotive industry other than what he’s learned from his stepfather. And he came in looking to change careers and we got talking a little bit. And I asked him, where’d you come from? What’d you do? And Alex actually worked for a supermarket chain called ShopRite. He was a dairy manager for ShopRite for a number of years, and he was unhappy with the work environment and he managed a bunch of people. He was younger than most of the people that worked for him.
And that didn’t stop him. But as we were talking, I noticed this is not him coming into work as a technician is not going to be a fit for him. But the way that he presented himself and how he understands numbers and profit margins and different areas of all business, I said, man, I could really use someone like this who understands the basic principles. So we got him involved with writing tickets and he was super green, but I tell you what, he is the go-to guy in the shop now for my whole team. Everybody respects him and loves him. He’s got a great energy and he’s just developed into a great person and really, really great at his job. And that goes for Becky. She’s one of my other service advisors. And she came from, she worked for a bus industry, so she had some knowledge riding tickets, but she was kind of more behind the scenes.
And she was working for a golf course for a little while and we talked and I saw she had a great personality. Everybody loves talking to her. And we had ’em do something called the disc. They took a disc, which we want to see how their personalities are going to react with the rest of our team. And it was pretty cool to see how that all came together and basically just keep your options open. Don’t just limit it to the automotive industry. There’s a lot of industries out there where you can grab some great people and train ’em up. If we could train the automotive industry, can’t train ’em to be good people.
Tom Dorsey (05:09):
People. Yeah, no, that’s a great point. And that’s brilliant. See, I told you, Russ comes right off the top rope with brilliance, right in the opening session, right? Because if you remember back to the episode we did with Kathleen Jarosik and Kim Hickey, we were talking about women in the industry. What was one of the big kind of perceptions or reactions that Kathleen would get? Hey, where’s somebody who can help me? Where’s a guy that I can talk to that’s going to know something, right? And what a brilliant thing to do to screen your potential staff is to have them interact with a female right off the bat and see if they even have that empathy, if they don’t right out the back door. Because why waste your time? You need to have, like Russ said, and sure he took it to the level of giving him a disc profile.
And that’s another great, because you know what? As an AutoVitals shop, as a digital shop, data doesn’t lie. And when you can compile that data, then you can make clear decisions and you get a good understanding of what you have to work with. But hey, Frank, to you, so would you say, I mean, where do you find a solid service writer crop, right? Where do you go hunting when you’re looking to recruit and where have you found in your experience, you’re able to bring the best out? Because Russ here had a great result. He developed somebody and it worked and it turned into a powerhouse employee. How have you found in your experience where you like to hunt?
Frank Scandura (06:37):
Russ is right on. So service industry is the key. People who have that servant heart, I want to serve, I want to help. And honestly, the less they know about cars, the more successful they can be. And Tom, you opened up and saying the days of the technician unlocking the door and setting up shop still happens a lot, but boy, a lot of these guys are faced with a rude awakening because sometimes the best technicians aren’t the best service advisors. And that doesn’t mean techs can’t do it, right? If you guys are retiring and you think you want to get up on the front counter, learn what you need to learn, if you think you’re going to go up there and explain to the customer everything that’s going on, well, I measured the run out of the wheel bearings and we’re at 42,000 sub, and that’s why we need to do, it means nothing to a customer.
So you really have to learn how to do it. So here’s a true story. We hired a gal not long ago, and we do a very long interview process. And part of that process is how do they act in public? So we go out when it’s a gal, we go out to lunch if it’s a guy and a wife, then we’ll go out to dinner and the server was behind her and had a glass tip over on her tray. This gal turns around and lifts the glass up. Nobody said anything. That’s her nature that caused her to do that. Okay, bang, ding, ding, ding. You’re checking all the boxes. So that’s the heart that people need because buying habits are different, customers are different, searching for information is different. We can’t do things the way we’ve always done. So you need somebody who can relate. It’s about relationships, train, train, train, learn, learn, learn. And then that’s for me, been our secret to success.
Tom Dorsey (08:23):
Yeah, that’s a great point, right? Because I can come in and I can, you don’t know me, and I can put on a good show and I can say the right things, but it’s really hard to conceal who you are and how you lead your life and your actions. And like you said, your instinctive reactions in that case were to help. And so therefore you have a high probability of being a very empathetic person. Because in my experience, empathy is, I think one of the main criteria that a service advisor should have is to understand it. And the patience is because not everybody has the same level of understanding and not everybody has the same need. And some people are insecure and some people are much more secure in their decision making process. But until you have established that profile on that customer, you really have to listen, right?
