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Backbone of Dealerships: Auto Techs

Backbone of Dealerships: Auto Techs

The men and women who fix cars deserve more respect than they get.

The average technician in a dealership service department is worth $100,000 to $150,000 in annual gross profit.

They deserves a pat on the back even though their position is one of the least respected in the dealership. Over the years I have spoken to a lot of technicians. When I speak about lack of respect, I’m talking from experience, not assumptions.

In my travels I have met a lot of technicians. I am in awe of their abilities. I walk into the shop, and a transmission or a wire harness is completely disassembled and they reinstall it and everything works. That’s talent.

Many of these gentleman and ladies have invested well over $50,000 in tools to perfect their trade and provide your customers with a quality service. We need to recognize their contribution by doing a few small things that will maximize the psychological income they need and deserve. Here are some suggestions:

  • Get them thinking. When I interview technicians, I often ask: “Do you feel your opinions are valued by the dealerships leadership?” Most say no. So get them thinking. Don’t tell them how you are changing a process, ask for their feedback on it first.
  • It is easy to impose a change on them, but it is easier to expose them and make it their idea. The success of the change will be insured if you do that. You may have already made a decision, but suck up your pride and let them have the win. If it is their idea, it will work. They will make sure of that.
  • Have some fun. I’m surprised at the number of dealerships who don’t do this. It is part of the psychological income that is important. Friendly competition is a blast, it can be against other technicians, or you can set an objective and challenge them to achieve it. The reward can be cash, but I have found gifts are a great tool. Some managers give away flat-screen televisions. Others give gift cards. Lottery tickets are always a big hit. 
  • Get to know them.  While conducting reviews, I often ask managers to tell me about their technicians. I ask several questions along those lines, and it is alarming how many managers don’t know the answers.
  • What do technicians like to do during their time off? Are they married? How many children? These basic questions are important. If your answer to them is “I don’t know,” take each technician out to lunch to get to know them.
  • This benefits the dealership and increases employee satisfaction. Caring about people is a component of leadership. Let them feel comfortable approaching you and your staff with ideas on how to improve your service and parts operation.
  • Put on the chef’s hat. This is a small task that can yield large dividends. Saturday and Sunday service hours are a growing part of our business.  Many managers tell me they can be some of their busiest days of the week. Get a grill and start fixing lunch for technicians.
  • An added benefit is that they don’t leave the store for lunch, so usually their break is shorter. That means more customers are served and more revenue is earned for the dealership.

Many managers try to administer staffs strictly with money. This is a dead-end road. If you manage that way, the rate will never be high enough, and people will never be satisfied with how much you pay. 

In the big picture, providing psychological income motivates people. Auto technicians want to be a part of your business. Let them.

Fixed-operations consultant Lee Harkins heads M5 Management Services based in Pelham, AL. He can be reached at 205-358-8717 at [email protected].

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