Posts tagged utilization
It occurs to me regularly that many times we are rewarded in the life for things that we may or may not deserve. We slip into a close parking spot after someone just drove by it. We get pulled over for speeding and avoid a ticket. We use gambling winnings to pay down debt. In many situations we can do everything wrong, but in the end, we still receive a reward for our actions.
I equate this activity to the way airlines treat air travel. When you boil it down, the airline’s job in the equation is to get you to a destination (it doesn’t have to even be the one on your ticket), alive and unscathed. It doesn’t matter when you get there, or even how you get there. Wherever “there” may be, if you make it, the airline chalks up a W.
What happens to you, personally, physically, or emotionally, doesn’t really matter in the equation. If you have to wait three hours longer than intended to board the plane, it doesn’t matter. If they run out of water on the flight, it doesn’t matter. If your connection is cancelled, requiring a day or more of layover, it doesn’t matter. If your luggage is lost, it doesn’t matter. If you have a nervous breakdown on the flight, as long as you don’t appear to be a threat, it doesn’t matter. As long as the plane takes off and touches down without disintegrating in the process, the airline chalks up a W. The passenger chalks up an L.
This same scenario, albeit less dramatic, takes places every day at car dealerships around the nation. Despite dropping the ball repeatedly throughout the entire sales process, if a vehicle (any vehicle) rolls over the curb, it’s a W. Like the airline passenger, it doesn’t matter how the customer was treated, how many members of the staff they had to talk to, how much money was lost throughout negotiation, how many “promises” had to be made throughout hours of back-and-forth, if a transaction was made, sales people are slapping high-fives and exchanging back pats.
I refer to this is as “just get ’em in” syndrome. By the simple act of convincing a potential client to come down to the dealership, if the collective effort of the dealership sells them a car, it is somehow a victory, no matter the pretenses. “Just get ’em in” syndrome has been stunting the growth of Internet operations since day one.
For many, the initial draw of the Internet side of the business is the precision of the numbers, and the perceived scalability of operations. Unlike walk-in traffic, demand can be predicted, and even supplemented if need be, to maintain a relatively steady stream of interested parties. Advertising sources are plentiful, and direct actions can be attributed to impressions. Every month’s activities can be broken down and analyzed to look for deviations in patterns. It has always been imagined to be a sales machine.
If an Internet sales strategy is executed properly, it should act as a sales machine. However, with all of the capabilities the Internet has to augment any dealer’s business, like a machine, it’s only as precise as the quality of its components. If a machine is working properly, it repeats the desired results, over and over, with little deviation in quality. When the individual parts inside the machine begin to fail, the repetition of desired results begins to fail. Some consider maintenance vital, and proactively fix or replace components to preserve precision. Some use duct tape and a magic marker to mask results. Some use bonus miles to apologize for rude flight attendants. Some just get them in the door.
If your dealership truly wants to be successful on the Internet, it should stop focusing on the final destination or the end product, and instead focus on what it takes to get there. If you’re thinking in terms of machines, think about all of the actions it takes to create a perfect widget. Think of all of the precise measurements, the wear and tear on tooling, and the sequence of inputs workers have to make. If everything falls within spec, you have successful results day-in and day-out.
If you’re thinking in terms of air travel, think about a free entrance to the Platinum Club. Then, think about a free upgrade to first class, an on-time departure, and an early arrival. When you deboard the plane, the senior pilot then offers you a sincere thanks, and a firm handshake. Think about everything going better than expected. As a passenger, everything went the way you wanted it. For once, it’s you who gets to chalk up the W.
When I flipped on the TV this morning, I was greeted by an infomercial purporting the next breakthrough in fitness training. We’ve all seen them before, promising dramatic results in 90 days; working where others have failed before. Despite the fact that these infomercials have been dominating American morning and late night television for decades, the rest of the world still calls us fat.
Twenty seconds later, I flipped the channel to something else. The first commercial that came on was for a revolutionary new supplement that works within seconds, and “changes lives.” What really hit me was the bold yellow letters stating that is was doctor recommended. Would a medical doctor really publicly recommend something without FDA approval? Please…
My generation has been bombarded by these commercials for our entire lives. Biggest, largest, most, greatest, best, number one…we’ve heard it 1,000,000 times before. We have no choice, but to be skeptical. Person in a white lab coat claiming to be a doctor, seen it. D-list celebrity endorsement, heard it. BS, smelled it. We’ve nearly gone deaf from the boy crying “wolf.”
Falling into the abyss of ubiquity is now measured in seconds. Continuous radio bombardment has just become noise, that is, if you listen to terrestrial radio anymore. DVR has all, but killed TV commercials. Have billboards regained their impact from the fifties? How about those sandwich board spinners? How about the people on the side of the road freezing/roasting in the company branded t-shirts? Balloons? Inflatable gorillas? Gorilla suits? Do any of these things get your attention anymore? Not only are these “me too” techniques tired, but they simply blend into the texture of everyday life.
