You may not always like all your customers and co-workers, but life at the dealership goes a whole lot better if you “LUV” them in each interaction.
No candy hearts or valentines are required. LUV is a simple acronym: Listen, Understand and Verify.
This is a practical way to ensure better communication and subsequent results in each department. Let’s look to see how to use each component to improve sales, service and parts.
Listening sounds easy enough, but when you study customer complaints, listening is often a root cause that led to issues concerning repair completed on first visit, wrong parts ordered, and customers deciding to purchase RV elsewhere.
How well do your team members listen? Is anyone at the dealership a selective listener, only hearing what they want to hear? Or worse yet, does a team member have a habitually negative attitude and naturally becomes defensive when someone speaks to them? Often, people do not realize their listening skills need work. Poor listeners tend to have lackluster work results. Inadequate performance provides an opportunity to coach them on how to become better listeners.
Two of the best types of listening skills to cultivate in yourself, and in your team, are active and reflective. We live in a world filled with distractions. Recognize those distractions as dangerous barriers to good communication. Choosing to actively listen takes real effort. You must notice when surrounding noise, activities or even drifting thoughts interrupt hearing the other person. The distractions not only prevent audibly hearing them, but also block giving others your undivided attention.
Years ago, I went skydiving. When they opened the small plane door at 12,000 feet, the wind and engine noise was deafening. Waiting for our turn to jump, my instructor gave me some last-minute instructions. I assure you, no turbulence or noise was going to keep me from hearing every word he spoke. When he was done, I said, “Let me make sure I understand…,” and I repeated the instructions.
Active listening drowns out distractions and focuses attention on understanding the other person. Reflective listening is repeating the communication back to make sure you heard it correctly.
I have noticed the best salespeople and service/parts professionals tend to have strong active and reflective listening skills—their customers feel heard and important. These skills also give sales an advantage in showing consumers the right coaches. Active and reflective listening provides retail and repair professionals information, empowering them to offer the best parts’ options to properly fix the RV.
One master service advisor I observed had a great habit of reviewing the work order with his customers after the write-up, saying, “Let’s make sure I accurately captured what you shared, so our tech has everything he needs to get it fixed right.”
What struck me as I watched him was how often customers would clarify an issue during the review, adding a bit more detail or correcting an item. How much time, money and frustration did that quick step save? An extra minute or two upfront saves countless hours in the end and likely contributed greatly to this advisor’s exceptional customer satisfaction and efficiency results.
Author and speaker Stephen R. Covey said, “The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply.”
When I first read that quote, it hit me between the eyes. Guilty as charged.
Understanding is tricky because we often assume we understand, or we do not want to admit when we do not. Maybe not understanding will make us look stupid, or perhaps, when we just nod and proceed forward, the point will become clear down the path.
Understanding is a personal matter. Your perception might be quite different from someone else’s. When I discovered I would have to quarantine in my house for 10 days after coming in contact with someone who had COVID, I was delighted. I am a homebody, so the situation suited me fine. My poor, social butterfly mother, however, was absolutely miserable. Listening properly to someone will help you understand how they perceive a situation.
A salesperson learned an RV he sold would not be ready by the set delivery date. When he told the customers, he continued apologizing and explaining the reason for the delay. When he finally stopped talking, the customers said they were glad the RV was being postponed to a later date because that was more convenient for them.
Talk less, listen more—you will be in a much better position to understand other people’s viewpoints.
To establish the accuracy of our communication, we need to ensure we have a common understanding by verifying the interchange.
What is the goal? What will determine success? Verify that we heard and understood the other person’s expectations. Do they want us to order those parts or simply want an estimate? Are they expecting someone to call or text? Verify these expectations so you know. Don’t assume.
Verifying is a communication quality-control step to make sure everyone is satisfied with what happens next. Verification gives you confirmation everyone agrees.
When you practice using LUV with customers and co-workers, you will find the process often saves time, and may make communications more fruitful and less frustrating.
Although the concept originally was designed for use with customers, LUV has been a valuable tool for strengthening interdepartmental relationships. The process is an effective way to communicate with team members.
As you give LUV a try, notice what interrupts active listening. What derails the verification? The answer differs between people, but it can tell you a lot about yourself and shed light on areas that need work.
Some of the most challenging people to LUV are the ones with whom you had drama or bad experiences. When they speak, your brain might remember their past behavior: “They always complain.” “Here they are again. I know where they are going with this.” I encourage you to apply LUV to them. If you can achieve the process with challenging people, LUV will become a lot easier with everyone else.
Lastly, you might want to extend LUV to yourself. Check how you are doing in 2021. Listen to signals your mind and body give. Understand which situations and people are affecting you. Verify you are taking good care of yourself, and prioritize so you can give your best to everyone around you.
This past year has been more trying than most. For a lot of people, a little LUV can go a long way.
Valerie Ziebron is a leading industry expert and speaker. Through studying and comparing hundreds of dealerships across North America, VRZ specializes in helping dealers maximize resources, specifically their people, processes, space and location. Ziebron has delivered more than 5,000 presentations and has helped more than 1,000 small businesses. Her clients include Chrysler, General Motors, Yamaha Motor Co., Boating Industry Magazine, Shelby American Collection, Eastman Kodak, IPIX and many others.