What's In It For Me?

Service departments can suffer from bad cases of In other words, What's in it for me can be something that all fixed operation staffers feel the brunt of. Technicians may think parts guys never carry the right inventory. Service advisors think that techs are always looking for the gravy jobs, like brakes, alignments, and flushes and not taking as much time to do difficult diagnosis and repairs. Parts

Service departments can suffer from bad cases of “WIIFM-itis.” In other words, “What's in it for me” can be something that all fixed operation staffers feel the brunt of.

Technicians may think parts guys never carry the right inventory.

Service advisors think that techs are always looking for the gravy jobs, like brakes, alignments, and flushes and not taking as much time to do difficult diagnosis and repairs.

Parts guys may think that the techs are a bunch of overpaid prima donnas.

Getting everyone working together better is a challenge facing many service managers and parts and service directors.

How does one get the staff working more as a team rather than as self-interested individual players?

I wish there was one magic answer. But the answers to this are as varied as there are different personalities in the shop.

Firstly, getting the staff to “understand and accept” before they “criticize and complain” is best done by having them walk a mile in the other person's shoes.

Walk a mile? Hell, having them walk a few feet would be progress.

Easy for me to say. How does a manager convince a 10-year journeyman technician to try something different? Let's be realistic, not everyone will jump at the chance to try something new unless it is presented to the staff members in such a way that it is in their best interest now and in the future. That gets to the positive side of “What's in it for me?”

A good service manager could present it like:

Manager: “Do you want to be a technician and pull wrenches all your life?” (There's nothing wrong with that if you do!)

Technician: “I'm not really sure, what I do know for sure is that my chiropractor bills are killing me every month.”

Manager: “It happens to many techs, bad backs, bad knees, ankles, that's why I decided to be a shop foreman, then I got this position when it came up. I think you have what it takes to be more than a top-notch ASE Master Technician.

“Heck with your knowledge of the industry you could be a trainer, service manager, a parts/service director, who knows the way this company is growing you could eventually run your own dealership.”

Technician: “Thanks, I really didn't know…What do you suggest?”

Manager: “Well, I don't want to lose a good productive tech. But I also don't want you to limit yourself and your career. Maybe every 2nd Saturday you could be an advisor, then at the monthly shop technician meetings you could report on your progress to the advisors and other techs.

“One thing for sure, you'll be able to sympathize with advisors and their plight, and illustrate this to the techs. One day, you'll be an excellent service manager or parts and service director.”

This sort of approach could work with everyone. Parts people, advisors; advisors could even be technician assistants.

Mike Rolland, former national service manager with Nissan Canada, used to do this often when he was running a shop. When hiring a new technician he would have him spend a week or two on the counter prior to getting on the bench.

“Cross-training pays so many benefits,” says Rolland. “If you've got people sick or on holidays, it's not brain damaging trying to find replacements. Plus, the feedback these people can give during shop meetings is invaluable.”

The biggest challenge with cross-training is convincing the right person that multi-tasking is time well spent. Once this is done, you'll soon have yourself a fixed department with high CSI, longer customer retention and less staff turnover. Walking a mile can go a long way.

Dave Skrobot ([email protected]) is vice president of fixed operations training with the Automotive Sales College.

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