You have to have the patience to listen. And so often we’re so busy in the shop that, gosh, we just don’t have time for that. I’m going to ask you a bunch of questions, give me an answer. And then the perception of the customer is, whew, man, I don’t know. I feel a little rushed and I felt overwhelmed and I felt pressure. And that’s what we want to eliminate. So let me ask you guys this. Once we find that profile of that guy, I’ve got a coachable guy, he’s got empathy, positive attitude. He fits into the culture and the shop and the team and they love him. How do we get ’em from that kind of green state up to the state where Russ is done and the guy is the go-to guy in the shop, he’s seen as the expert in there from both sides, from internally and externally with your customers. What is that ramp up plan, Russ, since you did it last, pick it up.
Russ Crosby (10:15):
Alright, so what we’d like to do is we have that writer sit alongside with my other writer so that they can learn the traits, learn AutoVitals, learn the POS system and really understand what they’re talking about. And to Frank’s point before, people that don’t really have automotive knowledge sometimes make the best service advisors because they can interpret. If they can’t understand what the technicians are saying, then how are they going to sell it to the customer? So what was that
Tom Dorsey (10:51):
Exactly? A hundred percent not dead on.
Russ Crosby (10:54):
Yeah, I mean, like Frank said, if we’re trying to stand at the counter and tell a customer the runout on this bearing is this, it’s like it’s going to the doctors and having a doctor tell you all kinds of things that are going on with you and you’re kind of there with these big eyes and have no idea what’s going on. You’re just hoping that they’re telling you what you need to hear. So we train our writers to make sure that they can understand and articulate back to the technicians, Hey, you need to break this down a little bit more. We need to be able to sell this a little bit differently. I understand where you’re coming from, but if I can’t understand it, how am I going to sell it? So using that along with some of our training techniques and different sales techniques and understanding who your buyer is, is huge.
We want to train our rider to understand what the purpose is of this vehicle. Is this a vehicle that they use to commute every day back and forth to work? Is this a car that they take out on the weekends that they just love to rip on? Is this something that they’re putting their whole family in to go cross country for a vacation? What are they looking to get out of the vehicle? But teaching the riders to understand what they’re looking to get out of the vehicle is really important. And like Frank said, people that are in the service industry are about serving others. They’re there to listen to what the needs are and then execute what we need to do to get that vehicle on the road and in the condition that they need it to be in. So by setting them up with a service advisor, if one’s not available myself and teaching them to understand the buying personalities is pretty much the most important thing. We can teach them how to understand Alex, he already had a good understanding of numbers and using the BCP from AutoVitals really helps that because they can see exactly where we have dips and valleys and we can use those graphs and those numbers to coach them and see where they need to improve or how we can help empower them to do a better job. But if you have the right person, they’re naturally going to want to do the better job.
Tom Dorsey (13:13):
Russ Crosby (13:13):
Course, that’s the big part right there, is them wanting to self-improve, which is huge
Tom Dorsey (13:20):
Of course. So Frank, so if I got a guy from outside of the industry, fits the profile, great fit in the culture, but his job is to translate the technician’s findings to the customer, how do I make that leap? What would, I mean, give the audience some help on how can they get somebody with a great service background but knows nothing about automotive? I mean, do they have to spend a lifetime at the front counter before they can?
Frank Scandura (13:53):
Not at all. It starts with people who can relate to people. So if you have an advisor who can relate to people, that means he can relate to the technician. And it’s as simple as Here, explain it to me like I’m five. And then the tech gets an opportunity to say, okay, well what that means is, and then the advisor goes, oh, okay. They run up and the next thing you know the deal’s done, it never fails. The people I put on the front counter with the least automotive experience has always done the best. They don’t know what they don’t know
Tom Dorsey (14:27):
Exactly, exactly. They have to figure out the translation. Like a kid, A kid figures out how to say, I want ice cream
Frank Scandura (14:36):
And we call it here affectionately translating technician to human right. And there’s a little bit that gets done there. It’s a little bit of translation and it’s really not that difficult to transition for those shop owners that are out there and those shop managers are out there that are terrified to hire somebody that doesn’t have a huge automotive background to take care of their customers. Really back off of that, that’s not the answer. It’s about relationships. People don’t buy parts and pieces anymore. They don’t buy brake pads and rotors. They buy trust. You have to establish the trust. They have to build rapport. You have to understand what they need. Russ nailed it, right? What are your plans with this car? And well, the car is really very sentimental to me. My aunt gave it to me and I want to keep it forever. Okay, good. So I know that money is less important to you than this car. Then now we can move forward. Well, if this car lasts me another six or eight months, that’s great because I’m going to graduate college or I’m doing this or I’m doing that and then I could, and then, great, this is what I need to know. And then we can help them prioritize their needs. So the more in automotive is not necessarily the answer in the front counter. I want people that can relate to humans.
