Biological factors help men and women excel at different aspects of automotive repair. Know- ing the fundamental differences between the sexes can help boost productivity at your dealership.
Recently, this topic came up at the most unlikely time. A woman attendee at a seminar repeatedly complained that other attendees were distracting her by talking too loudly. A close colleague of mine agreed with me that the attendees' chatter was no louder nor more offensive than anything we had encountered at other, similar classes. In this smallish meeting room, which only seated 40 people, we weren't even aware of any undue chatter around us.
``You're seeing a woman's best and worst traits here in one exam-ple,'' the shop owner commented. ``I'll explain why.''
My buddy, who owns a large, successful auto repair shop in New England, is the president of a trade organization, a voracious reader and a consummate student of people. Some time ago, a combination of personal and personnel problems prompted him to begin a long process of self-study on leadership, management and people skills.
A variety of books, seminars and workshops pointed out that women tend to be more sensory and more adept at simultaneously juggling multiple tasks and responsibilities than men are. To grossly simplify the biological explanation, a woman's brain naturally absorbs and processes more information quicker than a man's.
Because a man's brain processes data slower than a woman's, he tends to be a task-oriented person who concentrates on one immediate task or problem until it's finished or solved.
``If you compare men's and women's brains to computers, you would say that a man's brain is a 286-type PC and a woman's brain is a 486 computer,'' he explained.
Sensory vs. task
The ``sensory'' factor means women tend to notice more of their surroundings than men do. For example, when a couple is early for a movie showing, the wife critiques everything in the movie house from the decor to the odor of the room. Meanwhile, the husband has almost dozed off from boredom waiting for the movie to begin. He tends to be focused solely on the matter at hand-the movie.
This explains why a man reading his newspaper seems oblivious to the dripping faucet in the next room that's driving his wife crazy, my friend said. He'll block out that sound as he concentrates on the ``task'' of getting the news.
This may also explain why seemingly inoffensive chatter in a meeting room would tend to irk a woman instead of a man. The woman's sensory edge makes her more likely to notice and be disturbed by the noise.
By the same token, this sensory advantage makes women better suited for the service desk and for road-testing vehicles. On any given day, they are more likely to notice all the noises and vibrations in a vehicle than a man is. Therefore, they're more likely to get a more comprehensive list of the vehicle's symptoms.
Ultimately, this greater awareness improves service sales by uncovering more legitimate service opportunities. It also improves diagnostic accuracy by identifying all symptoms and when they occur instead of the lone symptom the customer described.
On the other hand, men tend to focus solely on the item the customer mentioned, overlooking other vehicle symptoms that would help them pinpoint the source of the original complaint as well as guide them to other legitimate service opportunities on that vehicle.
Scientists say the woman's sensory edge tends to make them more relationship-oriented than men are. Being relationship-oriented rather than task-oriented means women tend to communicate better with customers than men do. Being sensory-oriented means women notice and absorb more than men do.
Combining these factors means women are more at ease with customers than men are-not to mention the fact that they're better listeners! These skills qualify women as excellent service counter and customer relations people.
My friend emphasized that his research helped him cope with talented but single-minded technicians. ``When you tell some techs to finish a job by 5 o'clock, they're so focused on that single task that they lose sight of everything around them,'' he said. This causes them to overlook other needy areas on that vehicle, resulting in needless comebacks for work that should have been identified and performed when the car's original problem was corrected.
So although the task-oriented tech may be highly productive, his narrow focus offsets his productivity by generating comebacks and unhappy customers, he said.