Employee turnover continues to be a problem in many dealerships, and especially in fixed ops. The ability to attract and retain service technicians, for example, is a problem so prevalent that in a recent Carlisle Dealer Principal Survey, more than 40 percent of dealers cited a shortage of technicians as the biggest barrier to growing their fixed ops business.
To combat this issue some dealerships are getting competitive with recruiting packages. Tuition reimbursement, sponsored tool packages, increased pay and training are some of the perks technicians are now being offered.
As business owners we realize how important it is to give our employees the tools they need to succeed. But in dealerships, it seems the importance of some tools is more obvious than others. A dealer would never deny a technician access to wrenches or a salesperson access to the CRM. But when it comes to a request for a new computer? That’s another story.
Think about the tools that your employees use on a daily basis. Computers, cloud-based applications, phones and even diagnostic tools in the service department all rely on the efficient transfer of large amounts of data. And your information technology (IT) infrastructure is the backbone upon which all these tools run.
Without an adequate support infrastructure, these tools will not run at peak efficiency. Do you view your IT expenditure as a cost to be contained or as an investment that allows your employees to be successful? If it’s the former, you may be at risk for employee defection.
In today’s world the degree to which you can promote your IT infrastructure has a huge impact on your ability to recruit talent. During the job interview process, showing a candidate that you invest in your IT demonstrates that you care about your employees and you’re willing to do whatever it takes to help them be successful.
Today’s technicians are trained using the latest and greatest technological tools. If they are hired at your dealership and discover they can’t do their jobs because your network is too slow, can you blame them for becoming frustrated? They could go work somewhere else with the necessary support system and make twice the money.
Modern vehicles are computerized and ‘connected.’ The process of diagnosis and repair takes more than years of experience and some wrench turns. Your technicians are downloading flash files and scads of data into their computers and into vehicles on a daily basis. For a technician to do their job efficiently requires huge amounts of bandwidth. Yet in many dealerships I still see IT infrastructures that are woefully inadequate to support these every day activities.
So what are the IT tools that your employees need to succeed? Ultimately it’s all about speed.
When I visit dealerships I often see employees working on PCs that to me, look like relics. This is your employees’ primary tool on which they are running dozens of applications at any given time.
Without adequate processing speeds, applications become sluggish and cause frustration. If you have any PCs older than five years, get rid of them immediately. A new computer costs less than a thousand bucks and will make your employees more productive and thrilled with the increased speed.
Do you have a ‘small business’ Internet connection from your Internet Service Provider (ISP)? Cable connections are frequently shared with residential customers, which can slow your business down. Today’s data requirements in a dealership require an enterprise-level service package provided over fiber optics. Also be sure you have resiliency in the form of a backup connection with a separate ISP.
A typical dealership with 80 to 100 employees now has hundreds of connected devices. If you don’t have enough wireless to handle all of these devices, your sales and service applications get bogged down and productivity suffers.
Approximately 70 percent of dealerships have what I refer to as the “data throughout” level of wireless. This means they have approximately six to 20 enterprise-grade access nodes throughout the dealership.
This may be fine for now but dealerships should be planning for a level of wireless known as “location-based.” This level provides wireless coverage both within the dealership and across the entire lot. At this level technicians can download vehicle computer software updates outside of a service bay, freeing up valuable space for more profitable customer pay work.
Location-based wireless requires a minimum of 25 enterprise-grade access nodes per store. I realize this isn’t cheap but it will soon be a requirement, so the sooner your get prepared, the better.
Last but certainly not least, upgrade your switches. Most dealerships are still running on 15-year-old switches that were designed to support 100 Mbps of data throughput at any given time. These switches are obsolete in today’s work environment. Your wireless infrastructure alone requires a minimum of 300 Mbps throughput, and all that data must pass through your switches. Be sure that all of your switches are 1 Gigabit, which support ten times the data throughput of older switches.
Every dealer knows how important it is to give employees the tools they need to succeed. Your IT infrastructure is the backbone that every other tool relies on. Investing in your IT strategy demonstrates to your employees that you are investing in their success. Do it, and then use that fact to help attract and retain the best talent.
Author: Erik Nachbahr
Erik Nachbahr is President and Founder of Helion Automotive Technologies, the nation’s leader in automotive Information Technology (IT) management. Since 1997 Helion has grown to become the nation’s largest managed technology services provider for auto dealers. With over 28,000 computers under management across 700 dealerships and body shops, Helion ensures best practices for productivity, security and compliance.