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Episode Description

Our very own Bill Connor divulges his top three secrets of training digital shops. He is an old pro, having helped dozens of shops go digital. In this episode, Bill offers a peek behind the curtain at the three most challenging and most rewarding process changes shop owners can make to enter the digital age, stay competitive, and drive profitable growth.

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Episode Transcript

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

Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:00:06):
Good morning and good afternoon. Welcome to episode 121 of the Digital Shop Talk Radio. Today we are going to do things a little differently and got sparked by actually a party I went to. So I had the chance to the pleasure to join a few shop owners over the weekend celebrating Memorial Day and we were talking about AutoVitals. There was a common theme, which is how hard it was to start the whole thing and how incredibly important it is to have it now. Nobody can even imagine not having it anymore. So I thought since this is a highly repetitive theme, we’re going to tap into the vast wisdom Bill Connor has in his head and let’s pull it all out of it because he has trained dozens of shops. It might be even in the hundreds by now. And so this is not a new thing, but it’s a thing which pops up over and over again.
What is it? What makes it so hard in the beginning to go digital and how can we overcome it? And the kind of biggest epiphany I can share with you I had is it’s not just a tool, it’s a process change. And you have heard that before, but what does it really mean? We were not the first ones implementing a new process in your shop. So let’s talk a little bit about Bill, if that’s okay, about typical changes we all encountered, especially in the shop environment. So for example, introduction of text versus the phone. How was it before? How is it now? What was the biggest behavioral change?
Bill Connor (00:02:31):
So it looks like you’re going to grill me and make me go back thinking back into the stone ages when we were still doing everything by phone. And one of the most interesting things in the phone for the service writer is a constant interruption over and over again, number one and number two, those phone conversations really could be a time bandit because a service writer, generally they want to go ahead and have the conversations with the customer and build that rapport. But every one of us has all had the customer that gets on and tells us their life history, their war stories and so on, and ties us up on the phone for a long time. So in the past, those are some of the hurdles that we’d run into by the phone. And the phone’s a great invention, but really what we discovered as we moved on to using text is we could go ahead and take that same customer, send them a text message, get a reply, yes or no, go ahead and do it and be on about the thing with no interruption, being able to multitask and do other things at the same time and so on.
So that was a huge advantage when we learned that we could use some of these new tools that have been presented to us in different ways than we’ve ever imagined in the past. I would’ve never imagined being able to send a quick message to a customer for a two or $3,000 repair bill and have them say, yeah, go ahead and do it. Carry on, proceed, whatever the case may be. So it is a great way to understand the technology and then be in the automotive industry how we are. We always repurpose everything that comes along to make our lives easier and solve problems.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:04:09):
So that was a great outcome. But wasn’t it super hard for somebody who loves to talk on the phone and connect with customers on the phone, now have to take everything and package it into a multiple of hundred and 40 characters. I mean, that’s a nightmare.
Bill Connor (00:04:33):
So it’s just like everything else we’ve done is that the changes get adopted and used over and over again when they go ahead and start finding they have some success. So when we switched to text messaging, what we had to do is prepare a customer that, Hey, this is going to come to you in a text message. We don’t want to interrupt you. We want you to be able to go about your life, whatever you’re doing. And basically what I’m going to do is just give you a short text message or maybe even a link to a report or something else back in the old days. And all I need you to do is reply back, yes or no, and if you have any questions, then just send me a message to go ahead and call you and at what time. So we were really able to go and speed up the process just by recognizing it was a tool that we could use to solve problems and what it meant for the staff in order to go ahead and be able to adopt it and use it. So it all goes back to what’s in it for me. And as they discover what’s in it for them, then it just gets used over and over again.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:05:40):
But isn’t there a kind of a, I mean, I don’t know whether SOP is the right world, sounds like a big name for something small, but shouldn’t there be managing expectations very clearly? You just mentioned it. That’s probably the top most important thing to do. What is now new and what do we expect from you dear customer from you, dear service advisor to do in the future?
Bill Connor (00:06:13):
So this is where we first started going ahead and learning the value of managing the customer’s expectations at drop off or whenever they scheduled their appointment and then following through and actually doing it. And then we’re reinforcing that behavior over and over again. So again, this is kind of like a mini process change that helped us prepare for what turned out to be what we’re doing today for sure.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:06:40):
So today the phone has not been eliminated. The phone is still the, let’s say, dominant tool to use when it gets complicated. So the simple stuff, fact-based expectations are managed, can all be done digitally. The moment there are questions, the moment there are I want to know my options, then the phone is still the one and only tool which is really effective and where service advisors shine.
Bill Connor (00:07:22):
And the ideal situation is now what we’ve done is we’ve put the service advisors in the position of being a consultant rather than having to go ahead and do the maintain repetitive tasks over and over again. And again, we’ve moved the customer in a position where using some of the other digital tools that were later, initially what we’re doing is we’re texting the customer just texts. We weren’t giving them pictures and so on. Or maybe we’d actually send them a text that had a picture one at a time, which when you think about it was compared to what we have today is kind of ridiculous. But those are some of the things that we did as we started down transitioning down this path.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:08:05):
So was there anything which is a don’t, if we could summarize the do’s and don’ts in switching from phone to text messaging, how would you do that?