It only took a few generations, but advertising fads are over. Now many will groan that (the much maligned) social media is a fad (as was the Internet). I’ll be the first to say that many of the Facebooks, Twitters, and Foursquares of the world will collapse, be acquired, or evolve into something else. However, the visibility and amplification these companies have given John and Jane Public have utterly disrupted media as we know it. We no longer have to depend on clever marketing from Manhattan to tell us what we want. With the few strokes of the keyboard we can get advice from folks all over the country about where to eat, where to visit, and where to shop. Folks just like you and me. If they were alive today, guys like Marconi, Tesla, and Farnsworth would probably be pretty perturbed by this.
However, unlike most guys, Marconi, Tesla, and Farnsworth would’ve taken the time to learn how to use these social channels before jumping in headfirst. Despite the writing on the wall, many car dealers still stick to the establishment; cranking out TV and radio commercials touting the newest, biggest, mostest, and bestest. Those who’ve heard about many of the new-media services, have taken to cranking out posts touting the newest, biggest, mostest, and bestest. These “leading edge” dealers seem to be more concerned about being on the new-media services, as opposed to reaching out to those who turn to these emerging services as respite in the first place. Keep chasing people with stuff they don’t want to hear, and they’ll just keep running away.
The alternative is to embrace the paradigm shift. Open your arms to those who are tired of being chased. Take off your white lab coat, and become a person. Fire the D-List celebrity, and promote yourself. See through the whizz-bangery of technology, and use it as a common thread to connect to people. Turn off your inflatable gorilla, and tell someone the story about it. Stop looking for something to believe in. Become someone to believe in.
As many of you already know, my wife and I welcomed our second son into this world during the third week of January. Although he was considered a full term baby, he wasn’t quite ready to leave the warm confines of mama’s belly. A short time after he was born, I carried him to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where he stayed for eleven days learning the subtle intricacies of breathing and eating. Although the hospital was quick to assure us that this was “normal,” it didn’t make it any easier (the hospital ranks among the top 100 in the country, so who am I to argue). After a week of slow progress, he suddenly turned the corner for the best, and was able to join us at home shortly thereafter.
If any of you have had to spend an inordinate time at the hospital, it becomes abundantly clear how much today’s medical professionals depend on technology. With just a few sensors, hospital staff can measure almost all of the body’s functions at just a glance. Barcode scanners are used to monitor all patient records, banking who did what, when, into a central database. As an efficiency aficionado, I was awestruck by the precision.
In the time between chatting with the nurses, twiddling my thumbs, and watching newbie sleep, I kept coming back to the use of technology. The doctors and nurses ranged in age from early twenties to early sixties. Like all people, they ranged in disposition and attitude, from bubbly to curmudgeonly. But the one thing that became crystal clear for me is that, unquestioningly, they all used all of the technical tools given to them. Even if it were an option to not use the tools, it was out simply of the question.
Since it’s extremely hard for me to stop thinking about work (remember, I’m one of the weirdos who finds comfort in their job), I kept coming back to the same point in my head: As automotive sales professionals, we have more tools available to us today than at any other point in history. However, unlike the medical professionals I watched everyday, we don’t embrace our new tools with the same fervor. Why is that?!
Now, I’m guessing you’re waiting for me to go off on a “shiny objects” diatribe. I think enough has been written about that already. I’m going to take a different angle.
Think about all of your friends who work outside of the car business (if you don’t have any, think about your parents and their friends). What tools do they use on a day-to-day basis? Now imagine they made a conscientious decision not to use those tools. What would happen? What if the barista decided not to use the espresso machine? What if the soldier refused to carry their rifle? What if the courtroom reporter decided to use a pen and paper, and not a stenotype? What if the desk attendant of the hotel your staying at right now declined to give you a receipt? At least to yourself, you’d probably say that person isn’t doing their job. In fact, you’d probably say something much worse. Why are we any different?
Throughout my career, I’ve had the chance to see multiple dealerships from multiple angles. Whether it’s handling a dealer trade on the retail side, implementing a new technical solution on the software side, or side-by-side with a dealership partner on the consulting side, the expectation is not clear from the top-down on how technology is to be implemented inside the dealership. Despite the commitment of thousands of dollars, month-in, month-out, there is no true mandate to use the technical tools that are made available. The problem is further exacerbated by the lack of monitoring, and the lack of consistent training of these tools. If rules governing facial hair are in the employee handbook, why aren’t there rules governing the use of technology?
Let’s take the customer relationship and lead management tools for instance. We know the burden of proof the vendor get puts under by the dealer. We know the financial burden the vendor puts on the dealership. What burden is being put on the staff to fully utilize this tool? From what I’ve seen over the past decade of participating in the car business, it’s tantamount to throwing the keys to a Ferrari to an eleven year old and telling them to have fun. Without the proper experience and training, it’s a recipe for disaster resulting in wasted money and broken hearts.
