Unless you've been sequestered in a mountaintop monastery somewhere, you know there's a serious shortage of good technicians. This situation presents both opportunity and obligation to tire dealers who offer automotive services. Many of the owners and managers I meet are convinced the shortage is regional—a characteristic of their particular market. But informed sources agree the shortage won't be corrected anytime soon. Furthermore, they privately agree the situation will get worse before it gets better.
Mark my words, there's a silver lining inside this storm cloud of a technician shortage. The more difficult it becomes to find good help, the easier it will become to distinguish good repair shops from mediocre ones—let alone bad ones.
Simply put, shops with superior talent will fix today's sophisticated vehicles quicker and more accurately than their competition. Plus, they'll repair vehicles correctly the first time.
Every service manager longs to attract the caliber of customer who eagerly pays top dollar to have a vehicle repaired correctly the first time. These, the most-desirable kind of service prospects, will readily recognize and flock to better-staffed service centers.
The more expensive and complicated vehicles become, the less these customers will tolerate incompetence in the service bay!
Here, the plot thickens. I'm convinced a general consumer trend will force today's less-choosy motorists to seek the best-staffed service shops tomorrow.
The reason is that consumer surveys show a general discontent with auto repair. Many people rank getting a vehicle repaired as being more unpleasant than a trip to the dentist!
Marketers who study consumer trends also emphasize that people want more time for family and hobbies as well as ways to reduce stress in their lives. The number of single-parent households is at an all-time high.
So, comebacks and arguments about why the vehicle wasn't fixed right the first time conflict with the lifestyle improvements consumers seek.
Conclusion? The more that life taxes the average consumer's time, the more likely he or she is to patronize the best-staffed service shop. The more precious their personal time becomes, the more readily they'll pay premium prices to avoid being inconvenienced by auto repairs or maintenance.
The tighter time is, the more inclined people are to choose competence over price. Isn't that the very viewpoint we've been trying to instill in them anyway?
So, opportunities will arise from your service staff's superior knowledge. Meanwhile, the obligation I mentioned earlier is the need to retain good techs.
I've discussed the issue with owners and managers who track the productivity and profitability of their service departments very closely. They said that when a competent tech has a good attitude, keeping him at any cost ultimately is cheaper than losing him—period!
Some bosses keep good help by providing more aggressive incentive plans or offering the worker a small slice of the business. Others entice good employees by absorbing all costs for ongoing technical training.
Many owners are deathly afraid of losing well-trained techs to competitors. So when all else fails, bind techs to a simple contract that requires them to repay a pro-rated portion of training costs if they leave the store within a certain time period.
Plus, more and more service shops are retaining help through attractive profit-sharing plans. Experience shows that increasing someone's stake in the health of the business is the most effective way to reinforce your interest in their long-term employment.
Sometimes, bonding someone to the shop requires grooming him for a more responsible position as lead diagnostician, shop foreman, assistant service manager or service manager.
In other words, confirm his opportunities for growth and advancement. At the same time, grooming this promising employee may warrant classes that teach him the financial side of the business.
The looming manpower shortage also should be a wake-up call for tire dealers to re-evaluate health, hospitalization, disability, retirement and leave benefits. As the aggregate age of your service staff increases, so does their concern for these benefits.
At many shops, benefits are still woefully thin, so boosting them may be the glue that binds good workers to your store.
Finally, treat techs like the professionals they really are. Speak to them the way you'd speak to a professional in any other field. Nurture a work environment befitting professionals.
Regardless of what you pay them, techs sense disrespect the way sharks smell blood. But instead of attacking, they may instead be put off and decide to move on to another job.