Bill Connor (00:08:21):
So the big don’t would be don’t give your customers surprises. So to go ahead and send them a text without them expecting it, especially initially back when they were paying for the text messages, that was a big no-no. Oh yeah,
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:08:34):
I remember
Bill Connor (00:08:34):
That. Well, that’s been a while now. But the biggest do is to go ahead and make sure that they understand this is in their best interest, what’s in it for them, and they’ll be doing it and maybe even tell ’em about what time and use as the tool to relieve the pressure. Hey, no hurry, just go ahead and do this. Knowing damn well when they get a text message, they’re going to pull out their six gun telephone and get on it right then,
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:08:59):
Right? The other thing in my opinion, which is a big don’t, is let’s turn it into a do. Don’t be chatty on a text. So the do is try to make it so succinct, and this is really hard making something complex look simple easily to digest because a motorist, anybody actually opening up a phone and see a text message, which is comprised of five little text messages people don’t read, that’s the biggest challenge. So the urge to now take what you would’ve set on the phone and put that into a text message is big, but it’s impossible.
Bill Connor (00:09:57):
You’ll learn really quick that you can’t trust the phone company provider to go ahead and deliver those multiple different text message in the right order either, which really leads to some confusion. So we got to make it short, concise, make sure the customer is aware that it’s coming and what to do when they get it, whether it’s call them or review something or whatever the case can be. But if we manage that upfront, and like I said, again, this is one of the first things that we did as we started going ahead and stepping down the path to learning that if we manage the customer’s expectations and then lived up to him our whole life on a service counter went a lot easier than just everything turning into a fire drill.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:10:44):
So if we would like to summarize that change, managing expectations is absolutely the key. So service advisors know what they have to do in the new environment and don’t fall back to pick up the phone constantly. Motorists need to know a drop off in otherwise especially a drop off in pickup. So you manage expectations for the next step in the vehicle is not in the shop. Anything else? So those two.
Bill Connor (00:11:18):
So those are the two biggest ones, and really what we want to do is we want to focus on the biggest changes and the biggest advantage to go ahead and actually do it. So I think we’ve got that pretty much covered,
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:11:32):
But people need to change a habit. How do you do that? I mean, you know how that is, whether that’s losing weight or trying to do something different, you just want to go back to your zone. So how do you make people get used to it and develop Muslim memorial?
Bill Connor (00:12:01):
Well, we’re going to actually be doing this the same way we do other things as we go on into the future. And that is to go ahead and actually define what’s in it for them and how we’re going to go ahead and measure it. So if we expect things to be sent by text and then we can measure they go that way, that’s how we’re going to do it is a constant. Put a change in place, go ahead and define what’s in it for everybody, and then measure to go ahead and see that the changes actually took place. And if they didn’t perform or do something that was an advantage, we’d look at it again and do something different. But to be able to put any of the things that we talk about in place, we also want a way to measure and see that it’s actually making some type of a change or improvement for the better.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:12:48):
That’s a long process. So before you have to measure, you have to sit down. What I found really interesting is if you put yourself in the shoes of the recipient of your message and just look at everything you do with their eyes, there are a lot of light bulbs going on. If you indeed would write a text message with four or five subtexts and then look at this on your phone, you won’t do it again. It’s a very simple school. So the more you can put yourself in the recipient’s shoes and judge your own behavior from that angle, the learning curve is super quick because you all of a sudden see it with the other people, other person’s eyes. And so we highly recommend to do that, whether it’s texting or whether it’s the inspection result, whatever you want to change, try to put yourself in the shoes of the person who is going to receive the result of your change behavior. Big quick win, don’t you think?
Bill Connor (00:14:13):
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:14:15):
So let’s go to the magic three, hardest but most rewarding step to topics going digital and try to apply the same thinking we just did. What did we do before? What are we doing now? What are the behavioral changes? So what’s the number one change you have experienced, which takes a shop from struggling to success?
Bill Connor (00:14:46):
So the number one thing is whenever the shop owner actually gets involved and they actually act like the captain of their ship instead of somebody that’s just riding along as a passenger. Does that kind of make sense? It does, yeah. And so I guess the best way to go ahead and explain that is use an example of one of the shops, one of the many shops I’ve worked with and the shop owner’s name was Bob, and he’s a longtime AutoVitals user in his shop, but it wasn’t being used anywhere near what I would call effectively or efficiently, and they weren’t getting any advantages from it. So after talking to Bob and working with him to try and get him to move on and implement and take charge, he finally came to me and he said, I’ve got a young man that I’ve hired to go ahead and be my implementer for my shop.
And he didn’t share the whole story behind it. And that’s when I first had my first conversation with Devin. And Devin was a really sharp guy, a younger guy, but he had a drive in his heart to go ahead and be a very successful at whatever he did. And he actually approached doing things a lot differently than Bob did. He was kind of a take charge kind of guy, but he didn’t come in there as a dictator. So a lot of shop owners have a tendency to dictate and delegate. And he came in there and he had a whole different attitude. He basically came in and said, you know what? He said, what I want you to do Bill, is I want you to help me explain to this entire staff, every one of them, what’s in it for them to go ahead and make the changes that I have to ask them to do.
