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Episode Description

Service Advisors can’t work remotely, right?

Of course they can! On this week’s episode, we welcome Russ Crosby (Russ’s Wrench, Clinton, NJ) who has used COVID-era constraints and shop expansion as a catalyst to explore the opportunities that a remote staff will allow – and the results speak for themselves.

What we covered:

  • How to manage multiple shops from one location
  • A staff that’s able to work from anywhere helps both shops to strive
  • What types of work you can manage remotely, and the tools necessary to set yourself up for success
  • The type of challenges to be tackled

Episode Transcript

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

Tom Dorsey (00:00:04):
Good morning and good afternoon. Welcome to this week’s edition of The Digital Shop Talk Radio. I’m Tom Dorsey, and today I got a great chill for you. Welcome back, the King of Culture, Mr. Russell Crosby from Russ’s Wrench in Clinton Township, New Jersey. And today we’re going to be talking about, and I got to tell you what, and I’ve got of course welcome Bill Connor. Half of our expert panel of experts is on today’s show. We’re going to miss Uwe. If I had a 40, I’d pour some out for him and his memory, but he’ll be back on next Wednesday. He’s doing corporate stuff today, so he couldn’t make the show. Welcome, Mr. Bill.
Bill Connor (00:00:43):
Howdy, glad to be here again.
Tom Dorsey (00:00:46):
Yes, sir. Glad you made it back. And I see you’re still in the same camp spot, so that’s fantastic.
Bill Connor (00:00:51):
No smoker flames, so that’s all good.
Tom Dorsey (00:00:54):
Yep. And hey, listen up today we’re talking about some pretty amazing stuff. We’re going to blow your mind because as you know, if you’ve been following the show and you’ve seen some of the shows and some of the stuff we’ve talked with about Russ, Russ is a pretty innovative guy. Matter of fact, I’m probably going to have to come up with an additional moniker form by the end of this show. He’s going to have more names than Daenerys Targaryen by the time we’re done with this guy. But what we’re talking about today is a solution to some staffing issues, we’ll put it that way, and some other ideas on how to manage production inside of your shop, but maybe managing that production from outside of your shop. And specifically we’re going to talk about can we leverage the digital shop to hire remote people that work remote 100% of the time for your business and what are the pros and cons of that? So Russ, if you could, buddy, why don’t you tell us a little bit, because I got to tell you, man, I’m looking at your numbers and it’s almost, I want to say you’re lying, right? Because tell us what happened, COVID hit, quarantines came in place, and then you had a pretty, I think, innovative and outside of the box thinking type solution for that. What did you do?
Russ Crosby (00:02:19):
So at the beginning of Covid, we were faced with the same challenges that many people were and there was a lot of fear in the team members and our customers and how are we going to get through this? And we rely very heavily on all of our team members to get the job done. And one in particular was my service advisor and marketing manager, Becky, and she has a little son and not only was he home from school, but he also has pretty bad asthma. So she really couldn’t take the risk of the unknown, what could happen if she would bring it home.
And when Covid hit, she actually sent him down to, I believe it was South Carolina with her family, her mom and dad to stay with them for a while to kind of wait out the storm and ultimately she wanted to see her kid, so we had to come up with a solution. So Becky, since March has been working remote as a service advisor and marketing manager, and it’s been working really, really well. Her and I talked about this a lot and I’m sure we’re going to get into a ton of it today, but there’s a lot of questions that could turn on if it would work, how it would work, and logistics of the idea of working remotely as an automotive service advisor, which it’s brought it up to a couple people and they were like, I don’t even know how this is going to happen. But we’ve been doing it and it’s been working really well, and now we’re really relying on this to move forward as we open our second location and possibly a third one very soon.
Tom Dorsey (00:03:59):
So she’s been working full time from the house since March,
Russ Crosby (00:04:04):
So she’s been working full time since March. She spent most of that time in South Carolina. It’s beautiful there. So she spent the summer working remotely in South Carolina on the beach with her family. So after work she’s out the back door on the beach and I think in a pretty terrible time for a lot of people, she was able to really enjoy the time and still be able to get the work done followed by, she came home and she’s been working from home ever since here in Jersey.
Tom Dorsey (00:04:37):
Yeah, no, that’s incredible. So can I ballpark some of your numbers? Would you object to that?
Russ Crosby (00:04:45):
No, no, please go ahead
Tom Dorsey (00:04:46):
Because I got your BCP open and this is the results, right? I’m looking at it from March until today and that’s why I was saying you got to be pulling my leg because I mean your motor, I’m going to start at motorist research time. It doubled, it took about a month from March to May end of April, and you had doubled your motorist research time, right? I went from about the $600 range to about the $800 range from March until today. So that’s all through Covid, whether she’s at the front counter or on the beach, regardless. Through Covid, you guys drove that kind of success. Your car counts a little. I mean it’s not really dramatically down. There was some spikes or some valleys, but it’s staying static, but your revenue per service rider doubled. It’s over a hundred percent increase in that time. And I mean that’s pretty incredible buddy. I don’t even know what to say to that, right? Is not only did you take somebody and completely take ’em out of the shop, put ’em into an unknown, but at the same time and she’s doing marketing and writing, I would assume obviously it worked, right? Where do you go from here? Are you going to say, well now I’m sending all the service writers home, I’m just going to replicate that. What are you doing next?
Russ Crosby (00:06:17):
I think what really helped drive those numbers was we were forced to make some big changes. So we started using the production director like John and Adam talked about last week in a very similar fashion. But Becky is focusing on selling the jobs, talking with customers, and focusing on marketing to new customers or reaching out to our older customers. So we’re really utilizing her strengths during this time we’re looking to bring on more advisors and more production people because it’s just going to grow. It’s going to continue to grow. The faster we can get these things spit out and get those customers called back, it proves that the numbers prove that we’re going to do better. We’ve got, now I do have a parts person and a parts director or a production director in place. So we trained him up. So now I’ve got two people building these estimates and then Becky’s just on the phone making calls all day long and it frees her up to do more marketing, which that’s really what we need. We need to get our message out there and figure out how we can get seen by more people.