Whether it’s contact management, pricing tools, analytics services, or employing a whole cadre of consultants, one thing is clear: the act of possessing these tools does not guarantee success. Between world wars, the French committed tremendous resources to constructing sophisticated and impenetrable border defenses along what is referred to as the Maginot Line. And all the Germans had to do is drive around it. With no standard operating procedure, and no set consequences, nothing stops users from circumventing the tools.
In any business, even most dedicated of front-line staff has to know what is expected of them. Whether the policy is to achieve at all costs or follow a systematic method, the folks implementing the process need something to adhere to. Without that clear expectation, front-line managers have nothing concrete to enforce. Without that clear expectation, upper management has no way to objectively hold their managers accountable. With no finger to point with, vendors and front-line staff get replaced, thus lumping additional negative return on investment in terms of set-up fees, hiring, and firing costs. Want to stop the revolving door? Set expectations.
If they’re not already, get your people excited about the tools they have available to them. Create an environment where your employees, like the medical community, seek out new ways to utilize the systems they have available. Proactively ask vendors for training and workshops. Encourage, and even incent, your front-line staff develop standardized processes for using dealer tools. Like the espresso machine, the rifle, and the stenotype are part of the job at other organizations, let your employees know that the tools that are provided are expected to be used to the fullest extent possible. You have the tools to create and monitor success. It’s up to you to not let your business flat-line.
Originally posted 8/4/2010 on DrivingSales.com
Jimi Hendrix is regarded by many as the greatest rock guitarist ever. Innocently enough, he taught himself how to play guitar, practicing many of the same R&B songs his 60s contemporaries grew up playing. He gigged with several local bands around the country, traveled to different venues around Europe, and paid his dues like everyone else. Then one day he turned the volume up to 11. He turned distortion and feedback into harmonies. He experimented with different recording methods. He modified his tools to meet his needs. (If you just teleported in from another dimension, do a YouTube search for Hendrix’s version of the Star Spangled Banner.) He fundamentally altered rock guitar forever.
Technology didn’t make Hendrix great. He was still a prolific guitar player long before the advent of electronic effects and amplification enhancements. He took what was available to him, used his imagination, and made it better. The fact of the matter is that any of us could buy the exact same rig that Hendrix used, and his corpse could still outplay us. Technology doesn’t make you better. You make technology better.
Many of us (myself included), go after the latest and greatest technology as soon as it’s available. We fall into that feeling that if I had this new widget, then I could… In most cases we end up mildly disappointed, lying to ourselves, or locked up in a four-year contract. That new golf club may have increased your drive, but did it profoundly change your handicap? Did that new table saw make a better piece of furniture? Did that new photo editing software make you a better photographer? My guess is that you’ll soon be in the market for a new putter, a new jointer, or a new camera.
The very best tools can be rendered useless without the basic knowledge of how to efficiently maximize their output. How many times has a sports car left your dealership and returned shortly thereafter as a pile of metal, plastic, and rubber? How many times has a pickup come back to the store with broken leaf springs or a caved-in tailgate? How many economy cars are back in service with burnt clutches and bent shift forks? Despite the warnings (and common sense), the inexperienced drivers had to learn the hard way about what their new vehicle could, and could not do. The drivers didn’t take the time to explore their capabilities, learn about their vehicles, or practice what they’ve learned.
The same holds true for new dealer technologies. We fall into that same “spend our way out of our novice” approach. We fail to learn about the capability of the tools we already have. We fail to practice the new skills we learn. We fail to become self-sufficient, and rely on our teammates (or rely on a community of experts). We fail to experiment.
What good does it do to create a new website to drive more prospects to an already overwhelmed staff? How much impact can multiple phone numbers have if “when can you come in” is the extent of a staff’s phone skills? What’s the sense of acquiring third party leads just to keep a dealer’s staff busy (true story)? Did the technology sell two more cars upon implementation, or was it the $1000 in conquest cash that the OEM offered at the last second?
It’s important that we remain objective regarding new technology. Certainly new systems, methodologies, and enhancements will continue come out. But, just because the big dealers are doing something, doesn’t mean you have to do it too. Take some time to think about how much effort you and your staff will have to put into using a new system. Then think about what you could do by taking the same effort, and dedicate it to training, role playing, learning about the existing system, or practicing phone scripts. You have good business sense. Listen to what your gut tells you about a new technology. For most technology to achieve its full capabilities in your dealership, recognize that its success will be predicated upon the amount of time your staff gives to it. If you’re not ready to crack a sweat, then maybe it’s not the right time.
Some things will always hold true. Roger Federer will still crush the average tennis pro using a garage-sale wooden racket. LeBron James will still beat most at HORSE while playing barefooted. Jimi Hendrix will forever be a rock legend. Consider new technology when you know your staff has outgrown the tools they already have. They need to be ready to play at volume 11.