He said, I don’t want to be the kind of guy that goes in there and just forces things down their throat. He said, I want to be able to explain to him what’s in it for them. So we had some long discussions about for the technician, well, what’s in it for them? More hours per repair order. They don’t have to move the cars in and out, they don’t have to rack and unrack. The guys in the shop are getting older and their backs are getting worn out, and they really hated to go and crawl around on the floor that racks. I said, this is your thing for them. He said, my service advisors, he said, they’re in a fire drill all day long. And I said, well, that’s not a surprise when we look at it, your average dollar amount for your repair order is very low, which means in order for them to go ahead and get their sales and gross profit to make their paycheck, they’ve got to literally write two or three times as many repair orders every day as everybody else does along with all the crap that goes along with it.
And he said, okay. He said, so basically I can go ahead and start implementing these processes and involve them. And he said, but first he said, my goal is to explain into them what’s in it for them. I said, well, the goal is to make them understand is that first of all, what do they owe to consumer? They owe to consumer a comfortable and dependable vehicle. And we do that by a thorough condition based inspection every time they come in and then reporting those findings to the customer and let them make educated decisions about what they’re going to do with their vehicle. And so this is kind of where the journey started, is going ahead and getting them to understand what’s in it for them, what’s in it for the customer. Because what we have to do is we have to create a win for everybody in the process. And that’s when adoption takes place. When everybody learns what’s in it for them, it is just like a customer buying something they’re going to buy when they go ahead and their perceived value exceeds cost. Well, their staff is going to go and buy in when whatever effort they have to put into it is less than the results or the rewards they get from it. Does that kind of make sense?
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:18:36):
Oh, it does. So let me play devil’s advocate. I’m good at it. It’s very simple. It’s very simple to say all those things. And we are all mentally intellectually understanding everything you said. If you go into an introvert driven business and have to do your daily stuff, you forget all this. This was just like a nice little speech. And yes, they want me to do it, but I’m busy right now. And so you fall back to what you’ve learned and created Muslim memory over the years. How do you break that?
Bill Connor (00:19:24):
So the easiest way to go ahead and break that particular cycle is to go ahead and work with your staff to create quick wins for them. And so one of the things that we developed was a quick win process where the staff works together to identify topics and exactly how they’re going to handle them topics to present it to the customer. And what we’re looking for is you might have an alignment guy or some guy in a shop that has favorite jobs that they like to do because they got good build hours or profitable, they’re highly visual for the service advisor and so on. And what we do is we work with them to define a quick win. So when they’re looking at a particular topic, what is the job they expect to result from it? And then what is the content that they’re going to send to the customer to get them to open their wallet?
You really want to start by involving the staff to go and say, this is the inspection sheet, these are the topics that are on it. Hey guys, let’s pick out one or two topics to focus on to drive revenue for the shop, build hours for the technicians and so on, and be easy and engaging, something maybe even that has high gross profit and low warranty risk some of the different flushes and services like that. And then go ahead and create some wins for everybody that generate something that a service writer or technician and even the customer benefits by. And that’s where they start down the journey. And really what we’ve found out by doing this with literally hundreds of shops by getting the entire staff to participate in the process, especially when it comes to designing and implementing their inspection sheet, that really the staff begins to getting to a point where they actually take ownership of it because they’re saying that this is what I want and if we do this, this is what I get.
Why would I not want to go ahead and now start working on the next topic and keep going from there? And so I would kind of joke over the years that working on developing good inspection topic is kind of like vitamins. If you work on one a day, you eventually get stronger and stronger. And I’ve challenged different shops on that and they might not do one a day, but they do ’em real often and you’ll start seeing their numbers creeping up in a way that we can measure. They’re doing inspections, they’re getting for approvals, the hours for the technicians are going up, I promise you a shop, a technician really doesn’t care about ARO. What they care about is hours per ARO. But the service writer, they really care about the average hour or an average dollars per ARO and also the gross profit that goes into it.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:22:03):
And so can you give some concrete examples for those jobs you’re talking about, which are quick wins as well as do you put in the beginning a shop meeting in kind of every week or every day almost because you want to, let’s go back to what I asked, right? If you start the day and you’re an interrupt driven work and your Muslim memory tells you we do it like we have been doing it for the last 10 years and now, oh yeah, Bill, this Bill guy told me some stuff last week and my boss is behind it, but I can’t remember.
Bill Connor (00:22:46):
So we’ll get into this a little bit more as we go along. But the key is that really initially when you’re doing a change in your shop, what you want to do is you want go ahead and have at least a brief meeting every day, set aside 10, 15 minutes. And what we really want to do in that meeting is we want to share some of the successes from the prior day. It’s always good to go ahead and share the positive first and also ask the whole team, is there anything that we could have done differently to go ahead and solve X, Y, or Z if there’s problems that come up. And so again, we really want them to participate. And then really what you want to also do is, and you’ll see many of the shops that are AutoVitals, they have a weekly meeting where they actually go ahead and they’ll get together for a lunch and they’ll get a little bit more in depth into the different topics and they’ll actually drag out the business control panel and actually start looking at the data for the overall shop.
And then what they’ll do, especially initially is they may also have some one-on-one meetings with individual staff members to maybe do an inspection result audit with them and things like that. So that way initially the whole goal is to go ahead and break old habits and form new ones by developing quick wins and then just measure to go ahead and make sure that after the winds are there, move on to the next topic and make sure that you don’t go ahead and start training backwards. Because we all know that when it gets busy and the shop gets overrun, then we start falling back to those old bad habits. And actually we have a lot of shops that are suffering from that right now. There’s a shortage of technicians and so on. And now people are broken loose and traveling again and shops are literally being overrun and now they’re kind of backtracking a little bit, letting the customers force them back into that fire drill mode.
