AKRON (June 7, 2004) — Showing your technicians more respect may be the cheapest, easiest way tire dealers find to boost morale and thereby improve productivity and profitability.
That said, showing more respect is often easier said than done for some owners and managers.
Regular Tire Business readers know I'm on the road doing technical training nearly 200 days per year. Understandably, this puts me face to face with a lot of technicians as well as owners and managers of all kinds of automotive service facilities.
Very likely, regular readers also recall that the topic of respect is near and dear to me. But in nearly 15 years of writing this column, I've become convinced that boosting respect is a topic I just cannot emphasize enough. Simply put, if showing respect was so easy, all owners and managers would do it—and do it well.
About now, a logical question would be: “What constitutes respect or disrespect, Dan?”
Perhaps defining disrespect first is appropriate. After crisscrossing the country all these years and meeting countless technicians, I believe I can sum up their definitions of disrespect with three wrong-headed practices.
The first one they cite is a dark, dirty, unsafe and/or poorly equipped workplace. The second is allowing service salespersons or service writers to diagnose vehicles. The third is allowing service managers to overschedule work routinely. Recently I got an earful about all three from a group of techs who regularly attend my classes.
Let's quickly review these three areas. First, a typical employee spends more time at work than he or she does at home. Savvy owners and managers—those with a solid track record of attracting and retaining workers—always try to make the service shop or tire dealership something of a home away from home. For instance, they keep it clean and brightly lit so that it's more inviting to both employees and motorists alike.
Use your head, readers. Are workers going to be more enthused about coming to a grease pit or to a bright, professional facility every day? Which kind of workplace is more likely to reduce stress and induce worker loyalty?
The same holds true for shop equipment and the like. Do you think a good tech looks forward to the fact he'll have to jury-rig a brake lathe adapter, shop press fixture or bearing puller because you're too cheap to outfit your service department properly?
Or, on the contrary, is your service department so well equipped that I'll hear your guys bragging about it to fellow techs during the seminar coffee breaks?
Second, service salespersons and service writers are not and never will be technicians. I have emphasized in previous columns that, if anything, the people at the front end of the business should be effective information gatherers. The best way these folks can help the techs—and ultimately, boost your dealership's reputation for quality work—is to get as much vehicle history as possible.
This includes accurate descriptions of all vehicle symptoms as well as descriptions of recent repairs and maintenance performed on the vehicle. Armed with this background, a competent tech is thrilled to take over from there.
Service sales people who jump to conclusions about what a vehicle needs end up frustrating themselves, the technicians and, worst of all, the motorist! Then they have to work doubly hard to earn the car owner's trust again. All too often, they never get a chance to repair a relationship with a motorist.
Third, owners and managers will never truly earn their crew's respect when they persist in overscheduling work. Believe it, techs like to stay busy and make money. But they despise bosses who continually take in more work than the service department realistically can handle in one day. They detest bosses who expect them to be miracle workers day in, day out simply because the boys up front over-promise what the techs can deliver.
Besides disrespecting your technicians, overscheduling is a quick ticket to needless comebacks, angry customers and a lousy reputation for your store.