Auto Shop Coaching Blog

The Answer to Your Car Count Question

“Success doesn't necessarily come from breakthrough innovation but from flawless execution.”Naveen Jain

“What can I do to get more cars?” asked “Mark,” an ATI member who was experiencing the winter blues. He was averaging $3,900 dollars in weekly mechanical sales and 13 cars.

It was hard to understand why car count was an issue because Mark has 150 Google reviews with a 4.8-star average! He has a great looking website and appears on the first page whenever you search the high traffic keywords on Google.

Mark also has a series of commercials that play on the local cable stations that his customers always mention seeing. Since Mark records all of his incoming phone calls, I asked him to send me some recordings, to see what I could learn.

He sent over three recordings of his service advisor named “Tom.” On each call, Tom failed to invite the customer to the location and had a tone of voice that would cure your insomnia. At night, you could play these recordings and immediately fall asleep!

We decided to switch things up by giving his other service advisor named “Dave” responsibility for the phones since he had an energetic personality and tone of voice. Tom was only allowed to answer the phones when Dave was unavailable, and he was instructed to get the customer’s name and phone number for Dave to do the callback.

This minor change had a major impact. In the following weeks, the shop’s sales improved to a $9,500 weekly average on 20 cars! According to Mark, the only thing he’s doing differently is having Dave answer the phones.

Phone Execution

This proves that executing the phone process is the answer to your car count question. I know what you’re thinking: “Cute story Coach, but what do Tom’s phone failures have to do with me?”

Well, based on the data that has been gathered from ATI instructor Randy Somers, there’s a 96% chance that you have a phone execution issue. He’s phone shopped over 1400 locations and only 64 (4%) invited the customer to the shop.

96% of these shops failed to execute the phone process. So how can you leverage the phones to answer the car count question? Stay with me and I will explain.

Hear Them Smile

One of my fellow coaches named Ray used to work for the Midas Corporation twenty years ago. He told me that each location had mirrors connected to the counter labeled with the following words: “How Am I Doing?”

My initial thought was that the Midas service writers had a serious vanity issue and needed to check their ego at the door! But Ray assured me that the mirrors had everything to do with the Midas customer service culture.

Their writers were trained to smile whenever they were on the phone. The mirror served as their monitor to make sure they were executing their phone process with a smile. Smiling on the phone was so ingrained into the Midas culture that failing to do so was a terminable offense!

Studies show that your voice conveys 84% of the message over the phone, with only 16% coming from the actual words you use. When you commit to executing the script with a smile, you send a positive message to your customer that can cause them to choose you over the frowning competitor.

Tom’s tone would make you snore, but a smile can get the customers to your door. When you listen to your writer’s phone calls, do you hear them smile?

Ask For the Appointment

If your advertising budget has increased, but your car count has decreased, the natural tendency is to blame your advertising.  The purpose of your advertising is to get the phone to ring. Therefore, the purpose of the phone call is to invite the customer to the shop.

According to research done by author and sales guru Kenneth Polino, a customer with an appointment is three times more likely to come in and make a purchase, than one who doesn’t. As we saw with Mark’s shop and Randy’s study, the most common problem is the failure to ask.

I’ve discovered that the desire to diagnose is a leading cause of the failure to ask. Imagine having a toothache and calling your dentist to find out why. He probably wouldn’t say: “Sounds like you need a root canal which is $900!”

As much as he wants to help you over the phone, his priority would be to make an appointment so he can see the problem and then make an accurate diagnosis.

Here’s the big takeaway that will help you overcome the desire to diagnose: The best way to help your phone customer, is to set her up with an appointment to visit you. Asking for an appointment will put you in the top 4% of shops in America.


So, there you have it.  If they can hear you smile and you ask for the appointment, you will have answered the car count question. What minor changes do you need to make to your phone process, to have a major impact in 2017?

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Eric, the Accountability Coach, is an Executive Coach at ATI and has coached since 2009. Eric came to ATI having managed over 60 different automotive repair facilities and having supervised over 500 employees at a given time. He loves seeing members progress beyond what they thought was possible and improve their shop to the point where they can leave for weeks at a time and come back to a business that's better than when they left.