By David Rogers

As published in AutoLink Magazine

For top operators, the warm summer months usually mean a golden opportunity for growing the shop. That’s because they know two critical facts that allow them to grow in good times and bad.

First, those top operators know that during busy summer months, much of their competition will let their guard down and stop advertising because they think they’re busy enough. This means that any shop that keeps advertising has a chance to capture a bigger slice of the market by taking more customers for themselves.

But just as importantly, those top operators know that the shop owner is never responsible for 100% of the car count. Advertising should only account for a fraction of total customers, and their teams are held accountable for the majority of that number.

Put together, these two facts mean that by the time summer is over—top shops will have grown significantly, and everybody else will be fighting for scraps.

If you want to grab a bigger slice of the pie this summer and ensure you’re not fighting for crumbs this autumn, then the time to act is now. Here’s how to run and grow your shop the way that top operators do.

First things first. You must fight the myth that that the owner is the only one responsible for car count! More than that, the owner should only be responsible for between 20% and 40% of the car count! The other 60% to 80% falls on the team.

It’s true that the owner controls the budget, and I’m not suggesting otherwise. But advertising is far from the only source of car count, and that’s why the team needs to be properly incentivized to manage what they can control, and then held accountable with good policies and procedures.

Thankfully, incentives, policies, procedures, and accountability are the exact same tools you need to build a team that is committed to helping you succeed – and one that doesn’t require constant micromanagement in order to be successful!

One of the critical ways that your team can take responsibility for car count is by reducing customer churn. This is when you lose a customer for good — because something happened during their visit that was entirely preventable. When the team executes each step perfectly the repair, customer service, communication with the customer – the relationship is strengthened and that customer is much more likely to become a lifelong relationship.

Which is why it’s so critical for your team to have clear policies and procedures for every customer and every visit. Customer check in, inspection, writeup, estimating, and advising must each have clear written expectations that the team is held accountable for keeping every time. If you can incentivize pieces of these procedures, your team will be fully committed to helping you execute these processes — perfectly every time!

The team taking ownership of car count also means involving them in the process of attracting new, quality customers through referrals. If they are committed to asking for testimonials, reviews and referrals after a job well done, they’ll help you drive new customers on top of those being driven by advertising!

Ultimately, these policies, procedures and incentives are working together to set the shop apart, by creating an image of a shop where excellence of workmanship and customer service are part of everything you do.

The best way to ensure this culture endures in the long term is through proper expectations and daily measurement. When your team clearly understands what they’re responsible for through clear training and well-documented policies and procedures, held accountable to reaching clear benchmarks, and coached daily in how to reach those expectations — your team will want you to succeed and hold each other accountable to meeting and exceeding those expectations.

Consider customer callbacks as an example for how this can work. Rather than being a burden, callbacks are an opportunity to reinforce value, resolve previously unknown problems and build a lasting, lifelong relationship with your customers. But first your team must understand expectations. How many days after a visit should you callback? What should every call include? What’s the reporting procedure when the service advisor uncovers an issue?

By setting clear expectations, documenting clear procedures, doing daily measurement, creating clear incentives, and holding your team accountable, you can transform an often-dreaded task into a tool that leads to more referrals, increased customer loyalty, and more long-term car count.

This is how top operators involve their entire team in taking responsibility for car count. It’s also why they advertise with confidence, even when their competition is cutting back…because they know that they can deliver on the promises made in their advertising, and thus taking a bigger slice of the customer pie.

The commonality in all of this is that top operators are willing to take action. They measure so that they know what’s going on inside their business. They empower their team to control certain aspects. They incentivize their team for helping to grow their business. And they hold them accountable to reasonable performance.

Do you want to settle for crumbs this autumn? Or do you want to take action this summer while your competition has their guard down?

The choice is yours, and it’s very clear: act now to empower your team while simultaneously using your advertising budget to take a bigger share of your market. Take control – the same way that top-tier operators are sure to grow and scale this year!