AKRON (July 3, 2006) — Sometimes I need to repeat a fundamental fact in order to keep tire dealers and service shop operators focused. Today's fast fact is that it takes a negligible amount of time to keep a service department reasonably clean.
Cleanliness is an essential element of professionalism in today's competitive marketplace.
I have been a manager, service writer and technician (back when we called them “mechanics”). As a mechanic, I cleaned up my own area as well as others' service bays. All too often I also swept and scrubbed when I was a manager. I'm not the kind of person who was afraid to lift a broom, clean a floor drain or move trash when the need arose.
Matter of fact, I was fortunate to work for some demanding bosses when I was a teenager, and these guys convinced me that cleanliness was—and is—a matter of both personal and professional pride. I have been reporting on the automotive service industry for more than 30 years. Sadly, there's no shortage of people in our business who don't see cleanliness as any big issue. All you have to do is look at them and their businesses to realize this.
What's more, if you don't realize these grubby operators exist, I respectfully submit that you haven't been paying attention to the marketplace.
Recently, I gave a series of presentations to service shop owners and managers about planning for survival and prosperity in the auto service business. In one-on-one discussions following these presentations, some bosses quizzed me about my emphasis on cleanliness. Addressing these questions is always worthwhile and timely.
Cleanliness was and always will be vitally important because approximately 60 percent of all persons purchasing automotive services are women. Any Tire Business reader who can explain how a dirty shop attracts more female customers is welcome to make his or her case.
We as an industry are still fighting the image of being dirty people—“grubs, grease balls, dirt bags,” etc. My field experience has convinced me that we're never done fighting those negative stereotypes. The more often I travel, the more firmly I believe that argument.
Convincing employees to clean up is not as difficult as some people think it is. Here's your pitch: All technicians want to work on vehicles owned by people who'll willingly pay for the needed repairs and maintenance. As a rule, these desirable customers value their property and are not comfortable trusting that property to workers populating a filthy repair shop. (Remember, that vehicle is the second-largest purchase the customer has ever made besides his or her home!)
Professional respect for all customers' vehicles dictates an emphasis on cleanliness. Overall, the cleaner the shop, the less likely techs are to soil carpets, seats and steering wheels. The first line of defense here is a cleaner service department; the second line of defense is protective coverings for seats and steering wheels.
Dirty shops are a safety hazard. How many times do we have to see workers injured by slipping on spilled fluids? How many times do we have to see people trip over discarded parts that should have gone immediately into a core bin or trash can? And when these workers were injured, what was the dollar-impact of lost productivity and profitability to your service department or shop? Wouldn't a modicum of cleanliness have been much cheaper than the loss of productivity due to injuries?
Appropriate cleanup during the day—in between jobs—takes anywhere from less than a minute to several minutes. If you doubt me, clock the time. Build that time into your labor rates as well as into your job scheduling. To me, it's all part of doing business.
A cleaner service department im-proves overall productivity by en-abling everyone to work quicker, find things more easily, move vehicles around more easily, locate dropped sockets or hardware more easily, etc. Overall, a cleaner work area reduces stress on everyone in the business.
Last but not least, cleaner bays reduce the risk of people tracking more filth than necessary into offices, the customer lounge and front sales display area.
Revisit and reinforce your business' policies on cleanliness. Tell me if the approach doesn't make an improvement.