It’s been great to see other companies start to take my position on a core tenant of mine: The PPT Approach. No, not PowerPoint, but People, Processes and Technology. I believe this is a basic rule for success in the automotive business.
It’s sad to me that people are so insecure that they constantly think we going to use technology to replace them. People need human interaction and there is nothing stronger than eye-to-eye communication with customers. The challenge our industry has faced is recruiting the right people and then retaining them. This is where the facets of PPT can help. People will remain our strongest assets by far, but we have to enable them to be successful in a difficult environment of compliance and shrinking margins. So, who are the “right” people to hire and retain? These people are open to processes and discipline so they will adhere to your plan — whatever that is. You need people willing to change as the automotive industry changes. You need great communicators who can talk it out when things go sideways. People with these qualities can become your rock stars!
Next, you need the right processes in place. Don’t believe the gurus who claim to be the grandfather of this or that and have the “only process that works.” The process that is right for you is based upon your store, your location, your franchise and your customers. The process needs to be well thought out, studied over 90 to 180 days and tweaked along the way. It may sound like a lot of work but it’s the best way to ensure success. Process is consistency and what we want our people to do to maximize our success. Here’s an example: I put in place a system where my service writers ask each customer about our protection products, such as service contracts or paintless dent repair. Next, I add it to their pay plan and I spiff the F&I manager for everyone’s service sells. This may sound nuts, but let’s think about it. Is this good for my customer? Yes. Is it good for my service adviser, who has a chance to make additional income and helps me to retain them? Yes. Will my F&I people be motivated to help my service people and educate them on how to sell (helping me to retain my F&I staff — who will make more money — and keep our customers away from the competition)? Yes. So, this one simple process change hits multiple departments and benefits everyone. Processes may take time to put into place, but if you look at the best operators in the business, one thing they share are great processes.
This is the big one that scares everyone. Technology is the last part here because, without the first two, it will not work. Technology should help us, not replace us. Good technology will help our people by saving time, enhancing what they do and reinforcing the process we have created. It needs to be treated as an enabler of our people and process — not a dependency of our business. One of my best business relationships formed because their process and my technology complement and support each other. Before buying technology, first determine if you have the people and the processes in place to make it work.