Tom Dorsey (15:47):
And then how does the digital inspection help with that translation? I mean, do you have best practices in place for technician notes or video and picture policy that literally almost writes a script for the service writer to translate?
Russ Crosby (16:02):
I mean, that makes it so much easier on the writer, especially if they don’t have that experience. If you have a technician that can break down what’s going on there and they’re writing it in those pictures with arrows, the story tells itself, most of the time people can see, hey, this is broken. I see that. What’s going to happen if I don’t fix it? And that’s where your advisor, training your advisor to talk with the technician and understand what the technician’s saying really helps. If you didn’t have that inspection software and weren’t able to hone in on those inspections, vitals allows us to do, it would be a little more difficult for people to come in without that experience because they have a lot more explaining to do. But when we can put a picture and an arrow to what we’re talking about, it really takes a lot of the questions out of the customer’s mind because now they, sometimes you’ll feel somebody that doesn’t really have a lot of knowledge about the industry or they’re new, but when you see a report that has all of these things on there that are lighting up on ’em, this is good, this is bad.
They don’t have to try and go in depth and feel like they have to explain themselves on those issues. The story tells itself, like I said before, now what do you think, Frank?
Frank Scandura (17:28):
Yeah, exactly. We’re educating the customer on their level now, right? Russ doesn’t look old enough to remember the days when you used to call the customer up and say, you’ve got to come down here and see this. The guy would come look up and go, I don’t know what I’m looking at, whatever. And then we made it somehow someway into taking a picture from a digital camera ferry, how to email that, the customer and getting that to ’em. And then it went from that to the telephone. Now not only can we send them the digital inspection with the educational information, with the educational videos, with the details about their car, it just and measure it. That’s amazing. Sorry about all these notifications guys. And it just takes a lot of the anxiety for the motorist out of the situation
Russ Crosby (18:19):
And the writer and the writer,
Frank Scandura (18:21):
The writer. Sure. Yeah, absolutely. We just got a five star review this morning from a lady who bragged about getting the pictures from Riley and what a great job she did showing me everything my car needed,
Tom Dorsey (18:34):
Because that’s got to be a critical success factor is I have to be confident in my job. And if I don’t know anything, I’m not too confident. I’m like, oh, I think or let me, one of the worst things is lemme go ask somebody else. And eventually you’re thinking to yourself, can you just go get the guy who knows stuff and have him come out here and help me? And so if you’re always just the go-between, then you lose credibility from that perspective. And so it has to be empowering for the service writer to have that story like Russ was talking about delivered to him. And then I can feel confident in educating the motorists that’s in front of me.
Frank Scandura (19:07):
Let me speak to that real quick. So what you do is it’s not the credibility with the customer that’s damaged. It’s the credibility with your employee
Damage when you intervene, when you jump in, because I’ve learned that it’s better to wait until the situation’s finished, done, no matter what the results are. If the customer’s not happy, it doesn’t matter. What did we do wrong? How do we learn moving forward? It’s more empowering to my team than jumping in the middle and second guessing them, right? Number one. Number two, I’ve also learned, so when I started Frank’s and 18 years ago, which seems like more like 25 to life, it was me, one helper, one porter, and I did it all right? So we’ve grown from that to where I have 18 employees now in a 12,000 square foot building. But when I first started, put an advisor on for you rookies that are starting to hire these people and build these teams, people would demand to talk to me. Demand, nope, only Frank can help me. Nope. He’s the only one I’d get on the phone. Hey, can I bring my car in front? An oil change? Hang on, lemme get the advisor for you. And that’s the way you do the transition. So you have to give your team the power, the education, the training, the resources they need to succeed.
Tom Dorsey (20:18):
Yeah, no, that’s agree with
Russ Crosby (20:18):
Frank. More on that. I’m a fairly new business and it’s been a crazy transition for myself. As I brought on service advisors, people were coming in and talking to me and they wanted to talk to me. They wanted to talk to me on the phone. Like Frank said, every time that you jump in there and you stop them from doing their job, you’re hurting them. You’re taking that credibility away from your writer and now the customer is going to come back looking, talk to you every single time. And that is a very hard habit to break. We all know that. But for me, it’s weird now, and I’m sure it was for Frank too, when people are coming in and they don’t want to talk to me anymore, people call and I’ll answer the phone now and they think I’m a new employee. It’s great. I love it.
