Training is more than an investment in the future-it's the cornerstone of marketing plans for tire dealers who offer automotive services. Any dealer who doubts the payback training provides should realize that, if nothing else, training saves. I talk to many owners and managers who want to expand into automotive repairs or enhance their existing menu of auto services. All too often, I find them counting chickens before the eggs are even hatched.
They seem to think that once they purchase equipment, tack up promotional banners and add the service listing to the menu board above the front counter, they're ready to rake in profits.
Later, when sales of that service wane, they wonder what went wrong-why all their marketing acumen hasn't propelled service sales past those of competitors.
You say you want to profitably do wheel alignment, underhood services, driveability diagnosis etc.? Then I urge you to study the most successful purveyors of this work in your market area.
Without fail, you'll find the service shops enjoying long-term success and solid reputations with this work invest in ongoing training, year in and year out.
The hard facts of life are that the savviest marketing program won't shore up a service built on a weak foundation. Ongoing training is the bedrock on which successful long-term services are built. Unfortunately, I often find owners and managers treating this as a minor detail rather than a major issue.
First of all, some people still interpret ``training'' as lessons in diagnosis and repair. In reality, the training included with the equipment purchased for your new service offering only shows technicians how to operate the equipment correctly.
Using equipment properly is essential to working quickly and profitably. But if you've been an equipment trainer (I have), you know this information does not and cannot tell an interested technician how to fix cars!
Second, smart bosses must budget for basic schooling for the techs who'll perform the new service offering. When in doubt, the most efficient route is choosing a class that tests the tech's existing knowledge of the subject. If the tech aces a test on fundamentals, move him up to a journeyman-level class.
And whatever you do, don't make the nearly universal mistake of assuming a tech's age automatically reflects his knowledge. A prime example is the 35-year-old undercar repair whiz who convinces his boss he's ready for driveability diagnosis just because he's been tuning cars on the side for several years. More than one owner or manager has wasted time and money sending such an individual to classes that were over his head!
Bill Sauer, founder of the tech hotline company Autoline Tele-diagnosis, summed it up best when he said ``many techs just don't know what they don't know.'' Mr. Sauer is a former technician and owner/operator of a diagnostic center. And usually, enrolling in a class is the very thing that reminds these fellows what they don't know.
Third, a combination of automotive fundamentals and your techs' existing knowledge will fix a percentage of cars. But unless you commit them to an ongoing training program of some kind, the growth of your new service offering will level off sooner than expected.
Rather than treat a new service as an individual profit center, some dealers view it as an added convenience-almost a necessary evil-to prevent customers from seeking that service elsewhere.
And some dealers are reluctant to admit it, but that philosophy helped them leap from the comfort zone of strictly tires and alignment to adding brake repair.
Unfortunately, the wide variety of vehicles on the road and changing technology eventually force the ``necessary evil'' operators to either get serious or drop the service. Of course, getting serious means investing in ongoing training.
For example, many ``hang-and-turn'' brake service artists must now decide whether or not to invest in the knowledge needed to handle antilock brakes (ABS). As we have emphasized in other issues of TIRE BUSINESS, ABS systems will soon be unavoidable for most technicians.
How much ongoing training should you anticipate? I estimate that owners should plan for a minimum of 10 hours of update training quarterly for experienced undercar service technicians. Double that number in the case of driveability specialists.
Making training an integral part of the marketing plan now ensures success later. It's the best-kept secret in this business-but it shouldn't be!