Tom Dorsey (00:07:32):
Bill, are you going to start telling everybody that they need to send their service writers home?
Bill Connor (00:07:37):
Well, you never can tell what I might come up with, but what I really want to go and point out is automotive independent aftermarket really is a really flexible industry. If people aren’t so more to the bottom of the lake where they get drowned in the process. But Neil here, what he discovered is necessities, the mother of invention. So they actually started exploring. Now what we want to do is we want to say, you know what? That’s a great idea. It works well and so on. Now what we want to do is we want to get shops to understand is maybe they should go ahead and put this in place as they’re hit by the bus plan. When your service rider gets exposed to covid and they got to be out for 14 days, do we let them starve to death and take them out of our loop?
Or do we put something in place to go ahead and do that? Then we can expand to the next step. Can we, because we can’t find good people in our own area, can we go ahead and send a pc, a monitor and a headset to somebody in another part of the world and have them go ahead and join our team as a valued member by using the digital tools and leveraging them? So what I might recommend may be by the individual shops, but right now with what’s going on in the world, this would be my hit by the bus plan for sure. And then I would go ahead and start exploring it and leveraging it further based on the fact that good people are hard to find, they may be another part of the planet and we want to go ahead and bring them in and they don’t want to move. Why not go ahead and use the digital tools?
Tom Dorsey (00:09:03):
Yeah, I mean that’s a great point, right? It is. That’s a great backup. It’s like a fire drill.
Bill Connor (00:09:08):
Actually, there’s one more thing I’d like to bring up. I’ve got some shops that I work with that recently, one of the gentlemen I just talked to yesterday, he’s got to go out and have surgery on something or other. He’s going to be out for two weeks plus another six weeks besides that. And he knows if he goes back to the shop too early, he’s going to push his butt out there and go ahead and re-injure himself. So this is his hit by the bus plan to go ahead and join us, listen in today and talk about some of the other solutions. So there’s a lot of reasons besides covid and things and that things just happen and why go ahead and have somebody off work financially strapped for six weeks while they’re waiting for a leg to heal or whatever else.
Tom Dorsey (00:09:49):
Yeah, and we had that, remember last year actually the shops in the audience today, a guy I think was back surgery and he ended up, I mean he worked from his bed during recovery then about three months. It was really the first kind of implementation that I had heard of that and really kind of get you thinking, but leave it to Russ to just take that stuff to the next level. And because we haven’t even scratched the surface about what we’re going to talk about here in today’s show, we’re just setting you up for the jaw to hit the floor. Because really when you start kind of down this rabbit hole, the possibilities become almost endless. Because I wanted to start off and I wanted to talk about pros and cons and looking at your BCP Russ, I can’t really can’t, I mean, I guess I could guess some cons. So let’s say that because that’ll be the short segment of the show, what has been the downside, if any, of doing this?
Russ Crosby (00:10:46):
So there’s really two cons that I ran into, but we were able to work through them because we believe so much in our culture and we have that team engagement that they’re willing to give something a try it. It’s either let’s give this a try or don’t work until you feel comfortable to come back to work. So I think that’s kind of a no brainer when the boss is saying, Hey, look, it’s okay if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. We’re going to figure this out. So really a team member buy-in it. It wasn’t much of an issue, but it’s exploring the unknown, right? It’s not been done. We haven’t tried it. There’s not too many people that we could have called up and said, Hey, how did this work for you? So we just had to go for it. And I think that really goes to the culture that we have that they’re willing to give it, that Becky was really willing to give it a shot, not just Becky, but also Alex who he’s our manager, our production director, all of that. He had to learn how to work with that person who’s no longer there. And the technicians are used to seeing that person there all the time. So it really forces them to use the chat button and all of that stuff and do the things that we preach. They don’t have that physical person there anymore, so they have to keep you updated on what’s going on in the shop. So in that first con, I gave you a pro. So I mean it’s kind of hard to, it’s
Tom Dorsey (00:12:16):
Going to be hard to, but yeah, because I got a couple questions already. Big surprise. I think we’re going to probably get lots of ’em. And by the way, folks, if you’ve got questions for us, you can chat ’em in, use the q and a button and we will get to as many of ’em as we can. And if not, we’ll just put it onto the Facebook forum and we’ll keep talking about it there because, and I’m sure Russ is open for you folks to be reaching out to him if you’ve got questions, want to pick his brain about or follow his story too as this thing develops to see if it’s something that you might consider. But first question is how do you keep ’em engaged? Do they lose contact with the people that are still in the shop?
Russ Crosby (00:12:59):
So I think that’s really what your team meetings on a weekly basis or biweekly basis or wherever you’re doing it, I think really need to be structured and you have to be consistent about having your team meetings because we’re able to have, we’ve got a nice conference room or even if you have a tv, you can plug it into a laptop at that point, you can run a zoom meeting with the people that aren’t in your room. So the thing for me was all of the white collar industries, I’ve been doing this for a little while, they were all forced to go home and work from home. Your advisors and your production management team don’t need, they don’t have a toolbox at the shop. They don’t need to be there. We’re just used to them being there. So why wouldn’t it work is really what we came up with.
