Based on a conversation this week I think I understand a little better what Steve Jobs must have felt like when he introduced the Mac. Bringing new ideas into a market requires a bit of confidence and the ability to anticipate what people are thinking. This week, I experienced this feeling in a small way.
The thing is, in the past a tow boss didn’t really have to think about how to talk to customers. Customers called, your dispatchers asked a few questions and then sent out a truck. Easy as 1, 2, 3.
As we all know it isn’t that easy anymore. People are price shopping. Motor clubs are taking away business and stealing margins. People are searching all over the Internet looking at reviews. It just isn’t simple, not like it used to be.
Back to my story – earlier this week I’m on my phone with a tow boss from the east coast. He is in his mid-sixties: very successful with about 50 trucks. He has never trained his dispatchers. Not ever. He hadn’t really thought about it. He knew some of his people needed to improve their sales skill and he had tried coaching them, but he had kind of grown to accept the way things were. Whatever calls they could close were okay with him. In his mind, his staff was loyal to him and he felt loyalty in return. He seemed to have accepted the status quo. He had accepted the fact that to grow he needed to close more commercial business and get more calls. To achieve this goal he thought he had to spend more money on marketing.
So first, I told him that he didn’t need to spend more money. I told him things don’t have to continue the way they were. Your people can change. You can bring in more revenue without increasing your marketing budget. It is pretty easy actually. He was quiet and I could tell he wasn’t getting me.
I told him that it seemed his staff just didn’t know how to change. They really didn’t have the tools. I told him about the success we have achieved. I told him how even a small change to the closing ratio of inbound calls can produce hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional revenue. Truthfully, he didn’t get it. Not at first. I don’t think he believed me at all early in the conversation. I kept talking hoping to find a way of connecting. What I thought about at that instant is why is it so hard to make tow bosses understand that a higher closing ratio has a huge impact on bottom line.
Well, after the call the reason why became pretty obvious. It’s because the towing industry is full of false promises. The trust factor is huge and I hadn’t gotten through to him. I couldn’t find the words to explain to him how we do it in a way that he understood. It was my fault.
The thing is, dispatch training is a soft skill. It’s different then watching someone hook up an SUV with 4-wheel drive. It’s easy to certify a driver as Wreckmaster Certified. It’s harder to understand if a dispatcher is competent. There is no standard. It’s hard to know if the dispatcher upset a client. As an aside, once the caller hangs up we have found that over 90% of the time that tow is lost.
To use baseball as metaphor, it’s easy to watch a really good pitcher strike most batters. You can see that he’s good. You can see that the movement on his fastball. You can see his cutter come in on the batters hands. It’s pretty obvious to everyone. It’s a lot like being Wreckmaster Certified. You can see it with your own two eyes.
Judging dispatch skills is different. It involves a set of skills that hasn’t really penetrated the towing business yet. It’s hard to know what techniques to use. Do most towing companies teach your dispatchers how to overcome objections like price and ETA? It is a core competency that few understand. Moreover, no one is keeping score. In a baseball game it’s pretty commonplace to track balls and strikeouts. A pitcher with a low ERA of 2.00 is worth more then a pitcher with an ERA of 8.00. Very few tow bosses know the ERA of any of their dispatchers.
So, what happened? In a moment of panic I brought up Wreckmaster Training and tried to tie the two ideas together. I think he started to get it at that instant. We will see. He said we would talk in two weeks. I’m excited to find out.