Frank Scandura (21:07):
Yeah. I’ve gotten it to the point where when I do make it out to the front to introduce myself to a new customer, when I hear them interacting and I say, Hey, lemme go out and introduce myself, most of the time they’ll say, wow, there really is a frank
Russ Crosby (21:21):
The same thing. That’s the best.
Tom Dorsey (21:23):
What happens when you’re a celebrity
Frank Scandura (21:26):
Quasi celebrity. That’s pay for my status.
Tom Dorsey (21:29):
You’re an author,
Frank Scandura (21:30):
This is true. I’m published.
Tom Dorsey (21:32):
You got to get out there and do book signings more often in the lobby. I
Frank Scandura (21:35):
Do that.
Tom Dorsey (21:37):
Actually, they probably, I would say, going into your lobby, they probably think you’re the bellhop. They’re like, oh gosh, my luggage is in the car still. I’m just kidding. So for new shops, for guys that are just getting started out and they’re hearing this and they’re thinking, because let’s be honest, there’s been some good insights dropped in here today already, and it’s really a different change in how I think about the position even and what they should be focused on. So for a new shop owner, new to AutoVitals, wants to implement some of these best practices, what would you say Frank is? Where should they start monitoring from A KPI perspective? What’s important to observe so that you know your service advisors are on that path to success?
Frank Scandura (22:26):
That’s good. So inspection rate and inspection, sent rate and motorist viewing, what do we call that? Motorist? Motorist
Tom Dorsey (22:37):
Research time.
Frank Scandura (22:38):
Research time. And because without those three, there is no sale. And real quick, so when we first started with AutoVitals, Hey guys, we’re going to send every one of these inspections to the customer. You got a boss, I’m your guy, I’m going to do it. I’d run the report and it’s like 26%. No, that can’t be right. I know I sent more than that. Then the next one was 30 than 40 to 50, 60. So we’re up over 96, 97% pretty consistently. And every car gets inspection, every discovery gets estimated, every estimate gets presented to the motorist. If you don’t do that, you’re opening yourself up to problems and disappointments. And those are the things that we measure consistently.
Tom Dorsey (23:23):
So that’s a pretty straightforward recipe to success right there. I mean, at least from the implementation perspective, the baby steps, getting it started and building the habits to get them onto the right track because then after that you kind of lean back and look at your top line metrics and drill down when you have to see if there’s any of those areas where performance be slipping across those best practices. So Russ, similar in your shop, you’re using the BCP, obviously it sounds like you use it quite regularly in the team meetings and planning, but what about from a goal perspective? How can I go in there and set some goals initially for a new guy that says, Hey, we’re goal oriented and goals are challenging, but they’re not impossible, and you don’t scare ’em off or overwhelm them.
Russ Crosby (24:19):
So when you’re talking to your rider and you’re setting these goals, make sure that you listen. Let them tell you what their goals are because sometimes you might surprise yourself. There may be just something that needs to get tweaked here or there. Then all of a sudden they’re exceeding what your expectations were. So make sure when you sit down and you’re setting goals, listen to what they want too. See what they say and use that as good input. Another thing is take that input and when you’re talking to your AutoVitals coach, if you’re an ATI client or whatever you are, or whoever you’re talking to, have them look at those goals too. Work on it as a team. Talk to another shop that you see is successful. We’re a huge network of garages out there, and we could work together to set goals, but when you’re working with your writers, make sure you’re listening to what they are saying. It’s huge in those team meetings that you’re having. If you’re not having ’em, make sure you have ’em. We sit down every Wednesday and we go over the BCP, we look at the goals that we’ve set, and I do that even with my technicians also. And I say, okay, well, we slipped here a little bit, but we did really good here. What changed last week? And when you’re doing that every week, it’s a lot less likely to lose track of your goals and you can stay focused.
