Fixed Operations Marketing: The Revolution
The Niello Company started 101 years ago in the Fixed Ops Department.
“I try to remind everyone of that all the time” Tully Williams, The Fixed Operations Director, laughs.
I was projected onto a boardroom smart screen and before me, sat two gentlemen in really good suits, with the company values behind them. They smile and introduce themselves. I meet Tully and David together; they will be presenting at the upcoming CXAUTO2022 in Marina Del Rey this June.
You have extensive experience in Fixed Operations. How did you get started and what has kept you here?
I started as an independent technician and I really just enjoy dealing with people. I really love to talk to people and Fixed Ops gives me that; I get to help people out. I love to be in service, greeting the customer; I am training to have my retirement job as a Walmart Greeter. I just want to help people and listen to all the stories and Fixed Ops has a lot more engagement with customers, long term engagement.
"People keep me here, customers and employees."
What has changed, what has been disrupted?
When I started, we hand-wrote repair orders and of course, we now have computers and systems in place. What has been disrupted is the inspection; the electronic part of the inspection of the automobile. With the technician inspection piece, before it was like, my car is broken, fix it. Now we do an in-depth inspection on your car, we take pictures and video, we are marking down all the stuff to give you a list of the specifics and to me, back when I started, that wasn’t even in the realm of operations. The whole thing has changed for the better of the consumer and I believe also better for the technician. As we continue further along this journey, what we are really focussed on is making it easier to do business with us. We are focussed on mobile integration and accessibility; how can we make everything visible on the customer’s cell phone? How do we get them to say yes via their mobile device? There are a lot of people in this space but it is still kind of clunky.
Can you share your journey within the automotive industry with us?
"Joining The Niello Company, working on the retail side, feels like I have completed the triangle"
I always wanted to start in DMS so that I could truly understand what dealers prioritize and focus on. In order to become a Lead Installer, you really need to master all aspects of the DMS and I was fortunate enough to achieve that within my tenure at Cox Automotive. I then went over to the OEM side of the business working for Ford Direct, the digital arm of the Ford Motor Company which was just fantastic. In terms of my region, I was responsible for the Pacific NorthWest, from San Francisco up to Seattle and all the way over to Montana, over 193 dealerships and focussing on all aspects of digital marketing. I was working with the regions and the dealers on what they were doing to drive more quality traffic to their websites, what they were doing to convert that traffic into leads, and, then most importantly, what they were doing in terms of lead management. There was an opportunity for us to improve processes in order to harness the potential of the traffic that was being driven to their sites. My performance got the recognition of Chrysler and I then got recruited to work for their biggest business center, which covered six States in the South East. With a little over 360 dealers, that role expanded my responsibilities and I got control over our Tier Two budgets, and then also complete control over the Tier Three spaces as well. We focussed more heavily on Tier Three because that is where we saw the most opportunity.
As the National Digital Marketing Manager of Stellantis, a really fantastic experience, I had the opportunity to work with all aspects of an OEM and assist in keeping our dealers afloat during COVID by rolling out our digital retailing strategy.
What is different now, how has your focus changed?
With the OEM, it's really easy to get focussed on just one aspect of the business. In my role, I was laser focussed on new vehicle sales. There are so many profit centers within a dealership, I can now expand my horizons and create profitability across all departments, there is just so much more to work on to create a healthy and successful dealership.At the start of the pandemic, with Stellantis, the focus was really, how can we save as many employees as possible? When I transitioned over to retail amidst a different kind of crisis, the micro chip shortage, I was presented with a whole new set of challenges, challenges we continue to confront every day.
On the Partnership between Fixed Operations and Marketing:
What is certainly understood here at Niello, from the top to the bottom of the organization, is that we are all part of the same Ecosystem. That Fixed feeds Sales and Sales feeds Fixed and that is our universal truth; that is something that we hold near and dear to our hearts.
On average within the industry, about 3% of the marketing budget is dedicated to Fixed Ops, that is not the case with The Niello Company, we take Fixed very seriously. One thing that makes us unique is that we have a specific Agency that is dedicated to Fixed Operations and the main reason is that we want them to be passionate about Fixed Ops. We need them to focus and to understand that what is important is answering how they are actively helping us to drive more traffic and convert more appointments so we can have more inspections. We take it seriously, we track it every day, and we meet with our Agency three times per month. We start with a past month’s performance review and then we meet in the middle of the month to make sure we are dealing with course corrections: is there anything we are falling behind on and are we hitting our targets And then, most importantly, what are we planning for next month?
We are really committed to that and what is really fun about it is that we bring everyone into those meetings. It’s not just our Fixed Ops Director. We have our department heads included, our Service Managers and Parts Managers; they are all on those calls. We are focussing on what they are focussed on. We have that kind of community, the idea of centralized success. Within Fixed Ops, we focus on crafting a clear message and then making it measurable.
"The key question is: are we driving appointments into our service bay?"
Marketing and Fixed Ops work together really well. We set the message and monitor it through the rest of the month. We do see this happening elsewhere but only at forward thinking dealerships. We have the right platforms to do this, and the right agencies.
On Getting Buy-in, across departments and across Stores:
We really want the Store to be involved. “Tully and David don’t know what is best for the Stores”; the Stores do. We may have a lot of ideas and we will most certainly share them but essentially, we want the Stores to make those great decisions. And of course, if we disagree, we will challenge that, but to be honest, we know that they know what is best. They also feel very engaged. It's their marketing plan, the Stores’ plan; we are here to support them on implementing and achieving that.
"Are we projecting out what the change is going to be? Are we showing them the benefit?"
We don’t force feed anything. Whenever we want to roll out anything, whether it is a new partner or a new region, we sell it to our Stores. We want them to see the value, understand what is expected and say “Yes, we want to move forward, we want to share this success too”. It starts with the culture of the store, behind us are our values. At The Niello Company, embracing change comes from the leadership and that really impacts culture within the Stores. Also, we show the change and we show it in multiple ways. We have these huge television sets in the service shop with all the stats of the technicians in the store, showing them how well they are doing and how great they are. In the sales office, we are talking about stats with the sales people and F&I people. We also push communications internally.
The truth is, you can’t be secretive about the stats. We are an open book, transparency is not only important for our customers but for our employees and teams as well. “I want them to take a picture of their name on the screen and show their mother", Tully smiles.
What to expect at CXAUTO2022:
A high-energy and in-depth discussion on creating better customers through changing the way Fixed Ops services is marketed; through digital customer experiences. They work together to increase their service department value by building trust with their customers before they arrive. David and Tully will share new communication methods as well as their 3 Pillars of Fixed Ops Marketing Success.
"All our decisions have to be based on a foundation of clean, visible analytics that every department head has access to"
The Niello Company has been around for over a century, and together, Tully and David educated us on Fixed Operations Marketing, with insight that could only be gained through time and energy spent working hand in hand with their Stores.
See the duo live at CXAUTO2022
We would highly recommend it!