When asked what area of the dealership was the most important for overall success of their business, dealers’ top response was fixed ops. Those of us that have invested a lifetime in parts and service have known that all along—but it’s nice to know the boss agrees.
The survey of dealers by Carlisle & Co, Inc. was another confirmation that a healthy service department is the centerpiece of customer retention, customer satisfaction, and dealership profitability.
Confidential Note to Dealers
Do you agree with this survey? If so, do your actions show it? Please consider the following ideas:
- Have a weekly service sales meeting with your service manager and advisors. Let them know your expectations and teach them one sales technique at each meeting. I’m talking about a 10-15-minute stand-up meeting over coffee and donuts. If you need ideas, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll load your wagon with several service sales meeting tips.
- Buy lunch for the technicians and eat with them once a month. I know a dealer who does this weekly. This guy is a savvy businessman, a statesman, and a genuinely nice person—he’s busy, but he makes the time. Another dealer friend of mine takes three or four techs out to eat each week and listens to them. The goodwill this builds with his technicians is invaluable.
- Have a weekly business meeting with your parts manager and service manager. Make sure you all share the same vision and have each other’s’ back. (Breaking news: parts and service managers don’t always get along. When they don’t, the whole team suffers. They both report to you so you have the authority to make sure they play nice with each other.)
Confidential Note to Parts and Service Managers
If your dealer doesn’t take the above initiative, then approach him or her yourself. Find out your dealers’ goals, dreams, and vision. Find out their struggles, concerns, and frustrations, then work together with them to formulate a plan moving forward.
It amazes me how many dealers talk to me about their disappointment with their service department, yet they don’t talk to their service manager about it. I’m equally amazed at how many service managers don’t want their dealer involved in their department.
If you are one of those service managers or parts managers that thinks, “hey, I just want to be left alone,” then I’d ask you to reconsider and make an effort to reconnect with your dealer. After all, you two are on the same team, right?
As a manger, you likely have been given lots of autonomy and lots of latitude to run your department; I get the fact that you don’t want to run to the boss for every little decision—but wow, it is so liberating to know your dealer is with you and that he has your back.
Most Technicians Hate Their Job
The automotive industry is really at a cross-roads when it comes to technicians. Carlisle Research found that 85% of the technicians surveyed said their advice to young people considering the profession was don’t do it; find another career choice! Wow.
The Carlisle survey covered technicians that work on 21 different OEM makes. To me, when research is that wide-ranging, the credibility of the survey goes way up. I am floored that eight out of 10 techs are basically saying, “don’t make the same career mistake I did.” No wonder there is a technician shortage! We have a problem.
Dealers aren’t unaware of the situation. In fact, technician-issues were cited by dealers as the biggest barrier to fixed ops growth. The number two impediment to growth: service advisors.
Speaking of techs and advisors, if you rewind to a Carlisle survey from two years ago, the main issue for techs is poor communication with the advisors. Folks, if this is true in your shop, you must fix it right away. Don’t overthink this—just sit everybody down and have a family meeting. If your shop is too big to make that practical, then have a series of smaller meetings with techs and advisors together. You can figure this out—you must—because the future of the dealership depends on it.
Okay, so here’s a quick recap:
- The biggest point of pain for dealer principals is fixed ops.
- Dealers say the biggest fixed ops issues are techs and advisors.
- Techs hate their jobs and steer young people away from the profession (leading to a massive tech shortage).
- The biggest frustration for techs are advisors that inadequately communicate with them.
- The greatest heartburn for advisors comes from techs that inadequately communicate with them.
- The only way to stop the madness is for the adults at the dealership to bring everyone together and work it out.
- It won’t be easy, but you can do it.
‘Tis the season for peace on Earth (and in your dealership), goodwill to men (and techs and advisors). When that happens, then we’ll all have a Merry Christmas!
Author: Charlie Polston
Charlie Polston is an Automotive Customer Retention and Profitability Consultant with BG Products, Inc. Charlie has been with BG’s Fixed Operations Division for over 34 years.