I think one of the biggest issues that we ran into was not even a big one. I mean, you could drop ship anything across the country now, so you need a computer or you need a mic or something like that. We drop it all, you drop ship it to your team member that’s working remotely. But I think to answer your question, Tom, it’s really about just focusing on those team meetings and making sure they’re structured and you’re addressing all the points you need to, and you have that team involvement when they’re not there. And we’re used to, with Becky it was she’s been to our in-person team meetings. When we’re bringing in outside people that haven’t really ever been a part of our team meetings, it’s going to be a little more of a challenge, but I think that they get to see that culture and what we’re doing in the book club that we run really helps with that. It forces people to have something to talk about
Tom Dorsey (00:14:46):
To interact. Yeah, no, that’s a fantastic point. So the interesting is, go ahead,
Bill Connor (00:14:52):
Billy. The interesting thing is there, he talked a lot about documentation and accountability. And so that’s one of the things that we discovered years ago is that if we could go and get our shop to where all communication was digital, that way it had a date and times stamp on if something went wrong. And a great day was if the service writer and technicians never had to utter a word to each other. And that was kind of the foundation that you really want to lay in a shop to actually go ahead and take on this type of process. So everything gets documented, it’s on there. Somebody remotely can go ahead and see it. They’re not an office anymore, they’re in an office somewhere across the planet. But everything, they need to go and make good decisions as far as estimating conversation with the customer. It all exists in there and it can be done easily and it’s the best practice anyways.
Tom Dorsey (00:15:39):
Well, and there’s something to be said about somebody who does a repetitive type of work, they get really good at it, right? You get a lot of practice and you can focus and your work becomes higher quality as time goes by. Real quick, Russ, Adam Bendzick, my co-host who loves toast, I ask, he says he’s been exploring kicking it around possibility as well. The hangups are waiting for appointments, waiting appointments, and also vendor and parts delivery. He’s been trying to get his vendors to go paperless but hasn’t had any luck. And he’s asking, Russ, are your vendors doing this for you?
Russ Crosby (00:16:26):
My vendors, getting them to buy into a paperless system could be a little tough because typically when you’re working with big corporations like that, it’s tough for them to make a change. The answer is no, they haven’t gone paperless. But the answer to them not going paperless. And I see waiting. You had a question about waiting appointments here too, Adam. The way we handle that is, look, you still have people in your building and those right now with Covid, we’re not really letting anybody in our building still. So although they may want to have a waiting appointment, we have a seating area outside or we really focus on our pickup and drop off system so that they’re not in the building and they’re scheduled. So we’re trying to schedule ’em. So waiters, we don’t really have a lot of waiters anymore because we’re making it as convenient as possible for them not to be here.
Whether it be with loaner cars pick up and drop off service and receiving those invoices, those paper copy invoices, it really comes down to we’re putting a shop foreman in place so that foreman is now handling some of that paperwork and you could scan it over to your appropriate person if need be. So I think with the way that we can order parts online and we’re running, so it’s stamping invoice numbers, we know where all that stuff is. The invoice is just kind of a secondary thing that we have in case we need it, but for the most part, those invoices get filed away and we never look at ’em.
Tom Dorsey (00:18:06):
Yeah. And Dana Peroni is saying, does your remote advisor build the estimates, send out the reports to the customer, and then follow up with a phone call to discuss their options all from home? And if so, how many vehicles does she typically handle in a day? And more importantly, what is her average sales for a week?
Russ Crosby (00:18:30):
So our advisor isn’t really building estimates. We’re very much running with the same system that Adam and John are working with where we have a production director building those estimates and then sending the inspection, passing the inspection off to our advisor to look over, and then she’s sending it out along with estimates when she’s contacting the customer. So she’s not building the estimates. So that way she’s able to field phone calls from my production team and let them do their thing. And then she’s really just focusing on selling work. And when she isn’t selling work or scheduling jobs in, she’s then working on our marketing end, or she also takes care of our HR and back shop, back shop processes. So she’s got a couple of other things on her plate, but I took the estimating away from her and gave it to our production team because it just seemed to flow better. And when she was in the shop, that’s basically how it worked. Anyway, we had Alex developing and creating most of the estimates and then passing ’em over to Becky to sell the work. So the only difference now is she’s not in the building.
Tom Dorsey (00:19:45):
So do you feel that if you had to reverse those roles, if you had the estimate builder had to go to the house and Becky came into the shop, would you get the same results?
Russ Crosby (00:19:56):
If they’re cross-trained, which most of our people are, that’s what we’re really working towards? I think so, but I think it really depends on the type of person that you have in that role. So your product or your production director is going to be someone that’s very task oriented and able to go through and look at numbers and understand your profit margins and all of that where your service advisor is going to be the person that’s got the emotion and that’s your sales force. So they should be a little more related to the customer. So in my opinion, yes, they both understand both sides of the process, but I would prefer that my service advisors stick to selling what we’re hiring them for. We’re hiring them to have that relationship building skill that they have.
Tom Dorsey (00:20:45):
Yeah, no, exactly.
Bill Connor (00:20:46):
There’s actually some different roles that lead to remote that actually work better. So a professional sales person or a professional closer, that’s their duty. We could have what in the OEM area, what they call an appointment booker, somebody that always they do is make thank you calls and book appointments all day long. You could have a professional dispatcher, they could work remotely because they can see everything on today’s vehicle page. They could see the workload in the computer, so they can handle that professional estimator, they can be out there. I could see a multis shop operation having a room set up where they’ve got a professional estimator, a group of them out there, and that’s all they do all day long is estimate highly profitably I might add. So think about the roles that are out there and how you can distribute that work and all kinds of possibilities come to the forefront.
Russ Crosby (00:21:40):
Bill must be inside my brain, I guess. Yeah,
Tom Dorsey (00:21:44):
For sure.