Tom Dorsey (25:49):
Yeah, because I mean that’s really the straightest path, straightest path, path to success. Oh, looks like I had some construction. We’re doing some remodeling on the mobile digital shop talk radio studio. So sorry about that background noise. But really if you set the goals, give them the tools and the transparency and the understanding on how to get there and then get out of the way. And then if you look at it from a performance perspective, I’m looking at those top line metrics. You don’t have to have your thumb on ’em, just like you said. And just like what Frank said, brilliant, right, is do not undermine your staff. Pull ’em to the side after the fact. You’re not going to fix that. Whatever happened anyway, you can only kind of apologize and rebuild that bridge and that’s tomorrow and pull ’em aside and remanage those expectations and then let ’em go out there and do it. You do it with your kids. Can you imagine if you moved your kids’ feet all the time, they’d never learned walk. You got to trust them, you hired them, let ’em fly, is what I would say.
Frank Scandura (26:51):
That’s a good point, Tom. And a lot of people get hung up on that. And I need to trust you to do the job I’ve hired you to do, period. And if I measure it, it’s not emotional, but when it’s emotional, it’s like we’re not sending out any inspections. Well, if we’ve got a 50% inspection sent rate, that’s exaggeration. So now you can narrow it down. Who’s not sending ’em what’s going on? We agreed we’re going to do this. What happened? And I read something today in one of my inspirational quotes, if you want to do it, you’ll find a way. If you don’t want to do it, you’ll find an excuse. And that really sums it up. So when you’re asking somebody and you’re having this discussions that triggered something in me, now it’s like, oh, wait a minute. We talked about this a couple of days ago and you’re telling me all the reasons why you couldn’t do it, why it didn’t happen. So now I know if you wanted to do this, you would’ve found a way. How’s that?
Tom Dorsey (27:55):
I Go ahead, Ross. Go ahead.
Russ Crosby (27:58):
Just similar to what Frank just said, I was listening to a podcast actually from Joe Rogan, whether you like him or not, but he was talking about when he was in school and he was basically flunking out of college, and he said he didn’t really get involved with his class until he was trying to prove a point wrong. So if you have somebody that’s coming up with all these excuses of why you can’t do it, or if they’re challenging, you talk to them about how come they can challenge you on this specific item, but they can’t rise to the occasion on something else that you’re asking them to do. What am I missing as an owner? Or how can I help you achieve those goals? When he said that, I was like, that totally makes sense. I know I’ve done that in the past where if you slack off, you’re just looking for that one chance to prove a point. Well, how come you can put the effort in then and not now?
Frank Scandura (28:54):
Good. Yeah,
Tom Dorsey (28:55):
Good shoe goes right on the other foot. Hold him accountable. So no, that’s fantastic. Listen, I know we got a hard break today. Frankie’s got to go out there and continue saving the world. Russ has to do the same. I think actually Russ has to go out there and repopulate the world from what Russ going, congratulations. Russ has a new baby expected here in a couple weeks. So building the family, I think he’s building a network of shops out there just to house all those children. And he’s churn out you Amish or something, by the way,
Russ Crosby (29:23):
With a beard. You might think so.
Tom Dorsey (29:24):
Exactly. But what I want to do is let’s continue this discussion. Ask those questions. If you’re new to vitals, hey, you’re new to shops in general, you got two guys right here on Facebook is where you catch ’em. Ask those questions and we’d like to have ’em back on and follow up. And maybe we’ll take a lot of those questions and concerns and input that you all have, and then we’ll do another show on it here in a couple of weeks where we can give some more insight and some help. And then of course, you’ve always got a great forum right there in Facebook to ask direct questions and look for help from other shop owners that are peers of yours and right in the same boat. So let’s continue that discussion on Facebook. I want to, again, thank you guys. Really appreciate you coming out. I mean, it was a fantastic show, I think from, I mean, I learned stuff and I’m an old dog.
Russ Crosby (30:13):
Thank you very much for having me.
Tom Dorsey (30:15):
Always, man. You’re always welcome, Frankie. You too, buddy.
Frank Scandura (30:19):
You guys have a great day. Thanks, Tommy. Thanks guys. Nice to meet you.
Russ Crosby (30:23):
Yep, you too.
Tom Dorsey (30:24):
Yep. So until next Wednesday, 10:00 AM Pacific, 1:00 PM Eastern Digital Shop Talk Radio. We’re going to be talking to. We’ve got a great show next week. Also, Jennifer Grady, am I getting the name right? Dustin? You got it. Tom. Jennifer Grady’s coming in. She’s a lawyer, grew up from an auto repair family, so she’s got a lot of good insight on liability issues, and we’re going to be talking about some of that stuff from digital inspection perspective and just the law. So tune in next Wednesday. Until then, get out there and make some money. We’ll talk to you then.

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