Are you a gear head–the guy who’s always worked on cars, put together lawnmowers and took them apart?
Actually I’ve never fixed cars. I raced motorcycles, that’s how I got into the business. I went to work for the Honda motorcycle parts department and sold parts. When you sell parts, that’s kinda how you learn. So that was my education, “This is what this part does.” I never diagnosed cars or removed them, I never touched anything like that. I knew what parts were, I knew what they did. By listening to and training service advisors I began to understand how they all worked in conjunction, but I didn’t have any formal training.
The one thing I did know that nobody else seemed to grasp back in the 90s was that client service is what this was all about–anybody can fix a car, but if you don’t know how to care for those clients properly, they will go somewhere else. Knowing that is more valuable than knowing all about cars, especially with today’s technology where you can go to Google and figure out how the darned thing works.
Do you think that not being a gear-head gives you an advantage in explaining to customers what might be going on with their vehicle?
I think my not being a gear-head is more relatable. I’m a consumer just like everyone else when I go somewhere else. If I go to my computer repair man and he tells me all this crazy stuff about what’s going on with my computer, my eyes will roll around to the back of my head and glaze over. Between him and my CPA they both get the same look. I understand when my customers tell me that.
I think information coming from somebody who hasn’t worked on cars is a lot more relatable. In fact when I train my service advisors, even in my interview process, I genuinely look for guys who haven’t been mechanics. I want people who are stronger in communication than they are at understanding why the sprocket turns at whatever rate it’s supposed to.
Relating to people is a more important skill, and probably a harder skill to train. We can teach technicians, and we’ve designed an apprentice program, but it’s difficult for me to teach somebody communication. It’s something that’s a life lesson, not something you can just sit down and learn.