Bill Connor (00:21:46):
I’m lucky you the devil that pops up on your shoulder and then you kind of tip to one side
Tom Dorsey (00:21:53):
Because I mean right away when you let your mind race, when you start thinking this thing through, I mean the pros and the possibilities and opportunities really make this an intriguing experiment. Let’s just call it that for right now, right before it becomes the new way of doing business because we’re going to take you on a little bit of a thought journey is to say right away if you’re having trouble recruiting locally, now you get to expand of course for your tech and some of your more skilled and have to be on site. You can’t change a tire in the cloud, but for how you structure and create new roles actually in the shop. Some of the things like what Bill was just saying, you could start hiring nationwide, internationally, maybe. So where are you at thinking, because I know you’re in the middle of, like you were saying earlier, is second location potentially a third location, takes a lot of crew, takes some talent. If you’re in a smaller area, you tend to have a limited pool to hire from. What are you thinking, Russ, from scaling and from now your ability to expand your hiring nationwide?
Russ Crosby (00:23:16):
So I think from talking to a lot of people in this industry and a lot of trade industries, our number one concern is always how do we find good people? How do we get the right person behind the counter? How do we get the right person building estimates? How do we get the right technician? So for me, I spent a lot of time thinking about how do I simplify that process and how do I try to chunk out part of the issue of finding good people in the shop? Well, like you said, Tom, finding technicians, that’s tough. You can’t do any of the work from the cloud. But when I can go on and send digital copies of inspections, send digital estimates to people, I can do an interaction where I bring up a zoom meeting and now I can go over the inspection report with the customer and not lose that face-to-face interaction with your advisor.
I can hire the best of the best from anywhere in the country. We’re not limited to our specific area anymore. I can really find someone that maybe the automotive industry wasn’t their background, but they’re really great in sales and know how to relate to people, but they’re in Wyoming or something. I’ve taken out the issue of them being able to come and work here. They don’t have to move, they don’t have to do anything like that, but I’m able to recruit from much further away and really expand that pool. Like you said, our geography now doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter where we are. So it really, it’s opened up the hiring potential like crazy. We put out an ad for another service advisor last week and it’s open, actually I think it was two days ago, my wife put out the ad and we’ve got 30 applicants from all over the place because they’re able to work remote.
It’s crazy. As soon as you’re able to take away them having to drive to work, it’s incredible how appealing that seems to people that are really good at their job, that are happy where they’re at. And that’s the ideal person we’re looking for. You are not looking for the person that doesn’t have a job, you’re looking for the person that does. At least that’s what I’ve been basing this off of, but I think it’s just really opened up our potential for hiring and in the multi-shot location, it’s going to be essential for what our plan is
Tom Dorsey (00:25:47):
And it’s a pretty innovative plan. But before we dig into that, I got a couple more questions. So the obvious question is, are you using Zoom? How are you keeping this stuff connected?
Russ Crosby (00:26:04):
So we started using Zoom to discuss with our customers that we don’t want to lose that personal touch. I want to see who, if somebody was trying to sell me a big ticket item, especially new customers, I would like to see who I’m talking to on the other end. And we found that Covid did affect our waiting appointments and the people that are actually coming in dropping off cars during the day, but for the most part we found that the majority of our customers dropping off and picking up after hours because it’s more convenient for them instead of during the day. So that was going on well before obviously was a little more of people not wanting to come in, but for us, we still want to get that personal interaction. So even if the writer’s in the shop, we can bring up a Zoom call now and we can have that face-to-face interaction while I go through the report with you or talk about specific things on your report.
And I feel that it’s just as good as standing in front of me, if not better, because you don’t have to drive down to stand in front of me. You’re not waiting for your car, you’re not forced to make a decision immediately while you’re standing there. You have a little time to take it in after we hopefully have trained our customers to look at the inspection for a period of time. They’ve already kind of educated themselves, but now we’re giving them even more time and in a relaxed environment to make a decision. Tom and I, were standing in a room together and we’re staring at each other face to face. They feel obligated to make a decision immediately where it’s a little more relaxed, I feel.
Tom Dorsey (00:27:46):
Yeah, no, that’s exactly right. And the data proves it, right? I mean, we’ve been doing this long enough to know that if you, that’s what the motorist research time is all about. If you put somebody into a comfortable, the walls come down, they’re in control really is what that means at that point. And as long as you’ve put the information in there to allow them to answer the questions that they get, the amount of interaction and reliance on you telling me something I don’t fully understand and then I have to make a decision right now goes out the window and you tended to gravitate towards more approvals. And the other thing is is that you spend the time and you understand, and the questions tend to become, what do I got to get done now? What can I get done later? But I actually come back and get the stuff done later.
I commit and buy in through that type of an interaction and educational process that I do. And so that really opens up, in my opinion, even more opportunity to kind of align the automotive repair shop to other digital type or even online type services and businesses that have become commonplace right across everybody in the country. I mean if you think about it, everybody’s using a cell phone to some degree or Amazon or some of these other types of services that we use and spend money on and think about how they do business and what the expectation is. And you have to have a physical place to actually do the work. You got to have some lifts bolted to the ground somewhere, but does it have to be in that high dollar corner where you’ve been trying to imagine your business? My business is going to change once I can get that location over there, everything’s going to change. But in the meantime, what’s really happened is that the market’s kind of changed and through this technology it really opens up some possibilities if you would. I mean, I don’t know how much you want to share about your secret plan, but if you can give the folks in the audience a little idea, a little taste of what it is that you are, what you’re working towards,
Russ Crosby (00:30:12):
Sure, I would love to share it. So we were given an opportunity, we’ve been looking to open a second location this year. Well, our goal was to open a second location this year and Covid hit, and we thought those plans may have been kind of cap put for the year, but we didn’t let it go. And I feel that we kept it top of mind and if the right thing happened, then we would make a go of it. So a location did open and it’s about 15 minutes away from where my other shop is. So the idea was, well, we could put the exact same shop over there or we could specialize in something there. So now we’re able to really focus on one specific type of work at this location and one at another. So the third location that’s coming in is another specialty shop that we’re working on.
