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If You Could Have Any Advantage

I was in the shower the other day (where I have my best ideas), thinking about our industry and the fact that we eventually, over time, lose our clients to independent shops. The thought was sparked by two things: earlier reading that the average car on the road is 11.8 years old, an all-time high, and second, that I’ve had a handful of managers in a panic over a slight drop in RO count in their drives over the last year. They know that selling fewer new cars will eventually lead to a drop in traffic in the drive. 

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Washing my beard with an all-in-one shampoo/conditioner (this is how I refine my ideas, and by stroking my beard), I realized something is off, really off, in the way we see things. 

I started thinking about how the late great Gary Halbert would do an exercise in his live workshops. Calling up three volunteers to the stage, he would pose a question to them:

“Let’s say all of us are going to open a hamburger stand and you can have one advantage, any advantage you want. What would it be?” He would point at the first volunteer and ask, “What advantage do you want?” 

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“Uhh, location.” 

“What about you?” he’d ask the next person. 

“The best meat.” 

“You?” Gary knew where this was going.

“The best people.” 

“OK, good … all great answers, but I will decimate you all with my advantage,” he’d say. “What I want, as an advantage — “A HUNGRY CROWD!”

Think about it for a minute. The biggest, most successful hamburger chains do not have the best meat, people or location. In fact, some of the burgers don’t really even seem like real meat. No one is buying a Big Mac or Royale with cheese for the quality of the meat. No one…

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We now live in a world where we lose 70% of our clients to independent shops over time. It’s a terrible failure. In fact, even when customers have free maintenance from the manufacturer or prepaid maintenance from their purchasing dealer, they still, by the time they are due for their fifth service, have gone elsewhere 75% of the time. 

These customers are saying, “I would rather pay $80+ at Jiffy Lube than come in for a free oil change.” 

Just thinking logically, our relationship with customers starts with the sale of a car. Nothing happens ’til we sell them a car. 

When we sell them the car, we gain home field advantage. The greatest advantage anyone could want. 

In sports, home field can swing the win/loss percentage by as much as 10% in favor of the host. The difference here is that we aren’t in a battle of the gridiron. Our customers are rooting for us, not against us. They want us to make it easier for them. They want us to win. 

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We live in an “experience” economy and from the jump, we control the entire experience. 

We control how they feel, what they see, what they hear, how it smells, how it tastes. We control how they are educated about the process, how they are educated about lower cost oil filters and the parts used by the competition. We even control the tone and demeanor of our employees they interact with.

In fact, sitting here stroking my beard, I am having a hard time coming up with something we don’t control in the process. 

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We are the hosts and they are the guests in our house. Yet, they leave our party disenchanted. 

You know who was really good at creating a home field advantage? Walt Disney!

When people entered the gate of Disneyland, they experienced a suspension of disbelief; enchanted by the happiest place on Earth. That was only accomplished by controlling every aspect of the experience. 

Now, I’m not insinuating we need to get our customers to believe in fairy dust or that your nose will grow when you lie, but I do know as an industry we could be so much better in the approach, importance and execution of our fixed operations. 

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We need to stop playing “not to lose” and start “playing to win.” Let’s start approaching this like we have home field advantage. Customer retention is ours to lose. What we put on the fire catches fire. Let’s break down the walls between departments and start a revolution in our service drives.

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