When I sat with two shop owners and a service advisor to get their view on communication inside the professional shop, they shared some great tips. You may not be surprised by these tips; however, the big revelation, is good communication. Communication must become an ingrained part of your culture and without it, you will never achieve the quality and efficiently that is necessary to grow a top performing business.
My biggest take-a-way from this interview was to write a novel for your technician. (Yes, this has every connotation about writing a long form book). Too many times the repair order gets to the technician with the words ‘advise’ and not many more details. Which makes for blurry communication when it could be clear from the beginning.
The first step is being a good listener to the customer and you will also need to ask good questions that follow up on their concerns or problem areas. For example, when you hear the customer say it makes a noise when on a ramp going 40 MPH in a hard bank to the right; all of that information needs to be entered on the work order. If the service advisor writes “noise when turning right”, that will not help the tech. If you hear it, write it down. This all sounds like common sense, but you will need to be sure your service advisors are doing justice to solving the customer’s problem.
In the podcast catalog we have an episode on Soft Skills (see link below). Since communication came up as number one, especially listening and a big part of communication is active listening, you can find out a lot about a customer and a team member by just listening to learn.
A key to good communication is to understand the communication style (behavior) of each member of your team. In the shop, for example you can mix the flow and bay assignments of your shop based on the personalities of your technicians. You may have to train your team on how to relate to each other based on their inherent communication style. There are many types of assessments you can use, but many use the DISC, (which is free). https://www.tonyrobbins.com/disc/ Then check out the podcast episode we did on the DISC test (see link below).
Fourteen points to follow to build a team that knows the power of communications:
- Make your repair orders a masterpiece. Do not be lazy by writing the words ‘Advise’. The word ‘Advise’ helps no one.
- The service writer must be very descriptive when getting information from the customer. Listen hard to the customer and write down the details of their issue or concern. Time is wasted if you do not write down all the information you heard. Technicians results are dependent on getting a good path to follow.
- Write the novel. Turn in a masterpiece repair order. It is critical to get every bit of information.
- Holding a five minute morning meeting with your entire team improves communication. Let the technicians see the game plan of the day.
- Listening is a key component of communication.
- Pay attention to the other person’s eye color. That eye contact is a key to listening.
- Pause before you answer, at least three seconds.
- Do not listen to answer, listen to learn.
- Good communication can prevent comebacks. Many problems are found in lack of communication (understanding). Good communication includes all levels of the organization.
- Good quality control is about accountability and good communication. Everyone should be onboard to deliver a quality product.
- Digital inspections will help improve communication because the disciplines are strong and thorough.
- How do you get your techs and advisors to work with each other? Have them read the book: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. Bottom line: do not place blame unless you are certain blame is due.
- Whoever you are talking to right now is the most important person to you.
- Active listening pointers from Barry Barrett:
- Effective Pauses.
- Minimal encouragers.
- Everything on planet Earth works because of relationships. If things are working for you, then thank the quality of your relationships.
- Focusing on the numbers will not get you there. Instead focus on your people, relationships and then the numbers will get you there.
- Sometimes, and those days do happen, it is like “herding cats”. You have got to know the personalities and communication styles of your techs. (See above link on free DISC assessment).
- You may have to train your team on how to relate to each other based on their given communication styles. (their behavior)
- Everyone is there to serve the customer. While the service advisor and the tech are there to serve each other. There is accountability with everyone.
- Some people will work just hard enough not to get fired. Bosses will pay you just enough, so you do not quit. Minimum standards at each end will destroy a business.
To get additional information and pointers such as good listening skills catch these Town Hall Academy’s episodes:
THA 053: Improve Communication Between the Service Advisor & Technician
THA 133: Why Soft or Life Skills Training Matters for Business Success
THA 041: The Value of Knowing Your Customers Observable Behavior (DISC)
Aftermarket influencer and host of Remarkable Results Radio and the Town Hall Academy Podcasts, where the business of the aftermarket is spoken.