And then you’ll see their numbers start going backwards and the service riders getting overworked and frustrated again, and the technicians have to go back to the old rack and unrack cars and hunt ’em in a parking lot and then you kind of got to reel ’em in. And the best way to actually do that is after you’ve formed them good habits is set those thresholds in the business control panel. So you get alerted if you start training backwards, but that’s a story for a different day. But the interesting thing with Devin here was is that they didn’t share with me initially that Bob’s plan was actually to go and exit the shop and Devin was actually in there to look for opportunities and he actually purchased this shop, he implemented the practices we talked about, and within a year he had actually went ahead and turned that shop completely around to where they were doubled their weekly revenue, they grow their ARO reel up, they started developing happy, happy fat employees, which that comes from the internal communication, but that’s a whole nother story.
But again, if you want to learn more about Devin, if you go ahead and search for episode number 69, we had him on here a long ways back and he’s come a long way since then. I think he’s actually part of the a SA group, one of their board of directors or something in the region that they’re from. But he’s a really sharp guy and he’d be really somebody to go ahead and look out for. But again, this is just one example out of, I mean this is a real common thing. I mean Bob was not any different than a lot of shop owners that said, look, I’ve done this for 30 years, 40 years, whatever. I want to go enjoy myself or I want to go involve myself in a community and so on. And he really didn’t realize that owner’s job is to really go ahead and train people to the point that their job is obsolete and that lets them go out and do other things. And the same thing when we’re working with our staff, the career path, we should be working on a career path for everybody that you start from here, you can end up with here, if your goal is a shop ownership at some point, at least you’re going to learn the right way from me. So when you go do it on your own, you can support your family and the family of those that choose to work for you.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:26:48):
What if the owner is a multi shop owner or he insists it’s not my thing, I am just looking at the books at the end of the day, how do you overcome those difficulties?
Bill Connor (00:27:04):
So a multis shop owner is a different breed of person altogether. They are the type of person that likes to, I would say educate and delegate and then measure. So Fred Hayes would be a great example of that type of person. He basically said, look, I’m the Adderall of my fleet. I’m going to have a captain on each one of these ships, and it’s your job to go where I tell you to go. I’m going to tell you the rewards at the end of the journey and I’m going to have you go ahead and take that information and spread it on to the staff. So you’ll find that a lot of multi shop owners, they really got to put themselves in a position of being a data-driven or data-oriented person, but it’s still their job to go ahead and initially define where the journey is going to end up and why it needs to be done that way, what’s in it for the employees? Because there’s nothing worse than creating a mutiny. And if your crew don’t know where they’re going, they might go ahead and tend to go around in tight little circles for a while and not go anywhere. So again, the vision and why we’re going that way is important in everything we do.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:28:13):
So if the shop owner doesn’t want to do it is not a multis shop owner. I mean he’s just delegating the responsibility to, for example, the service advisor shop is not big enough to have another person in between a general manager and so on and so forth. I don’t know, two sales advisors, six techs, something like that. What do you do?
Bill Connor (00:28:43):
There has always got to be somebody, and it’s really preferable that it’s a shop owner because they’re the only one that has all the risk and reward for turning on that light switch at beginning of the day. And if they’re going to delegate somebody else’s being an implementer, they’ve got to go ahead and be sure they choose the right person and then use the data to be able to see that they’re doing it. If they’re not doing it, you can’t go ahead and leave them sit there and struggle. You got to find out what the barriers are and remove them. And that’s where it comes into getting hold of a trainer like me or one of the other AutoVitals trainer. Literally we’ve done this hundreds of times. So if that shop owner can identify the roadblock or be open to letting one of our trainers ask them some really blunt questions to find out and define what the exact roadblock is, then we can share some wisdom from other people just like them to remove them roadblocks.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:29:41):
This is not the best choice, but it is a choice to have, in my case, the service advisor do this. Wouldn’t it be necessary to then get the agreement by the shop owner that he gets out of his way and let the service advisor change the process, otherwise it’s going
Bill Connor (00:30:01):
To be chaos. There is nothing more important when the owner is not there than not only delegating the responsibility to do something but the authority to carry it out. So too many times I see that the shop owner said, Bubba do this, and then he never tells the rest of the staff that it’s their job to do that and what’s in it for them. And then nothing happens because they either don’t feel they have the authority to ask people to do things, maybe they’re not a good leader or maybe the rest of the team has never been told that, look, you need to follow this person because they’re going to be driving us to the direction that we need to go. So to dictate to somebody to carry out and do something without giving them the authority is just asking for disaster.
And I summarize, I guess the other thing is that not only that is to go ahead and you have to remember is that in a shop you’re doing this for the first time in most cases you’ve never done this before. And really what you want to do is don’t recreate the wheel. Get with your AutoVitals trainer to go ahead and learn how it’s been done successfully with literally hundreds of other shops and use their experience to go ahead and make your transition a lot smoother. That’d be like the first time you change evaporator core in a late model vehicle, not having any instructions to do it is just asking for a butt whipping.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:31:32):
Yeah, trial and error when there is already a book is a waste of time. So if you don’t mind, because we have to look at the time a little bit and we are just at number one summarizing. So number one, the shop owner or an authorized person, a person with authority and ownership is leading the change going digital. That’s the number one. And in order to put that in place, communicate with the team, use quick wins to have an immediate feedback loop and not wait a month. Let’s see whether our a OO is better and otherwise just do whatever we have been doing in the past, right? It’s really a daily check-in which allows to also collect feedback. So the moment when a text says, Hey, I want to change something on the inspection sheet that gives me, I have to jump around to optimize my route around the car, that’s a good sign, right? So people are engaged and leadership pays off.
