"The Fear of the Tech"

Ty Bullard
I had a meeting today with my GM's and one of the common fears we are seeing in our fixed managers is the fear of the technician. Due to all the buzz and talk about how difficult it is to find a tech and then keep a tech i believe most of the fixed managers fear them so much that it affects their decision making and causes them to make bad choices due to the fact that they might lose a tech and the thought of replacing them scares the crap out of them. I believe this playing out of fear is a serious issue today and i am just looking at ways to attack this fear and to help the fixed manager take back control of his shop. The thought that the skilled technician field is a dying breed i do believe is real but we cannot run our shops out of fear? Thoughts are much appreciated
Mark Miller
I agree Ty. Having been in the position of finding quality techs, I know how hard it can be. In another thread I mentioned a friend of mine in a small town has to look out of state on occasion to find tech's. That said, we need to stop breeding a culture of fear in the service department. A good tech knows he can lead the manager around and do what he wants because he has options. However, if all the managers would agree to stop living in fear, the tech would not have those options and would likely change attitudes. This is not something that occurred overnight, nor is it something the industry can change overnight. It is going to take a shift of paradigms and likely more than a few hardships of losing a tech, but i firmly believe that if, as an industry, we stopped letting this fear breed, the issue will be corrected. As for taking back control, you have to have a strong manager in place, one that isn't afraid. The manager needs to be upfront with the techs and let them know there is no fear and that as a dealership you are prepared to deal with the loss of a tech to shift that control back to where it belongs. Yeah, you might lose a tech, but when the others see you stand up, they will likely get the message.
Denim Simkins
When dealing with techs I have always been able to find a common ground that supports the dealership goal and is a win / win for the tech and the customer. sometimes excessive explanation is needed buy if you are able to get a long term, producing employee on board you will be further ahead than replacing them. However, with that in mind, making the tough decision sometimes needs to be made and that alone will set the tone moving forward. Really I have always felt that having your stable full helped me keep these type of issues under control. Making sure your are growing from within and training your guys to make the next step ensures you have someone in place that is ready willing and able to fill the possibility of a vacancy. This will help keep the extreme measures to a minimum. Looking at the industry and the unequivocal changes that are taking place we are in a spot where we (Fixed Operations) need to adapt and change. To some degree our advisors and support staff have been exposed to this and have started to adapt, train and learn new ways of communication with millenials and Gen Y. The technicians have not had to change or adapt and will have a rude awakening when this happens. Short answer - Make the hard decision and live with the consequences. The temporary loss will not out weigh the necessity to evolve and grow as a business. This is a great topic and has always been a discussion within the dealership. Keep in mind that sometimes when a manager might say the "techs wont ......" or "the advisors will not......"they really do not see the need for the change or believe in the need for change. I would also recommend @Ty that every GM is actively involved with service and parts and get to know these folks as well as you may know the sales staff. The support from the GM (coming from a fixed ops guy) is great and really shows a unified front and collaborative direction to a common goal. Good luck..
Mark Miller
Denim brings up a good point. I hate to say it, but in almost every dealership I have been in, the GM is not very involved in Fixed Ops, or doesn't understand it well. Most GM's come through sales, so it is not necessarily their fault, but they should make a point to learn it and support it as much as sales.
Clint Jones
Being held hostage by an employee is a really bad feeling. @Denim's comment about having a full stable really fits close with my past experiences. If you have a shop full of technicians that are constantly being developed, when one gets pissy and thinking that they are more important than they really are......you have options. The thing that I have learned (regardless of department) is that an employee that WILL try to hold you hostage is a virus in your business. Their attitude spreads like the plague and that mentality rubs off on everyone around them. Pretty soon, you end up with a B level tech that is young and trying to learn with the same attitude as your A tech that has been with you for years. Now your #2 Salesperson that has only been with you for 18 months (the future of your store) seems to think that he is too good to help rearrange the lot, and now has all the expertise necessary to critique your stocking parameters and reconditioning process. The employees that you are afraid of are right in the center of the majority of the morale issues you have as well.
Tony Wood
Most of my professional background is in retail management via big box stores, etc. There is a major different between Auto Industry retail and that type of retail, but I've found that one of the precepts of my old field still holds true in the auto industry. You have to CONSTANTLY recruit. I'm always finding potential sales professionals, techs, BDC agents, etc. Whether someone is taking your order at a fast food restaurant or helping you pick out clothes, they could be your next new hire. For instance, you'd be amazed how easy it is to turn a phenomenal waiter into a phenomenal sales professional. Beyond that, we haven't really had that element of fear in our service dept. I don't know if it's because we have a solid/confident Service Manager or if it's because we have numerous good techs. However, I personally feel like there's nothing wrong with turning the tables on that tech. If they're trying to hold you hostage by threatening to leave, turn right around and make it clear to them if they hold their abilities over your head, not only will you force them to leave, but you'll make sure every Toyota (or whatever your brand is) dealer within 300 miles knows not to bring them on. (This is where having good rapport with your local competitors comes in handy) This is why I also feel it is imperative to get your techs in training and certification courses as much as possible. Even a mediocre tech can become strong with proper training and and education. If your GM or corporate balks at the extra cost, just remember that word about quality work spreads and the more certs, etc. you have to display in your customer service lounge, the better. All of our techs pics are displayed with all of their certs and experience hanging on the wall underneath them. It's a way to advertise their skill, but also to provide that customer with the added comfort of knowing there is a professional handling their vehicle.

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