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.

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