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Robert talks about ways that Service Managers can help create a better working environment for employees, starting with having a helpful mindset and being willing to step in and help when advisors get overwhelmed.

Tactical Tips Episode #25 Transcript

BRAD: Alright, guys, we’re here with another Tactical Tip Tuesday. I’m super excited to have Robert Sebestyen on the phone, or on Zoom. I say on the phone, I don’t know why I say that. He’s the Chief Gravitational Officer at Gravitational Business and they focus on fixed ops training for service management, advisors, technicians, pretty much everything you think of on the fixed ops side of stuff. Robert, man, I’m glad we got to connect and jump on here. I’m super excited to talk to you. How’re you doing today, man?

ROBERT: I’m doing great. Thank you so much for having me. It’s an honor. You know I’ve been connecting with you guys for a while and what a great crew over there. You guys helped me out in Vegas when I was there by myself and just helped a brother out. I really appreciate you guys.

BRAD: Yeah, man, that’s what it’s all about. It’s about people helping people and there’s really not that camaraderie on the fixed ops side that you have on the marketing side and the sales side and so all of us guys have to kind of look after each other and create that landscape for consumers so they know what all is out there.

ROBERT: That’s right.

BRAD: So, Robert, let me ask you a couple of questions. So I know you do a lot of training and I know you’re in dealerships quite often. So what currently are the biggest opportunities for training in the service departments right now?

ROBERT: So, full disclosure, I don’t go into dealerships that often anymore, but I do go and you know, the reason is I try to do most of the things online. I can reach a lot more people that way. However, I’m in touch with service advisors every day and I’m in touch with customers every day. In fact, I run, I jump in the trenches and help out. We own a brick-and-mortar business, my family does, so I help out there and occasionally have to schedule appointments and deal with customer problems. So I get to actually experience customers face-to-face. But in the dealerships right now, in the service department, it’s all about mindset. I believe it’s all about mindset and leadership. They go hand in hand. So right now service advisors are beat up. The backorders on parts is a big issue because of having to deal with people asking and calling, “Hey, I haven’t gotten a status update on my vehicle for a month or two.” Some of it is self-inflicted. A lot of it is self-inflicted. I say 90% of it is self-inflicted, even in these very tough times. But mindset, process, and leadership. So service advisors feel overwhelmed and especially if they’re not prepared with the right tools or they’re not supported with the right kind of leadership, they will want to exit. In fact, a lot of them are looking to exit, and I see a lot of times on forums, you know, they’ll ask “hey, how do I get out? What can I do that pays the same money?” And the only reason a lot more are staying in right now is the money, and that’s kind of sad. I mean it’s good because the money’s great, but at the same time, if that’s the only reason you’re staying in a career, that kind of is tough on you.

BRAD: Yeah, I think that’s very important. You need to be fulfilled in the job that you do. That’s very, very important, right, is that self-fulfillment. I think that’s an interesting thing that you brought something up that – I think it’s very interesting. Normally we focus on follow-up on the sales side, right, like “Hey, we need to have this follow-up plan.” So with parts being out and parts being out further, we probably need to start focusing on having a follow-up plan for those customers that are waiting on those parts and really focusing on that and going deep on communication with those customers. So that’s an excellent point that you brought up there. You know, as Fixed Ops Digital, our job is to kind of set up the service advisors for success on the website and things like that. So what are some specific areas that you think around leadership or even mindset to get those people in the right mindset? I know a lot of it starts at hiring, alright, a lot of it starts there. But once you have them, there are some things that can help with that mindset and in those leadership roles.

ROBERT: First of all, the leader, the service manager, service director, fixed ops director, has to lead the way, show the way, go the way, and of course they have to know the way, so they can’t just fake it and expect their people to be in an awesome mindset. But us as leaders, we set the tone for our team so that service manager, someone on the team has to kind of pump everyone up every morning, and not necessarily saying a big “rah rah” meeting every single morning, but have the right mindset to be ready to help customers. Now your processes have to be bulletproof. As far as follow-up, you know my principle is to have close to zero status calls no matter what. And now obviously with backorder parts that’s even more critical. But I try to get as close to zero on status calls as possible. So you give people exact times when you’re going to contact them as a service advisor. Now you need a leader, a manager that actually leads the way in that and checks up with the service advisors because they get busy. So then, as a leader they’ve got to jump in and all hands on deck and help those service advisors and make sure, “Hey, you haven’t been able to make your status calls,” and sometimes they’re so overwhelmed. It’s not because of any fault of theirs, but they’re overwhelmed simply by so many calls and so many people coming at them that they can’t make the call. So leadership, real leadership, jumps in and says, “Hey, let me help you, I’m going to make some calls for you. I’m going to help you move some cars if the porters are not available so you can make the call. I’m going to watch the counter, now you go and make the calls. I’m going to watch your back.” As a service manager, you have to be in the service drive.