So the idea is we’re within 15 minutes of each other. My shop right now is almost dead center of the two garages. They’re kind of off the beaten path. We don’t need to be right on the road right now because all of the calls and all of the scheduling and everything is being done by the flagship location that we’re at. So they’re calling the same number, making the appointments through us, and we now are able to develop more of that production team, more of a service advisor team, and we can handle a high call volume, but we are controlling the schedule and the inspections and everything coming through one location. We can keep things more consistent and I feel that we can give a better job to our customers. So a one shop is going to be a truck shop that’s going to handle more on the medium duty light duty truck side, anything 2,500 and above.
And the other shop is going to be a euro shop and we have our general repair shop center. So we’re looking to be able to service ourselves too. So we’re buying parts from one location and now we control parts delivery times to a degree. Special tools, if one shop doesn’t have it and we have it in the other shop, they can jump on the parts delivery run and we can get them the right tool, the right people on the shops. We’re able to take, let’s say at my general shop, I have a couple diesels that come in a week, but for the rest of the time that guy’s having to focus on working on cars, that’s not really what he likes to do, but he’s really good at diesel work. We could put him in the other location. The beauty of it is, and what we’re going to be working towards is if we have customers that are coming to our Clinton location and they have that 25, 2500 vehicle like diesel truck, they can drop off in this location and we’re going to get that vehicle to the other shop, handle it, bring it back.
We’ve got a tow truck, we’ve got our own detail center now in the shop and we can really handle anything that our customers are looking to have done. So at the other shop, it’s actually a county that I grew up in and I said I would never actually want to go put a shop there super congested. But what they don’t have is a truck shop. So I’m giving them something they don’t have that I can now work with the other shops in the area and help service vehicles that they may not. So we’re really looking at it from a bunch of different angles on how can we service our customers the way that they need to be serviced and how can we continue to build the great team and great culture we have by keeping people to work on the things that they like to work on. We’ve got a few guys that have applied that are Euro specialists. They work on Euro vehicles. I would love to have a Euro person specialized in my shop right now and be able to send them into another location where we move all of our Euro vehicles over there and it’s close, it’s within 15 minutes of each other so I can bounce these vehicles around and the customer is going to get the same service every single time because it’s coming from essentially the same shops.
Tom Dorsey (00:34:23):
No, and the possibilities are almost limitless. Like you said, you can move labor to where it needs to be. You can standardize processes and vehicle types so that we become more accurate and we become quicker. And really, and you’re probably getting a pretty good deal on rent. Like you said, it’s not on the big busy boulevard, it’s out the back somewhere and it probably isn’t as expensive.
Russ Crosby (00:34:56):
Again, you’re not limited to necessarily right where you need to being on that main highway so everybody can see you. If you’ve already got the brand built here, you can find the warehouse anywhere and now be able to service your customers the same way because they’re dealing with the same riders and same service team over and over again, whether they have a heavy duty truck or they’re bringing in their car for a service, they’re dealing with the same people, not different people.
Tom Dorsey (00:35:24):
Yeah, exactly. And so now you really, instead of having different locations that service a contained group, it’s almost like you’ve expanded your total service area or tripled it or maybe more through that type of plan is really you’re not just going to market for this shop in this town or this shop in Clinton or whatever it is. It’s really you’re going to market this large area and then have all of these options. And it may even be that I live in Clinton, but I work over here and you pick up my car at work and get it back to me or something like that. So I might be doing business with one of your shops where I don’t even live.
Russ Crosby (00:36:20):
That’s the plan. Convenience is key and that’s what we’re trying to overcome with our customers is just being as convenient as possible. We have a goal at some point to be able to have a Russ’s wrench drop off location and not even be a shop. It could be in a very dense area where there’s strip malls and stuff and we have a little drop off station, like an enterprise where you drop your car off, we grab it, and now we’re moving it to one of the shops wherever it has to go. So it’s a pretty wild concept, but I think we’ve used Covid as an opportunity to really explore this concept and now people are used to talking on Zoom. This is kind of the new norm, and I know a lot of people hate hearing that this is the new norm, but look, the commercial building industry for office space is dying.
It’s hurting really bad found as a country that we don’t really need to be in offices with each other. We can be efficient and we can get our jobs done from the comfort of our own homes. So that in itself tells me that we as an automotive industry need to be more convenient because those people that used to go to that office building, drop their cars off during the day while they were at work, they may not be doing that anymore. So we’ve got to expand our pickup and drop off service and how we’re going to get those customers to come in.
Bill Connor (00:37:53):
It’s also interesting, the next generation of motoring, public coming on board, learning to drive in college and so on, those are going to be the ones spending money in the future. This is the way that they’ve gone to school, conducted life and so on, and probably will continue to do that for years. So it’s a great start to go down that path.
Tom Dorsey (00:38:15):
No, and it’s amazing because there’s an expectation. We talk a lot about that, about how I interact online and what people expect now because of the internet. But if you think about it, even retail brick and mortar has changed. And the thing that strikes me, especially with what you said, Russ, because you could have your shop in a mall, you could have the front counter in the mall, you could have it wherever any high traffic area is. It doesn’t have to have the bays there. You just want the foot traffic and the awareness and the convenience. You could have a shop on a college campus if you could get the space, but what I keep thinking in my head is kind of the experience you get at the Genius bar when you go into Apple, you got to take your phone into the little retail store there.
It’s fancy, it’s all decked out and teak and they got these little kind of tables and people come out and greet you and do discovery and ask you about, and then they look up on the computer, what’s the available, oh, we got to ship this, or Hey, I can fix this in the back. Let me find the tech, whatever it might be. But it’s a nice cool hip place that people line up to get into and what you do with their phone or their tablet after they give it to you, they don’t really care. They just want to know when it’s going to be back and are you going to ship it to my house? Or they’ll come back down here and pick it up. And once we have that figured out, well they go on about their day. And so you can position yourself kind of in the exact same way and in the exact same type of locations downtown in the heavy shopping district or wherever it might be. And you could have actually multiple, depending on what you’re paying for rent, but multiple kiosks, like you said, spread out where it makes sense, where it’s going to be the best for your business.
