But the service advisers at Onion Creek Volkswagen were not putting a priority on explaining the results to their customers. So to fix that, Wetsel devised sales competitions that fattened paychecks, paid bonuses and offered other spiffs, such as dinners out at upscale restaurants.
“We have a friendly competition, and every single day I let everybody know exactly where their numbers are for the month,” he said. “That makes for a competitive environment.”
When wheels are not aligned, tires wear prematurely and the vehicle tends to pull to the left or right. All it takes to upset an alignment is for a wheel to smash into a curb or impact a large pothole. Performing an alignment is not complicated. Usually, no parts are even needed, just adjustments of threaded suspension components. Some estimates say six out of every 10 cars need an alignment.
Wetsel consulted the store’s owner, Carl Barnett, and CJ Barnett, vice president of the dealership, and together they formulated a plan: Carl Barnett suggested the store hire a technician whose only job would be to perform alignments — a task that usually takes around 35 minutes per vehicle, Wetsel said. The store would also hire an extra porter to assist the alignment technician.
The Barnetts agreed to increase the budget for supplies as well. Because the Hunter machines print in color, ink and paper costs would rise by at least around $2,400 a year.
Getting his team of five service advisers onboard also took a little planning, Wetsel said. The service director established the process for selling alignments, then not only got his team to buy in, but to follow it consistently.
Upselling can be a touchy subject among service advisers. In some stores, advisers are often pressured to push services that are not really needed, which can erode trust and drive customers away.
Wetsel’s strategy had two components. The first was communication.
“I explained to my advisers about the investment of the alignment,” he said. “If the alignment is out and, especially if the customer is buying new tires, it is in the customer’s best interest to get the alignment.”
One key feature of the Hunter equipment is that if a report comes back green, meaning the car doesn’t need an alignment, the advisers can convey that to the customer, which helps give that customer confidence the store isn’t trying to needlessly inflate the bill, Wetsel said.
“This is one of those things that they didn’t have to be ashamed of,” he said. “You are not selling anything the car doesn’t need. It’s an honest service. Customers care about their tires.”
The second part of the plan involves motivating the team. “The one thing with service advisers that you always have to do is show them how it affects their pay plan,” Wetsel said. Now, the store regularly holds competitions for alignment sales, paying a commission for each. Some advisers, Wetsel said, have seen their paychecks increase as much as $500 a month on alignment sales.