To say that the dealership I worked at was Dog Eat Dog would put it mildly. It wasn’t just a competition to be at the top of the figurative service sales board every month, because that would imply there were rules to the game. There were dirty tricks and underhanded methods, and no one’s hands were clean.
One of the battles that happened on the regular – probably almost daily – was a fight over whose customer was whose. An appointment would be inputted into the service CRM with a name you recognized, and the fight was on. An advisor would put their employee number on the appointment, claiming the visit for themselves. Or if there was a different advisor’s number on it, the knives came out.
“Hey, that’s MY customer!”
“No, I helped them on their last visit.”
“But I answered the phone and set the appointment.”
You get the idea. It wasn’t pretty, and I’m absolutely sure that it wasn’t just our team that fought those messy grudge matches. There were days or weeks of mistrust between each other at times. It’s as if the challenges of dealing with customers just weren’t enough.
But when a feud sparks between two service advisors, as is apt to happen from time to time, how do you deal with it? Service managers, it’s up to you to set the rules.
In our store, we didn’t have clear guidelines about the rights of an appointment or customer in front of us in the lane. It’s the service manager’s job to steer the ship, and the oarsmen need to all pull in the same direction based on the instruction given.
Don’t mince words or allow loopholes as you tell your team how to deal with repeat customers. Often, a consistent relationship with one service advisor is a good way to have it. A plan could be that a repeat customer returning within six months goes back to the same advisor, for example. You’ll have to determine what works for your store.
For us, it often came down to who set the appointment in the CRM. Our hardest fights were over appointments set by the BDC, though, and it was common to go into the appointment and change the advisor number.
DON’T ALLOW IT! Cut it off at the knees by having your CRM remove the ability to change advisor numbers until the appointment is converted to an RO.
Here’s where it falls apart. Just setting a rule doesn’t go quite far enough. There need to be repercussions for wrong actions. Again, this has to be something that fits with your store, but always draw a line in the sand that has consequences when crossed.
Be fair but firm. If someone breaks the rules you set and ‘steals’ an RO or appointment, act on it. Discipline can be losing the RO to another advisor or sitting out a day at home. Repeat rule breakers need to be treated with stiff consequences that send a message. Make no mistake – if someone colors outside the lines you draw, it’s a sign of disrespect for your leadership. That can’t go unaddressed.
Sometimes, the lines aren’t clear. In that case, let the customer decide which advisor they’re going to deal with. It sounds juvenile, like choosing teams for a game of pick-up hockey. It works, though, to let the customer walk up to the service advisor they’d prefer to deal with.
In a dealership, relationships get messy – as messy and complex as they do in a family. It’s often necessary to be the parent in a situation. It’s not to dictate the outcome but rather to find a way to work together and live at peace.