Russ Crosby (00:40:12):
That’s the goal. I think it’s a big lofty goal, but I think definitely it’s going to happen because like Bill said, this is the way people in school and people in the workplace are now having to live their lives. So why would getting your car fixed be any different?
Tom Dorsey (00:40:34):
Russ Crosby (00:40:35):
Why shouldn’t it be?
Tom Dorsey (00:40:37):
Yeah. Well and because then we can tie in a lot of those expectations, right? It’s like you kind of get this service contract with your phone or other things that we buy that are really internet related. And so why wouldn’t it be the exact same way? Why wouldn’t you just set the expectation that, hey, this is the service subscription agreement that you enter into with your vehicle. You’re going to bring it in probably every three months or every X amount of miles and we’re going to do these things and we’re going to maintain it and here’s the life cycle that you can expect with my business. And you know what I do? I go, well, that takes a big load off my shoulders and all I got to do is download your app or respond to your text or whatever. It’s check woohoo. Hey dad, guess what I did?
I’m proud of you son because you’ve taken care of that responsibility and a business like yours, Russ is going to make that as convenient and simple and as clear and transparent as possible for me to say, yes, I’m going to do this. Versus trying to learn how to be a car expert and haggle over pricing with some shop somewhere real quick. Also, I want to bring Dana Perone back in. Great question. Awesome. What you’re doing. It sounds awesome, very curious, opens up a lot of options. Is there any issues or concerns that come up when your advisor’s on the phone with a customer and gets questioned by the customer about suggested repairs or services needed being that she wasn’t the one who built the estimate?
Russ Crosby (00:42:15):
We haven’t had that question asked a single time. And the reason is because Becky is the first, she takes the appointments and she’s setting up the job and talking with the customer initially, and then she’s the one calling back and saying, Hey, this is what you need for your vehicle. So the customer doesn’t necessarily know that somebody else is building the estimate. Now, if they did ask her if that came up, I feel that the answer would be pretty easy. It would be no, I did not put together your estimate. I am in touch with the technician. I do see what our production director has done. He’s built an estimate and this is his expertise. His expertise is finding you the quality part for the right price and putting it together so that I can deliver that to you. You could kind of apply it to your insurance agent. So if you buy insurance, you buy it from an agent, but they’re not the one that processes the claim. So it may not be the same person building the estimate, but you have that skilled person building that estimate where it’s going to be 100% and you can really put their mind at ease.
Go ahead, bill.
Bill Connor (00:43:25):
So the other thing you do is you go ahead and use the tools that are built into AutoVitals to go ahead and solve that problem. You go ahead and have your estimator build the estimate, move it over to a workflow step that’s ready to send. Now your remote person can look it over, get familiar with any questions that they anticipate the customer might have. Then they’re the ones that move it to waiting for approval and out the door it goes. So a combination of understanding who does what and when and using the workflow steps to make things appear for that remote person when you want ’em to is really the solution to that problem rather than having that person that’s actually your salesperson or your closer, so to say, have to go and say, I don’t know, but I can find out, have them anticipate the questions because a good salesman is going to go ahead and anticipate what the pushback is going to be anyways, have them anticipate, have them answers, get them, and then go ahead and move it over to waiting for approval and let the tool do. What it’s designed to do is let the customer come to you with buying type questions.
Tom Dorsey (00:44:29):
Russ Crosby (00:44:30):
I totally agree.
Tom Dorsey (00:44:31):
And with that specialized production manager role, well boom, they’re right there available on chat because they’re focused. And if that’s their main job, then there shouldn’t be any reason why they couldn’t just help. Right through chat for those kind of, I need an immediate response type questions and incidents
Bill Connor (00:44:49):
And TVPX is going to make that one-to-one conversation a lot easier than legacy also.
Tom Dorsey (00:44:55):
Yeah, yeah, that’s a great point, especially on the update because then you’ll be able to chat individuals and team and some other things. Adam’s got, I think a very hard hitting question for you Russ, and I think this is one that a lot of people in the audience have been wondering themselves, but he’s asking, Russ, do you feel like you’ve lost any sales on account of the motorist not seeing you in a suit and tie? Would it be helpful if AutoVitals allowed a full body picture within the inspection instead of just a headshot,
Russ Crosby (00:45:26):
Maybe like an AutoVitals calendar. We’ll send out a calendar with different shots for the year. Yeah, we were talking about that before. So we’re actually developing a YouTube channel at the shop right now, and it’s going to be, people say that on the best dressed technician they ever saw, so I’m going to be working on cars in a suit, so keep an eye out for that because it’s going to be pretty funny.
Tom Dorsey (00:45:53):
So I already got a new moniker. This is the king of culture, the Duke of dapper, and feel free, feel free to chat in your other monikers for us. So
Bill Connor (00:46:06):
Here’s one of the things that somebody could do if it’s just a headshot and that bothers you, take that picture and go and get Photoshop and put a little eye icon it like the rest of your pictures, and then let the customer tap on it and blow it up. Now you’ve got your full picture a SC certifications and notes. So use, a lot of people don’t think about that, but it’s available for you.
Tom Dorsey (00:46:28):
That’s why Bill’s on this show.
Russ Crosby (00:46:29):
Yeah, that’s
Bill Connor (00:46:30):
A great idea. I was wondering about that.
Tom Dorsey (00:46:32):
He knows everything. That’s great advice. And look, this is how slick Ross is. I like that Pocket Square. Russ, what do you got going on there? I mean, it matches your shirt.
