AKRON (May 21, 2001)—Does your tire dealership perform a range of sophisticated services such as emissions, electrical and driveability repairs? Do you have highly experienced older technicians on staff?
If the answer to both questions is yes, your business may be ripe for a salaried diagnostic specialist.
Creating the salaried diagnostic specialist position can boost your dealership's reputation by focusing a talented, veteran tech on what he really enjoys doing: troubleshooting and problem-solving. Needless to say, many workers simply loathe diagnosis because they aren't cut out for it. But diagnostic expertise helps distinguish your store from competitors who are parts-changers.
What's more, converting an older tech to a salaried specialist may be just the plum that keeps him on staff when you've run out of incentives for him to stay.
I think there are several valid reasons why more and more older technicians are switching from general repair work and flat-rate pay to diagnostic work on straight salary. The first reason is physical. By the time a guy's reached his late 40s or early 50s, he's often scarred and achy from the years of turning, bending, lifting, stretching etc., that a typical tech endures.
Diagnostic work can be oh-so-appealing at this point in the tech's career because it drastically reduces the amount of routine labor he has to do every day. It may also relieve or eliminate the pressure he feels trying to keep up with or surpass the younger, faster-moving techs in your service department.
The second reason he may appreciate the switch is boredom, plain and simple. When you've been fixing cars for a long time, the work can get to be pretty darn monotonous. On one hand, predictability makes us money. On the other hand, there may be very little some service managers can do to prevent work assignments from becoming monotonous.
Plus, most techs would not want to risk scorn and ridicule from bosses and co-workers by admitting that they're bored with the work they do.
Perceived prestige may be the third reason a savvy older tech may relish a diagnostic specialist's role. Being moved from rote repair work to the “thinking tech's” position of diagnostician might be the most-significant recognition this tech has ever received, period! Such a move reaffirms that the guy can use his head as well as he uses his hands.
If you get to know them well enough, some techs will admit that the only thing they were ever evaluated on was how fast their hands and arms moved. Thinking things through and getting the job right the first time never quite earned them the recognition they thought it would. Whenever their bosses saw any sign of physical slowdown, they made this tech feel like a second-class citizen within the service department. That's hardly a motivator, is it?
As a general observation, I believe that the combination of low self-esteem and boredom take a greater toll on some techs than the physical labor does.
The fourth reason for moving a competent tech into the diagnostician's slot, some bosses say, is that the salary position liberates and empowers him. Why? Because he no longer has to worry about turning enough labor hours to survive, he's free to focus on serious troubleshooting and problem-solving. Consequently, he matures into the dead-on diagnostician he always had the potential to be.
Realizing this potential is the highlight of this tech's career. Furthermore, the move may also make him an invaluable mentor to younger techs striving to sharpen their troubleshooting skills. Freeing the tech from “turning hours” enables him to spend more time coaching and tutoring in your service department. What kind of dollar value can you place on that benefit?
The salaried diagnostician concept isn't practical for every dealership or service shop. You may have to stick to the old format of giving every tech a turn at tackling a tough diagnosis. But that said, don't underestimate the value of this carrot to a tech who's earned it.