Bill Connor (00:32:52):
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:32:54):
Cool. What’s number two?
Bill Connor (00:32:58):
So one of the hardest habits to break is for a skilled service advisor or any service advisor to go ahead and change an old habit, which we used to go ahead and show and sell at the side of the vehicle. We used to capture that customer at the shop and we used to visually show them. And now what we’re doing is we’re going ahead and turning things completely on its head. We’re going ahead and saying, look, let the technician inspect it. Go ahead and estimate it. You get your editing done, send the results to the customer and whatever you do, don’t pick up the phone and call them, let them call you. So this is a real struggle for lots and lots of people. They’ve been doing it the same way for a long time. It’s worked. They’ve got approvals and they’ve never experienced doing it any other way.
So they’re like, I don’t know. And matter of fact, Tom Braun, he was a great example of it. Tom is a franchise shop owner of a pretty large franchise, and basically he’s a real curious fellow. And when I brought him on, basically he challenged me on every damn thing that I asked him about and asked him to do. And what he was doing is he wasn’t challenging me to challenge me. He was challenging me so that he could explain it to his staff over and over how to do it. And the biggest hurdle I had making him understand was send the inspection results to the customer, watch the motorist research time go up. If it doesn’t change in 10 minutes or so, maybe send him a text message or give him a quick ring to go and make sure the technology worked and get that customer to do it.
And he’s already told him at the counter, this is what’s going to happen. Please look it over and then give me a call. And he’s like, I can’t do that. I can’t do that, I can’t do that. I said, all right Tom. I said, here’s what I’m going to ask you to do. I said, for the whole next week, I want you to do exactly what I ask on this topic. And I said, at the end of the week, if it doesn’t work, I said, I want you to call, tell me what the roadblock is and we’re going to remove the roadblock. And I said, I’m telling you right now, even though that none of your family will believe me, you’re normal. And that’s just how it is. You’re normal. You’ve got the same thought process, everybody else does, and I know that’s embarrassing to be called out for being normal, but I said, I want you to do this for a week.
And I said, at the end of the week, I said, I want you to be ready to go and report. So he agreed to do that and agreed how we were going to measure it and so on. And so about three days go by and I get this text from him, Bill call me. I’m like, okay, I figured what have I done this time? I called him and basically he goes into this, he said, I’ll be damned. He said, I did just what you said. And he said, the first couple times I did it, the first one I did it on. He said, it really freaked me out. He said, because I seen it go up, the time go up. And he said A little while later, the customer called me and the customer called me and she’s asking me all these buying type questions.
He said, I’m not having to explain anymore. He said, basically she’s asking how much and how long? And she goes through the whole list and she goes through the pricing and stuff and I get down to the end and he said, I have her approval. And she said, but what about the brake flush? And he’s like, what the hell? And he said, I looked over the inspection results and he said, I forgot to estimate the brake flush. And he said, I learned right then. He said that the power of going and doing this stuff. And he said, I’ve got no reason to go back. He said, basically he said, this is too silly to just send the information to them, give them good content. And matter of fact, he also kind of fought me a little bit on the guided inspection sheet. We had this other inspection platform for years.
We know how to do inspections. I said, I want you to trust me and we’re going to use the data to verify. And then we went down that path and he’s just like, holy crap. He said, this stuff works. I said, well, I’m not just telling you this for the sake of telling you I’ve done this myself and I’ve literally done this with hundreds of shops. I said, AutoVitals got data on thousands of shops that have done the same thing. I said, so unless you prove to me that you’re Abby normal, I said, you can do it. I said, you just have to follow directions and if you want to learn more about Tom and what he did there and other things he did check out episode 96, and it’s a really valuable lesson to go and learn.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:37:38):
That’s just awesome. He had the trust in what you told him, implemented it, and then this one customer led.
Bill Connor (00:37:47):
Well, he didn’t trust me, me until he knew how he was going to verify it.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:37:50):
That’s true. But he started at least, right? Yes he did. And then it had to be a customer making his light bulbs go on, right? That’s super powerful. But can we dissect it a little bit because I believe we know that from the data over the years that editing an inspection result or editing a picture is not equal editing a picture. In other words, just putting an error on it and that’s not going to cut it, right? Just to meet the metrics and say, oh look, I added the picture.
Bill Connor (00:38:32):
That’s exactly correct. And that was one of the things he found out real quick because he was using another inspection platform that basically had a little bit of text on it in a picture, and that was pretty much it. And he found himself that he found out that it was the same thing as having a paper inspection that had a red, yellow green on it with no pictures on it. And he said it was nice, it showed that they were different from other shops in the area, but it did nothing for helping them gain approvals. And so that’s when we got to discussing the guided inspection sheet or a quality edit in the first place, which is the picture has got to have well lit and in focus, it has to have an area of focus on it, which going to be a circle area, and it needs to do the same thing would happen to the side of the car, which is the technician saying what it is, what needs to be done and the reason why the customer should open their wallet.
