Great People | Great Ideas | Great Sales

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5 Steps that Turned this Auto Service Department Around

Frank Wehrmann
6P Marketing

The impact that individuals can have on leadership, creativity and relationships is the focus of this month’s newsletter and my career. The title of this article is taken from a letterhead footer I designed about ten years ago for the Dealer Association that approved the service advertising for one of the world’s leading car makers. This is a great case study that shows you how a clear vision can change everything.

From 2000 to 2005, service sales were falling at Canadian dealerships for two main reasons:

  1. New cars are built better and need less service.

  2. Their market share had declined by two-thirds.

Service sale declines were a big concern to the dealers because that is how they cover their overhead; while new car sales can bring a customer in, only great service can keep them coming back.

Here’s how I turned their service business around and grew their service sales for five straight years.

  1. I installed a new set of beliefs. I helped them understand that their Service Department isn’t a car repair facility, it’s where the brand ambassadors reside between vehicle sales and that all that these brand ambassadors say and do can help customers believe that they are coming to the right place or the wrong place. I shifted their focus from car repair to customer care, and this new belief enabled them to look at their business from their customers’ point of view and understand that they lose customers one transaction at a time – and that they can rebuild their business and their customer base one transaction at a time.

  2. I created a special culture and rituals. I showed them how to ‘syndicate risk.’ By lowering professional and personal ‘risk’, Board Members were willing to change their behaviour.

  3. I rewarded original thought and pivotal insights. I became an actor on their private stage. I acted out the real-life impact of insightful business decisions – as well as the stupid ideas. Through this role-play the Board could see a better brand position as well as a host of great customer-friendly service opportunities that are still used today (because they work so well).

  4. We sold the merchandise and then merchandised the sale. When sales began to rise, we did a great deal of research to see what was selling, when it was selling and for how much it sold for. But we never spent any time on WHY it sold because we knew that motivated teams sold up to TEN TIMES as much as those who ‘just took the order.’

  5. We worked hard to stay stupid. Each year we hosted ‘Town Hall Meetings’ across Canada to LEARN which marketing elements stores wanted to keep, improve or dump. I always gave the front line the final say because they always know best.


Surround yourself with good people who bring out the best in one another.

Foster an environment that encourages original thought.

Syndicate risk, experiment, learn and grow (sales).

Great People  |  Great Ideas  |  Great Sales

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