Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Bulk Mail" confusion

In the last 10 years mail delivery has changed drastically. I started at Tri-Auto in 2004. At that time we were one of the very few automotive mail providers in the country using bulk mail postage. Most of the 'big guys' were still using First Class because bulk was unreliable and required maximum effort to even figure out the system. Fast forward to 2009 and my guesstimate is 90% of anyone using saturation automotive mail is mailing in this way (you can obviously also use it for non saturation mail as well). Among this camp there are two ways of getting the mail into homes. They are most commonly referred to as "SCF Delivery" and "DDU Delivery." So just what do those acronyms mean!?
  • SCF - Sectional Center Facility. Mail comes in to these large postal hubs and is the dispersed to the...
  • DDU - Destination Delivery Unit. ...or your local post office. Postmen and Postwomen deliver the mail from this location.
The difference in the two types of delivery is where the mail is being dropped off. Companies choose which location they "drop" the mail to for different reasons. After numerous conversations with the Post Office we've found dropping at the SCF level to be the most reliable. We were just given stats that 85-90% of DDU's now no longer have the sorting equipment necessary for our type of mail, so if the mail is delivered to them they are just sending it back to the SCF to be sorted anyway. We figure we'll cut out the middle business and just send straight to the SCF where it can be sorted and sent out correctly the first time. On the flip side, I know there are many companies who deliver to the DDU-and all of our systems are different so they may have just discovered another work around. Hopefully this helped to clear up the difference in mail delivery-it's all "bulk" in the end but the additional follow up and attention to detail is what makes all the difference on whether or not your mail is in homes on time. Check here for more info on how we attempt to control our mail AND things YOU can do to ensure your mail is delivering as reliably as possible.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Diva Photo Shoot

Happy Monday! For those of you that aren't Facebook friends with us I just wanted to post a couple of pics of the team so you'll have a face with a name. And if you aren't our Facebook friend--why not!?! Find us here: Stephanie At TriAuto

Ashley, Stephanie & Katy

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tri Auto adds TV & Radio to the Mix!

That's right-we're adding a couple of more products to our marketing arsenol here at Tri Auto. Many of our clients have tried to create syngery with their mailers buy utilizing additional media with the same message. We're just taking a little of the leg work out of it for you by offering TV & Radio spots that match the mailers we provide. Just let us know if you'd like to add one to your next mailer. Check out our You Tube channel for samples of each.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Consumers Willing to Spend More on Autos

Some good news is starting to leak out as we head into the Fall selling season. Kelley Blue Book ( released a Market Intelligence Study earlier this month on the automotive market post clunkers. In the study they found the amount consumers are willing to spend on new vehicles actually increased after the national incentive program funded by the government. In August 2009 consumers reported they would spend $25,600 on a new vehicle, a number that has increased $1,671 to $27,271 in late September. The report also noted that customers are saying they are not waiting on incentives to purchase. This may be good news as many dealers feared Clunkers would have a similar consequences to the initial 0% offerings early in the 2000's or Employee Pricing later on. After these programs ended it seemed the public just started waiting until the next big discount from car manufacturers. I can report on the Diva front that new car mailers are up. Currently the best sales results are coming from Buyback letters sent to dealer databases or year/make owner lists we supply. Let us know if you'd like info on these. 317.644.5729,

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Tune Up for your Service Department Interview with Jim Troiola

After the letters went out early this summer to many GM & Chrysler dealers, and as sales hit their worst slump earlier this year it seems a real emphasis was placed back on the Service Department in many dealerships. Around that time I connected with Jim Troiola of Automotive Training International on LinkedIn. He's shared with me how he's helped many dealers drastically increase their service revenue and agreed to sit down for an interview with me. Hopefully some of the tips he shared with me may help you as you are taking a closer look at your own Service Department.
A Tune Up for your Service Department: Interview with Jim Troiola

Jim, tell us a little about yourself.

I've been in the automotive industry about my entire life, starting as a driver for a parts department in a Chevy dealer long ago. After serving time in the military I became a Parts Manager, 5 years later I was the Parts Director doing over $30M in parts a year. In 1987 Roger Penske took over the dealership and I was fortunate to directly report to him for 9 years as Service Director for the largest Cadillac dealership in the country at the time. In '91 I left there and worked for several smaller dealers and later got back together with Penske and ended up as the Fixed Ops Director for the entire group of 46 stores. Throughout my career I've worked with just about every franchise and have now partnered with Rich to help dealers all over the country with Automotive Training International.

