AKRON (May 7, 2001) — Want a quick way to improve both profitability and worker morale at your tire dealership? Show genuine respect for productive employees.
The key word is productive — and here's why.
First, let me define terms some readers may not understand. Simply put, productive workers are people who literally produce what you sell. If your dealership offers automotive services, your technicians produce the product because they service and repair vehicles for you.
Yes, you can argue that service writers produce because they sell the service and repairs in the first place. But they still don't produce the product. On the other hand, "non-productive" workers are those who perform essential duties of supporting the business in clerical and managerial areas.
Second, I'll repeat what I've said before: Your productive employees–the technicians–often don't get the respect they deserve. My shop experience and extensive traveling have convinced me that techs are much more likely to be disrespected than service writers and other support staff. Shoot, I think techs are relegated to the bottom of the totem pole in many service shops. The support staff won't openly admit it, but they consider techs the lowest of the low because they get dirty.
Grow up, folks! Everyone is entitled to a minimum level of respect. Above that minimum level, respect is earned. At the very least, techs deserve respect because without them, the dealership doesn't have a service department. They are the productive people. Period.
Third, I'll cite just two common examples of disrespect for productive workers' duties and what it may actually be costing your dealership. The first example is locating the keys to the vehicle or the vehicle itself. The other example is gathering vehicle history, including an accurate tally of its symptoms.
Too often I've visited a service facility when a tech and a service writer happen to be wrangling over a set of lost keys. Someone–possibly the boss himself–has absent-mindedly walked off with the keys in his pocket. Or a service writer set the keys aside somewhere other than where they're supposed to be (on a key rack with appropriate identification).
Another embarrassment is discovering a tech who's wandering around looking for a vehicle. Is this car in the back lot or across the street? No one knows for sure. The tech, being the low man in the shop's pecking order, has to hunt for the vehicle himself.
But the most-serious and most-common disrespect of productive workers may be the failure to gather the vehicle history techs need to diagnose and repair a vehicle quickly and accurately. Regular readers know I've carped about this subject in many previous columns. Some service writers gather this information verbally by following a formal outline or cue card. Others garner it by having the customer fill out a questionnaire.
Regardless, they've gotten the lion's share of vehicle history before a tech touches the vehicle. If the tech needs additional vehicle history for any reason, he or she spends minimal time acquiring it via the phone.
However, the hard reality is that too many techs are spending far too much time interrogating customers because the support staff refused to do it. The non-productive support people have convinced everyone that questioning customers is just too technical for mere mortals such as them. Or, the boss himself wrongly believes the task is too tough for the support staff.
Now let's tally what disrespecting the time of productive employees may be costing your dealership.
It's not unrealistic for a tech to waste one hour per day chasing down keys, a vehicle or vehicle history. Most tire dealers offer automotive services six days a week, so that's six hours per week wasted. If it happens to two techs, it's 12 hours per week down the drain.
Suppose your labor rate is $40 per hour. If so, that comes to $240 to $480 wasted per week. If these techs work 50 weeks per year, that comes to $12,000 to $24,000 per year! Have I gotten your attention yet?
The bottom line is that respecting the time of productive workers makes dollars and cents. The less time you detract from their task of diagnosing and repairing vehicles, the more money everyone makes. And in case you haven't noticed, makin' money makes people happy.
The time is now to look closer at what you expect productive employees to do. Good luck!