So when he learned that that had to be on the picture anyways, and then he seen that it’s already on the guided inspection sheet that alls they got to do is snap a picture and drag an arrow on it and the rest is provided, he’s like, well, I’m just going to go ahead and modify this a little bit and just keep going this route. And that’s exactly what he did. And it made their life a lot easier for everybody in the shop. And I’m not saying they didn’t have some opportunities for improvement as they were implementing, but he actually was doing real well at having meetings with his staff real often, showing them the data, doing inspections, audit with them and having them tell him what could have been done better. And that’s what they use to make their changes.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:40:07):
I don’t want to repeat myself, but isn’t the best audit. Again, put yourself all in your customer’s shoes and look at what you created. Would you understand with your layman understanding of the car and focused on safety and the wellbeing of the car, what this picture is showing me? And that creates light bulb moments left and right.
Bill Connor (00:40:36):
So mother tested, shop approved is the thought process. And really it is if you could have your mother look at this and she’s not a mechanic and make her decisions about what’s best for her and her vehicle and long-term plan and so on from the content you send them, then it’s mother approved. And until you get to that point, if you’re still speaking technical language or leaving it halfway undone where you know they’re going to have to ask you if you put an arrow on a pitcher pointing it to a tie rod in and you don’t say, this is a tie rod in and tell ’em what it means to them and why they should fix it. You haven’t done do justice and you haven’t done the number one mission of your shop, which is to provide the customer a safe, comfortable, dependable vehicle through education, not sales pressure.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:41:28):
If you ask service advisors, nobody with probably some rare exceptions would say, I apply sales pressure.
Bill Connor (00:41:38):
It’s not whether they think they apply sales pressure or not. It’s whether the end user consumer does. So when you go ahead and send a customer an inspection as an example and interrupt them when they’re driving down the road or while this covid is going on, while they’re trying to teach their kids at home, if you’re interrupting their life and trying to educate them rather than letting them do it at their own time of choosing and so on, you’re kidding yourself that they will perceive that pressure whether you do or not. And again, we always want to make sure, and just like Blake just pointed out there is we’ve got to go and understand is we’re professionals and if we want to consider ourself like a doctor, think about going into a hospital to have surgery and the doctors start explaining you into things in all real technical medical terms that makes no sense. What they’re going to say is this is going to hurt for a little while, it’s going to go away. And then you’re going to go ahead and be able to walk normally again. So they’re going to explain things in terms that you understand. And again, I say this all the time, if you want to get paid like a doctor or dentist, let’s start acting like one.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:42:51):
I like that. Cool. Let’s summarize. Topic two, old behavior is picking up the phone and explain with handwaving and all other means possible or even with the digital picture, send, just replace some digital inspection platforms or paper term digital and then the process does not change and that’s not effective because of the sales pressure and other reasons. So put the time. And that’s really hard for a service advisor who is really busy, put the time in editing the pictures so the layman will understand it, send it out and don’t pick up the phone. Wait for the incoming call. That’s an unbelievable process change.
Bill Connor (00:43:50):
Here’s another example of why we learned that was so important. We get a lot of college students come in and they bring their car in and we explain to them what it needs. We go through the whole rigmarole, spend 10, 15 minutes on the phone with ’em and they say, oh great, could you call my mom? Okay, so you call the mom and you go through that exercise all again. And she said, let me get her dad. And then you go through this thing three times. So having a one good quality inspection that goes out and then they can send it to each other. They can get together, have their pow wow, they might even call grandma and see if she’s going to go ahead and fund the bill. But they can do that all. And again, what you’re doing is you’re waiting for them to go ahead and contact you based on the information sent them and start discussing buying type decisions.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:44:36):
Yep. Thank you. Topic two, what’s number three?
Bill Connor (00:44:43):
So number three, the hardest thing to go ahead and change is internal shop communications using only digital tools. And so I could tell you from past experience I learned this and matter of fact, this is one of the main reasons why I started talking to Uwe in the first place about AutoVitals and some of the things that needed to be done is that we were in a shop that had two buildings, we had a front building and the bays were in another separate building in the back. And the amount of time that it would take to do normal things that you’d have to do. So if you’re in a position where you’re a service writer, half an estimator, you might even be an estimator in order to estimate you’d have to go ahead and have a lot of things or go back and actually lay your eyes on whatever it is in order to go ahead and get that done.
And so I found out really quickly by using the digital communication that I could go and eliminate a minimum of 77 steps on each trip back into the shop. And another thing happened on there. I noticed almost instantly that my service riders in the past, they used to have guys standing behind them with pry bars and screwdrivers ready to go into revolution mode because they needed to talk to them about something and they couldn’t. So the service riders got all these eyeballs staring at them. But what I noticed really quickly by using the internal communication that I didn’t have that backlog of text wasting time standing there at the customer, they could actually work and produce revenue for themselves in the shop. I didn’t have the service writers getting upset about what might be swung at ’em next. And I had another byproduct was that if something went wrong with the digital communication, with the communications going through the shop, then I have an audit trail with a date and timestamp and I could find out what went wrong and correct it so we didn’t have a repeat performance.