Where did the concept of Automotive Training International come from and how did you form the company?

My partners Rich Gilardi and Tyler Robbins realized we could really make a difference for dealers. We can go into a store with a Service Manager that is so busy he may not have time to really do a lot of teaching. We have a lot of real world, hands on experience and that's how we teach as well. A lot of consultant companies come in, sit behind a desk all week and come up with an action plan. We really are different in that we come in and hold instructional workshops with all the employees--we hear, from them, what needs improvements, how they feel about management and engage with them to discover what could change. We have found if the employee is taking part in the solution there is automatic buy in and the changes are actually implemented.

What are the top two ways you are helping dealers with your training?

#1 Our Reservation System-One of the first things we do is look at how the customer is handled on the phone. Typically, we find, customers don't listen and reservations start to pile up as everyone calling is tells the person on the other end they'll be there around 7:30am to drop off. Dealers need to be the ones in control of the call. Give them a specific time to come in and let them know why--"We want to make sure we have time to take a look at your vehicle and listen to your needs. We'll put aside 10-15 minutes to spend one on one with you and your vehicle." The second part of the reservation system includes putting a "welcome board" on the service drive with easy appointments name and time. This does two things, first, it gives recognition to those you do have coming in and second it's a bit psychological-the guy that shows up whenever he wants, instead of at his appointed time will see there are people there that have an appointment. Hopefully next time he'll be more respectful of the system.

The reservation system is in place so that we can help Service Departments give better service to those that are there instead of rushing through each appointment. Using this system they can be ready for each customer and take the time to address questions and any additional service that might need to be performed.

In your opinion where are dealers missing the most amount of revenue in the service department?

Most dealerships are missing out on consistent vehicle walk arounds with the customer and courtesy inspections. The very best opportunities lie in the service drive. Instead of checking in the customer at a desk walk the vehicle with them. The service advisor can then point out anything he or she sees-"hey I could probably fix that dent for $150 or clean that up for $50, your tires are looking a little worn, etc." It's impossible to see these things if you're sitting at a desk. The other thing is doing courtesy inspections--really taking a look at the entire vehicle and itemizing the maintenance and service that needs to be done. There are a lot of tricks to the trade that come with both of these ideas so we work with dealers on the practical application of them.

Walk me through a dealership you’ve helped in the past?

This particular dealership had a lot of great processes put in place, but many they started and never saw to completion. One of the areas we helped to identify and correct was realizing what happened when they had to let go their service "Booker" because of the economy (The service Booker is the person that books the hours of labor per job for the technicians). To replace the Booker the dealership came up with pricing grids and distributed them to the service technicians, but because they were so busy everyone just started using the standard hourly rate instead of the actual price grid rate. This practice really started eating into the labor charges. We installed the pricing grids on the computers and made an instant impact on the bottom line.

Jim Troiola is Co-Partner of Automotive Training International. He can be reached by email or phone (646) 712-2197.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Gaining Exposure for your Service Department

We've all learned a lot the past year or so. As an eternal optimist (and a Recession Virgin so to speak), I've been looking back personally and professionally and determining what can be learned from the recent history. It seems many dealerships are doing the same. Some are finding that somewhere during the era of the fast cash and quick deals the sub prime market granted--some fundamentals were lost. One such fundamental is that of marketing and promoting the Service Department.
  • First off, does your Service Department have an advertising budget? I'm aware there are different ways of book keeping and accountability when it comes to how budgets are dispersed but there should at least be an amount earmarked for every area you want to promote. If not, it's inevitable something will be pushed to the wayside.
  • Secondly, how are you using this budget? In my opinion there should be a part designated for retention and one part set aside for new customers. Either way take a look at what you're current doing and how well it is working.
  • Thirdly, begin thinking more strategically. Who are you hitting with your messages? Who is missing the message? How are you layering the service message throughout all the dealership's marketing? What are you doing to turn your sales customers into service customers?

This week the Diva Blog is all about the Service Department! Stay tuned for some marketing ideas and an interview with a service expert. I'd love to hear from you--what changes have you made to increase revenue on this side of the dealership in the past 18 months!?