Russ Crosby (00:46:49):
Let me show you how this pocket square works. It comes out and you’re popping on, and now I got a face mask.
Tom Dorsey (00:46:57):
I’m telling you, the Duke of Dapper right there,
Bill Connor (00:47:01):
He doesn’t have some branding
Tom Dorsey (00:47:03):
On it. Bills,
Bill Connor (00:47:04):
Where’s your branding there? Probably we see Russ’s wrench across the front of it or something.
Russ Crosby (00:47:09):
Yeah, I know. I should jump on that Bill. I’m behind.
Bill Connor (00:47:12):
And actually right now, if somebody who was really slick, they put their branding on it. When a customer comes in that doesn’t have a mass, they would give them one with their branding so they can walk around in public. But that’s just me.
Russ Crosby (00:47:22):
Yep, yep.
Tom Dorsey (00:47:25):
So Adam also has a good follow-up, right? And it’s probably an Uwe question. It’s feature request question, but it’s solid, right? Because this is kind of the progression of where this is going to go is, but can AB put a link within the text email that is sent to create the Zoom type conversation? So you can still have a face-to-face, personal conversation, something that is easily clicked on to call the service advisor. And actually you can put a link in the body, you just put your Zoom room link in there. At AutoVitals we do, because you can custom your link. And so if you notice for our zoom rooms, or something like that, so you can create a custom zoom link off of your personal zoom room and then you could add that into your body of your text or email and yeah, it’ll come through as a link.
Bill Connor (00:48:15):
So one of the things is you might want to think about is that really you want the customer to come to you, and you probably don’t want to have multiple zoom rooms anyways. So when that customer comes to you and starts talking about their call, you can say, Hey, let’s do a share and now it’s russ’s and you can just tell ’em what it is. Or you could actually build it into your website, I suppose. But you want to go and control that room. You don’t want people popping in there that aren’t supposed to be while you’re in the middle conversing with a customer.
Tom Dorsey (00:48:46):
And you can control that. You can set up a waiting room, you can set up some other permission levels inside of Zoom. But no, I mean I think that’s just a brilliant idea. I think that it’s a natural kind of evolution of this, right? Is because what Russ was saying earlier is everybody now was kind of forced to figure out Zoom, but my mom, she knows how to use Zoom on her phone. It’s pretty impressive. It’s become that ubiquitous. And so no, it sounds like a natural progression is to go ahead and enable that online collaboration when appropriate. And especially for folks that are starting to put out some remote people working from home, we need to support that through the technology. Got another question real quick from Mike. He’s saying, Hey, as the owner, I’m the quality control guy and do every final road test. Do you have someone separate to do that? I worry about going remote with my sales if I’m not there to do the quality control. Great question, by the way.
Russ Crosby (00:49:49):
It’s an awesome question, Mike. And I am super proud of a system that we kind of put into place because with different things going on, getting a second shop set up, I always like to walk through the parking lot and do that quality control thing myself. But as the business owner, I’m trying to focus on other things and innovative things. So one of my guys that actually picks up and drops off customers and does some things around the shop, I gave him a specific quality control list and I’m adding it to the AutoVitals inspection so that he can go through, do a quality control test at the end of the job. So the technicians would forward it to quality control, waiting for quality control. And this guy can see him up there with the keys hanging, he goes through, does a quality control, and then is the last person that the keys before it’s submitted to waiting for pickup.
So we are already doing that in a paper form and we’ve been doing it for about two weeks. And I got to tell you, it’s working beautifully. So my suggestion to you would be pick another person in the shop. Imagine if you were sick that day, who would do that quality control. So pick another person or two. We have two people that do this. If one guy’s out, the other person steps in and takes care of the quality control that way we’re not missing anything. We have lugs are put back, lock keys are put back, there’s no smudges on the paint, making sure our oil change stickers are in there and not some other company. So doing those things and having those little tiny things really makes a difference. And I think by adding it to the inspection and setting it out to the customer when they close out, they’ll see that we went above and beyond with a quality control check at the end. So I think I’m excited to get that integrated into our process for AutoVitals, but just doing it in a paper form right now and having that key person that’s doing that every day for every vehicle and a backup person that knows how to do it also has really taken a load off my shoulders and the team, they’re not worried about missing something and they could stay focused on knocking out other work. I hope that answers your question.
Bill Connor (00:52:00):
So one of the things we haven’t talked about yet also is logistics, the technology to use to do this. So Russ is pretty lucky. He’s got a POS system. AutoVitals is obviously cloud-based, but what about these other people that don’t have a cloud-based system?
Russ Crosby (00:52:17):
So I think for us, the cloud-based system was really, really, really essential for us to be able to do this. I think it is doable Mitchell and some of the other ones that aren’t, you’d have to buy a key and then you could set it up so that whoever’s working from home or remotely has an access key to that program. So I think it’s still doable, but having a cloud-based system I feel is really the way to go if you’re going to attempt this,
Bill Connor (00:52:49):
Right? And for those of them that don’t have a cloud-based system, I’m going to encourage them to go ahead and have that workstation set up at their shop and then go ahead and have that remote person use either TeamViewer or a program like any desk to remote into that computer that they’d be using if they’re on premise. And now that problem solves. So as the independent aftermarket, we’re supposed to go ahead and find ways to go ahead and re-engineer everything we either work on or whatever we’re working with. So there is systems and processes out there to accomplish anything. Your imagination will go ahead and serve up in front of you.
