I mproving training efficiency can boost a tire dealership's image. Sadly, many owners and managers don't understand or exploit the relationship among training efficiency, store image and customer relations. Here's what dealers should remember about these important business-building factors.
Several years ago, I argued in this column that dealers needed to take training more seriously, philosophically and practically speaking. In other words, the service shops that planned on surviving-let alone thriving-in the future, needed to budget more money for training instead of paying for it on an ad hoc basis.
Some training experts estimate that the minimum training expense shop owners must budget for is $3,000-$5,000 per technician per year.
In spite of repeated warnings from the business press and trade associations, many owners and managers still don't recognize training as an investment in their store's future. They continue their traditional knee-jerk reaction to education: Pay for it only when techs pester them enough to do so!
However, those who do invest in training often frustrate me as much as the people who don't. Why? They're wasting precious training dollars by preventing their techs from getting the most from classes they attend. These bosses don't send their techs to school in a learning frame of mind. Night classes and inadequate preparation time are the reasons.
I speak from experience. Since that column appeared in TIRE BUSINESS, I have attended and/or presented dozens of seminars around the country. For better or worse, most automotive training occurs at night because medieval-minded people in this business refuse to take training as seriously as non-auto repair businesses: They refuse to pay workers to attend daytime seminars.
Although daytime classes are the rule elsewhere, they're still the exception within our industry.
Most people attending night school don't do the combination of physically and mentally challenging work automotive technicians do. What's more, I'll bet most of them are able to relax and eat dinner before tackling a night course.
Probably one-third of the techs I see at night classes come directly from work to class. Because the boss worked them to the bone that day, they have no time to eat, clean up or change clothes. Not only do they show up dirty and dog-tired, they're mentally worn out from the day's work.
Many admit they feel additional stress because the boss has admonished them, ``You'd better get a lot from this class because it's costing me a lot of money!'' (Actually, it's saving him money.)
This combination of stress and physical and mental weariness hardly creates a proper frame of mind for learning! Owners and managers everywhere must realize that cranking out another wheel alignment or finishing another water pump job isn't nearly as lucrative as sending a tech to class refreshed. Long-term, the refreshed technician always earns more for himself and the store because he learns more.
A store policy requiring and paying techs to leave work early on class nights should be set and rigorously enforced. They should leave at least an hour early and be required to shave, shower, change clothes and eat dinner before attending class.
The manager should personally verify that the worker leaves with a notebook and pen specifically for that class. (Don't ask me how many classes are delayed or disrupted by techs who show up without pens and writing materials.)
Service managers who are anxious to top last year's service sales figures should wise up to the fact that giving the tech time to prepare for class simply maximizes his investment in training. This is a practical approach that says, ``If we have to live with night classes, let's make the most of them.''
Owners who want to boost their stores' image should also realize a dirty, disheveled and harried-looking tech is not a good advertisement for the business.
People who see the frazzled tech in a dirty ``Hometown Tire Service'' uniform barging into line at the local burger joint don't realize that if he doesn't gulp something now, he won't eat until 11:00 p.m.! To them, he's just another dirty, rude auto mechanic. This is the very image all service shops should strive to destroy.
Many classes are hands-on. In the interest of time and professionalism, why not outfit each tech with his own racing-style jumpsuit, complete with name and company logo? That way, he can easily protect his street clothes by donning the jumpsuit at a get-dirty type of night class. It saves changing clothes and boosts his self-esteem among his peers.