BRAD: Yeah, I think that’s important. You know, they see you lead from the front and they see you not ask them to do anything you’re not willing to do. I go back to, there’s a way to really do that with teams, is you create agreements instead of saying “rules”, these are their agreements. If you violate these agreements, this is what’s going to happen after you violate this agreement and this is how we’re going to handle it. But once you create agreements, then most people know that they’re going to be held accountable for that, and so it opens the line of transparency, which is what’s very hard on teams for the employees sometimes to be transparent with their leader that’s in charge. And I think that’s something that’s super important, especially in the service center, because most of the time we were already losing the battle. We’re getting beat up by auto repair facilities and stuff like that, and so our one goal, or we have two goals. Number one, take care of the customer. Number two, make sure that that customer leaves with a vehicle that’s safe. Whatever it takes to do those, and so I think that’s so important. Now, can I ask you a question? This is really important and I know we had David Long on a previous episode. What are some ways, because sometimes things get siloed at dealerships, right, sales guys don’t really like the service guys, the service guys don’t like the parts guys. What are some things that you can do to eliminate those silos in the dealerships?

ROBERT: Well, look, right, this is a question that we’ve been asking for many decades, and ultimately it’s just not doable. You know those salespeople suck, parts people suck. Yeah, you know, you come from service here right man. No, I’ve really enjoyed working with sales, especially since I spent 4.5 years in sales and I left sales because service sucks. So literally, my customers were coming to me every day at one point and saying, “man, Robert, we love you, we want to buy all of our cars from you.” But literally, some version of this was told to me, “but your service department is so bad we’re never buying a car here. Go somewhere where they have a great service apartment.” So I ended up going to the service side from the sales. So I went to the dark side of the force, as far as salespeople are concerned. But I love serving the salespeople. So you know salespeople. They’re good at selling and they have their strengths. So you got to understand their weaknesses as a service advisor or manager, as sometimes they’re not the most organized people, so you got to give them a lot of grace, but you’ve got to do some events where you get them together, where you get everybody together and do some games and get the whole team together (sales, parts, and service) and do some games and events around not just holidays, but definitely holidays, you know, Thanksgiving and Easter, and do these dinners where you do interactive stuff and get to know and share a little bit about each other. So get to know where you’re from, what kind of sports are you into? And when you start seeing a service advisor rooting for the same team as a salesperson, you know you got something in common, right. But you got to get to know each other. 

BRAD: And I think that’s two ways right. The service guys are really good resources. If you take care of your service guys, if you’re a salesperson out there and you’re listening, you take care of your service guys, they’ll send you people, they’ll send you referrals, send you stuff, and what we don’t realize is they’re almost like the lifeblood of the dealership, right. And so I tend to say you know dealerships right now, especially when they had during Covid there was a lot of dealerships that were cross-training service advisors and parts people and stuff like that to make up right, because people would be out two weeks and then you’re shorthanded and so I know a couple of dealerships that were cross-training people so that they could make sure that they had coverage across the thing, and I think that once the service advisor spends the day in a parts guy’s shoes, once a parts guy spends a day in the service advisor’s shoes, there becomes a lot more respect for those positions. And so even if you make them shadow for a day, that’s always a good thing to do. Whenever you’re working on that, I think that’s really important. But I think having events where the technicians and everybody are involved is super, super important, and that’s how you keep the culture in the dealership. You don’t want it to be unevenly yoked, like you were talking about when you were selling cars, right. You don’t want that, because then that makes it harder on the customers across the board. So, Robert, let me ask you a question. If someone wants to reach out to you and they’re interested in talking more about training, what’s the best way to reach out to you?

ROBERT: Just email me at or DM me on LinkedIn. Those are the best ways.

BRAD: That’s perfect, man. So you guys reach out to Robert. He’s always down to help. He’s at a lot of the conferences, so I’m sure you’ll see him around too. You’ll recognize him because he’s one of my hat-bearing brothers over here. So okay, because he has a hat, he has his own own logo on the hat, so we got to make sure that we recognize that. I appreciate you today, my friend, and have a wonderful weekend. 

ROBERT: Okay, thank you so much for having me on, Brad.

BRAD: Yeah, absolutely.

Haile Clifton

Haile Clifton

Haile is the Marketing Coordinator at Fixed Ops Digital. She has worked in Digital Media & Design for 6 years and helps with internal marketing and Drive Service Specials deployment at FOD.

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