So those are all things that we instantly noticed by using that communication. And I know at one time years ago I told you said, look, I’m a well-rounded individual. I said, but now that I’m not having to walk all this anymore, we need an exercise plan to come with this because it’s not walking to 20,000 steps or more per day than I was before. So that was a good thing. And then I’ll get shops all the time. They said, look, we’re a real small shop and we need to do that. I can just turn around and talk to so-and-So, and my contention there is that three months from now when you have to go ahead and pull that work, order back up and go ahead and find out what went on and who was said and all this other stuff, nobody’s going to remember that conversation, but if you need it, it’s there.
So having that trail to go ahead and pull that history up is really important also. So we discovered a lot of things about it and now that we can go ahead and have communication from service advisor to service advisor or a group chat, say, everybody come to the office at 12 o’clock, we are going to have lunch and learn or the text in the shop say, have a group chat set up for pushup. We got this one ton truck that’s out there that’s loaded. We got to push it inside so they can send one message out to everybody all at once. So again, one of the funniest things we did is I challenged ’em and said, look, I’ll know when you’ve got this down to science. I said, when you can go through a complete day and we never have to go ahead and talk to each other in the shop, everything’s done through the internal chat. It’s all documented, it’s all part of the repair order, it’s part of the legal documents and so on. And when we go through without a day without talking to each other, that’s when we know that we’ve got it dialed in. And I challenged ’em on that and they proved to me that they could do it. And matter of fact, they were really pleased when they found out they didn’t have to physically talk to me anymore.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:48:35):
That’s funny. So again, behavioral change, big deal, right? Yelling across the shop, it’s easy taking a tablet and God forbid typing is hard. So at least speech to text, those are all little process changes. How do you we implement them so they become much important.
Bill Connor (00:49:06):
Well, again, we go back to the same thing, explain to everybody what’s in it for them. So the technicians that if you go ahead and clock the amount of time that they were standing there waiting to talk to the service advisor, they find out they’ve got another 20 to 30 minutes per day that they could produce revenue for themselves and multiply that out by a week, month or a year, all of a sudden the little dollar signs start going off. So again, finding out where the pain points are people and how to remove them using digital tools and then be able to reinforce over and over again that good behaviors, that yield results are great. And that if we do something and it doesn’t provide good results and we know it should, then we need to step back and examine it and approach it in a different manner.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:49:54):
So we all heard it. What’s a tech minute worth? So the numbers are between $3 50, $4, 50, that’s
Bill Connor (00:50:09):
And that last run of price increases.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:50:11):
That is correct. Now with the inflation going on, it’s going to go up to five, makes the math easier. It’s really the amount of money the shop cannot earn, right? If attack is not productive in that minute in standing around and waiting or worse, assuming something is going to happen and it doesn’t happen or other, oh, I never heard you say that. The big deal with digital even in the moment is also you can create kind of an accountability because the read receipt on the tablet or on the service advisors and will tell you, okay, message has been received and everybody is on the same page. And that’s really important in such a busy environment.
Bill Connor (00:51:10):
And add to that is that right now we have tools that we didn’t have back when I was actually running a shop. So to me, some of the tools that we have, like we’ve added to task manager for example, things like this actually make it to where things can’t get lost or misplaced and almost puts me in a mindset to say maybe I should go ahead and have another shop or two. Because really things have really got so much easier the more we get into using the digital tools properly in a way that create a huge value for everybody, including the end user motorist. And again, that internal chat, I can’t tell you the number of times that it’s saved us from heat cases with the customer technicians send a message to the front office, I can’t do it by a certain time. Service writer sees it immediately, they contact the customer before the customer contacts them and then it doesn’t turn into a fire drill and an apology.
So being more proactive than reactive, having the technicians not have to stand the line and wait and whenever things go wrong. In the past we used to have the US against them mentality between the service writer and the tech. Tech A says, I requested such and such a part. The service writer says, you never did that in the past. We have to go look it up on paper. And maybe it was there, maybe it wasn’t or maybe it was added afterwards. But now that we’ve got the notes with timestamp on it, there is no us against them anymore. It really helps build that team culture in the shop because there is not really anywhere to hide. It is what it is. It’s all data. Let’s just solve the problem, don’t do it again and move on.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:52:50):
Thank you. How long did it take you in the shop to go from purely verbal communication running back and forth to muscle memory?
Bill Connor (00:53:04):
In our shop it was pretty much instant because the techs didn’t want to see me in the shop and the service writers didn’t want to see the techs in the office. So that was as soon as that was implemented and we actually were fortunate enough to participate in the testing and so on, that was implemented almost instantly just because there was a huge plus for everybody or a perceived plus.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:53:30):
That is cool. Good. Maybe we have a little bit of time. We use it as a summary. Number one, the shop owner should be the leader on implementation patient. If that’s not the case, you have a huge chance of failing or creating a confused staff. And then it’s normally the product’s fault number two, and that’s probably of all the three. Would you agree? The hardest is that the sales advisor focuses an initial part on finishing the inspection result and marking them up and editing with the layman’s mind, looking at them.
Bill Connor (00:54:36):
If they’re not using a guided inspection, that is one of the hardest things for a service writer to do because they’ve never done it before. And until they start tasting the sweet success that comes from it, they just really don’t understand. So that’s really where the quick win thought process comes in, get them wins early and often get a taste of success. And normally after people taste success and what goes along with it, the pat in the back or pay increase, whatever it might be, they just want more of it.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:55:07):
Can you, I think we skipped that. Can you just say the top five quick wins very quickly you encountered being successful.