Russ Crosby (00:53:24):
That was actually a, that I had before I didn’t get to touch on was you really have to develop a great relationship with either an IT person that works for you until you get into multiple shops or clusters of these three or four different shops. We’re trying to set up work with your IT person so that your people have a specific person that they can go to immediately if they have a problem. If they’re having an issue, I’m not an IT guy, I can fumble my way through it, but I’m not necessarily that IT guy, but we have one and we’ve built a great relationship with him so that if that does happen, and it did happen, it happened to Becky when she came home from South Carolina that her parents’ house had a different network set up than what she had at her house. And we found out very quickly that her network in her house wasn’t able to handle our phone, her computer, and going back and forth. So our IT guy dropship the new router that was able to handle everything that we needed to do, and it was fixed for 200 bucks and then there was no problem. So you may run into a couple little things like that, little roadblocks, but you just got to work through ‘EM and have the right people around you. So we should probably in this business have a decent IT guy or IT lady already, but if you don’t, I would get back at there, get one.
Bill Connor (00:54:54):
So if I want to do it from my fishing barge, I go ahead and make sure I’ve got a MiFi hotspot in my computer and some backup power supply, and I’m going to go ahead and work from anywhere. Damn. Well, please, right?
Tom Dorsey (00:55:05):
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Jess is saying the same. They have a remote PC set up on all network computers and can log in from anywhere. So there’s a way to create that solution. And then from there it’s just what can you access from those remote workstations, right? You load up the programs that you need and then you’re working like you’re standing in the shop, you really are, you just aren’t.
Russ Crosby (00:55:32):
Yep. Yeah, I think the big thing is the culture. You got to really focus on your culture and get your team behind it and have those consistent meetings so that you don’t lose that part of your team.
Tom Dorsey (00:55:45):
Yeah, yeah. No, and that’s where the technology becomes even more important and it almost forces you because, and this, I’m sure Bill had backed me up on this is, but we’ve built the digital shop operating procedure from learning from folks like you that are using the program and what works and what doesn’t. And we kind of focus on that DSOP, we like to call it digital shop operating process, right? Well, what happens when it forces you almost to follow that DSOP, because you have to stay in the loop through using the tools, the chat, or setting up workflow steps that enable these things or notify the next person because you can’t just shout across the shop anymore. And so when you do that, well guess what happens? The reason that that DSOP is set up that way is because it’s highly successful. Guys like Russ have proven it.
And all the other people, Adam and John and on and on and on, they’ve proven that these things work. So now when we put it in a little can for you, we can pop the top off and hand it to you, drink it to the bottom. Because what happens is numbers like Russ is right where, I mean, it’s incredible because again, if you took Covid out of there, Russ, it’s very impressive. In six months, the growth in your company, in your business, throw Covid in there. And it almost sounds like I said, it sounds like a fairytale. People wouldn’t believe me.
Russ Crosby (00:57:16):
You have to look at things as an opportunity and in tough times you’ve got to be looking for that opportunity at all costs. Don’t get weighed down by what’s happening around you. Just try and keep working towards your goal. We wanted to be a multis shop organization, and I think that Covid really, really helped push us further faster.
Tom Dorsey (00:57:40):
Yeah, yeah. No, exactly. And it’s not just in this industry, right? It’s really going to impact a lot of schools. I mean, I really got to pay all this tuition and go to some campus because I’m paying the same amount, but I’m sitting in my apartment online doing this stuff and people are thinking, what have I been doing? And then I mean, it really opens up some more possibilities. And you kind of touched on it, and Bill had touched on it. He said, I could imagine a room full of folks sitting and handling a multi-location. Well, imagine handling, I mean, it’s almost a second industry. You could create a room full of professional production managers and offer a service out to AutoVitals shops to run their production for ’em. And then that’s less people I need to hire in my business. And I get a consistent and quick and developed product by an expert. And I just see
Bill Connor (00:58:33):
Russ’s light bulb go on.
Russ Crosby (00:58:36):
So we talked about that yesterday and it’s definitely something that was kicked around because as we develop our more and more shops, we’re not looking to be a three shop organization. We want to be a big contender in the automotive industry. So it’s going to come to that where we have the best of the best building estimates and why couldn’t we help other shops do that? Why couldn’t we bring that service to them? So it could be something coming right around the corner, who knows?
Tom Dorsey (00:59:11):
So stay tuned in. So look, we’re at the top of the hour. This was a fantastic show. I mean, I got a ton more questions and I know other folks too. Let’s take it to the Facebook forum. If you’re not subscribed over there on the Facebook forum, don’t worry. Just search for Digital Shop Talk or AutoVitals and you’ll find it. It’s a closed group, but just request to join. We’ll let you in there and then ask away and let’s continue this discussion because I know we’re going to be having you back soon enough, Russ, to talk about some of these results and some of the next steps that you’ve been taking. I mean, there’s a ton of engagement and questions about it. Really appreciate Dana, great questions. Dana says, first time on the show, very informative. I’ll definitely be back. So thank you. I mean, that’s what we do this for and we’re just trying to help folks get through this product that we produce these times and just be better operators. So thank you for coming in and watching, and thanks for coming back. Get into that Facebook forum again, Russ, man, I can’t thank you enough buddy for coming on and just blowing my mind. I’m just so excited to hear the next steps and really look forward to you being back on, buddy.
Russ Crosby (01:00:25):
I can’t wait. I’m excited to be able to share that with you in a little while.
Tom Dorsey (01:00:28):
Yeah, man. And most importantly, what I’m really, I just want to see what su you’re going to be wearing next. And I know Adam backs me up on that one too. Mr. Bill, I appreciate everything, buddy. I mean, again, I couldn’t talk about Bill bringing it and nailing it right down into the foundation for you when we’re talking about some of these things and how you can start today to implement some of them. If you’ve got other questions, reach out to us, product related. Fantastic, not product related. That’s great too, because we’ll steer you in the right direction and we’re just here to help and get into that Facebook form. I can’t stress that enough. Come back next Wednesday, same time, same place. 10:00 AM Pacific, 1:00 PM Eastern, same link. We’ll be here and we’ll be talking more success. Until then, get out there and make some more money like Russ. Did.

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