AKRON (July 17, 2000)—Usually, putting on the gloves suggests someone´s ready to fight.
But putting employees into work gloves can be an easy way for tire dealers to improve morale, productivity and customer relations simultaneously.
In this column, I´ll discuss why outfitting your service department with disposable rubber work gloves is a great idea. Next time, I´ll give you tips on buying the gloves. For now, suffice it to say the gloves are readily available for pennies apiece.
Over the past 10 years, disposable rubber gloves have become a common sight at many service shops— just like they are at doctors´ offices. Technicians who used to think wearing gloves was unmanly or counterproductive are gradually discovering the truth: Gloves not only save the hands, they also save time and aggravation.
First of all, wearing gloves even part of the day saves your precious skin. Although getting dirty is part of the job, most techs would welcome ways to reduce the wear and tear on their skin.
Some techs think grubby, prematurely weathered hands are the automotive equivalent of a "Red Badge of Courage." But deep inside, I´ll bet these people wish they could improve the situation, because their spouses and children badger them about their coarse, bleeding hands.
Secretly, they resent it when the lady at the check-out counter comments, "By the look of your hands, you must fix cars for a living!´´
Make no mistake, hand cleaners have come a long way from the stuff we were using over 30 years ago. When I used some of those products, it felt like I was dipping my hands in kerosene!
But the fact remains that some people have skin that tolerates oil and grease better than others do. Likewise, some hands tolerate relatively frequent washing better than others.
Many techs I know only wash their hands when absolutely necessary. They claim that in spite of using today´s improved hand cleaners, their skin won´t tolerate frequent washing without cracking and bleeding. For them, it´s easier to live with grubby skin than cracked skin. (Some of these guys also hate the feel of skin lotions.)
But that said, cracked or cut skin invites infection. You can work in this business for years without getting a single infection and then suffer several of them in a row. It´s murder, because your hands hurt even worse than they already do.
When you´re in pain, it´s even tougher to maneuver your fingers as freely as necessary to do your work. So productivity suffers, too.
Even if a tech only uses rubber gloves for the dirtiest jobs, his or her hands will definitely benefit.
The gloves come in dispenser boxes the size of a box of facial tissues. So grabbing fresh gloves is as easy as reaching for a tissue. I´ve found that in spite of wearing rubber gloves, I can still pick up all but the very smallest washers and retainer clips.
Every boss I know who begins providing work gloves has noticed an immediate improvement in morale. The gesture also boosts productivity by reducing work slowdowns due to hurting or infected fingers.
Sadly, though, some techs are still forced to buy their own gloves.
Wearing gloves also speeds up jobs on which the tech must liberally lubricate some parts first, then install a critical gasket clean and dry. In other cases, the next step is a clean, grease-free application of a liquid, formed-in-place gasket such as RTV sealer. If you´re wearing gloves, cleaning your hands for the gasketing task is as easy as pealing off your gloves!
Bosses agree that techs who use gloves are much less likely to leave grease on a customer´s vehicle because it´s so convenient to discard their greasy gloves when it´s time to touch a clean part of the vehicle.
Some report that the gloves remove all excuses for soiling customers´ cars.
No doubt about it, cleaner vehicles improve customer relations and save service writers from the ugly task of "detoxing" the car before an anxious owner picks it up. How much is that time savings worth to your dealership per month?
What´s more, think of the image your service department projects when a tech removes his filthy work gloves before going on a road test with a customer in the vehicle. The customer thinks, "Wow! He acts like a doctor, and he really cares about my car!´´
The more you look and act like a doctor, the easier it is to charge like a doctor. Suddenly, pennies per glove looks like a bargain.