Bill Connor (00:55:20):
So defining a break flush exactly what should be done or higher tread condition. And I really like tire tread condition because it leads to all kinds of things besides just tires. So it could wheel alignments while they’re there. They could go ahead and see struts, suspension damage, they can shake the wheel back and forth and find wheel bearings, things like that. Right now with the seasons changing, there’s nothing wrong with going ahead and defining, especially in Texas, Arizona and so on that stick a thermometer in the doggone dash, take a temperature and the temperature and use that as a way to ask for an air conditioning performance test. So again, think about the things that you actually want to produce, even if it’s seasonal, and define exactly the picture the technician should take, exactly the measurement they should take to show the customer, define the words that should be on the image itself and on the topic that actually get the to prove without any hard work whatsoever.
And again, the thing is is that it has to be highly engaging to the customer. It’s got to be something that they can see by the visual what’s in it for them. It has to be something that’s got hours in it for the technician. It has to be something that’s got sales and gross profit for the service advisor. And it has to be something that can happen in almost every damn car. And then again, everybody does it the same way time and time again. And then if it doesn’t produce results, just go in and tweak the wording a little bit until you can actually get the measurable success. Then that topic’s done. You just do it that way from now on and then you start working on the next topic. But I would pick one or two that fit that criteria and do that first, get some wins, and then ask the technician, Hey, tell me one topic that you’d like to go ahead and produce more work on. And then ask the service writer, do you agree with that? And then work together with them to make sure that the pictures define and the words are built into the inspection sheet and just produce the wins.
And again, if you could do one a day, that’d be great, but if you could do one every two or three days, that’s fine also. But to define ’em where you can measure ’em. And for Pete’s sake, choose something initially that you have a canned job in your management system and then map it to the inspection seat. So you can use the business control panel to see how many you did in the past and you can see them start trending up right down to the service package or labor operation name. So that way it’s not a guess anymore. It’s actionable, measurable, and highly repeatable as you go on into the future.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:58:09):
And if you hire a new tech, it’s easily teachable too.
Bill Connor (00:58:15):
Not only that is after you go ahead and implement in your shop in the first place, that’s the hardest thing is taking 6, 7, 8, 10 people and getting them to make the change overnight. But when do you go ahead and bring in that next person and you’ve already done it successfully. Now you bring that person in and you can say, okay, work with Bubba for two or three days here. They’re going to have you do this and then go over here and so on. And actually define an onboarding process. And again, when you’re hiring people and you’re showing a technician for example, that, look, our success is this. If you follow our program, you’re can average three hours for repair order. You can touch three to three and a half cars a day. Wouldn’t that be great? And by the way, you can do it every day. Again, techs aren’t used to walking into a shop and being told that we do this to look out for your best interest. It’s just a better way to go ahead and define how you’re different and that they’ve got a solid career path and a partner rather than just moving from shop to shop.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:59:21):
Awesome. I think there’s nothing to add. That was a very good wrap up of the show. Bill,
Bill Connor (00:59:31):
Thank you very much. One thing I would like to add, and that is to go ahead and think about, share your numbers with your staff if they don’t understand what you’re doing and why. And like I said, I’m going to point you to an episode that Frank was on episode one 18. Go ahead and learn what 101 Bills can do for educating your staff. And it’s a great way for them to understand is not every dollar that comes through the shop is going in your pocket. And then when they understand it and they’re a more informed employee, it’s going to really help you out a bunch.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (01:00:08):
Thank you. We are at the top of the hour before I let everybody go. Thank you Bill so much. That was amazing. Thank you for sharing all your wisdom and experience in helping shops. I want to share my screen very quickly so everybody is hopefully by now has heard the term podcast and you might be a listener to other podcasts. We would love to have you add the Digital Shop Talk radio as a podcast on your phone to one of those four you see on the screen. But there are so many out there was blown away how many podcast platforms there are. So the most prominent ones are Apple, Google, and Spotify. And you can get the Digital Shop talk radio on those. Just open your phone, look through the directory of the podcasts and find the digital shop Talk radio. From then on, you have it on there. Every new episode gets uploaded automatically and you can listen to it in case you cannot attend the meeting or shared with your staff.
Bill Connor (01:01:43):
And so two other things. Thank
Uwe Kleinschmidt (01:01:44):
You everybody.
Bill Connor (01:01:45):
We’d like to encourage them to go to the Digital Shop Talk Radio, but also to adopt another shop in your area that might be struggling. Have them go ahead and join you on an episode or actually find us on the Facebook forum and ask us some of those tough questions. We’ve got this going on in our shop, how would you solve it? And one of our trainers or another shop owner just like you, they’re really all willing to share because the automotive aftermarket industries like that, they’re all willing to go and share and help improve the industry. Thank
Uwe Kleinschmidt (01:02:19):
You, Bill. That’s a lot of things. So podcast, join next week, check the Facebook forum, and if you know somebody in your area who’s struggling and might have similar challenges as you had, bring them on, bring them to this meeting, share the podcast, share the Facebook link, and hopefully we see you next week at the same time. Thank you, Bill. Thank you. Awesome. Everybody have a great day.

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