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Richard Holland

Richard Holland Managing Director

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Fixed Ops: The Scramble for Technicians Begins

d604e9c6b974267b9be015d95a386ea0.jpg?t=1In May I wrote a blog article explaining how employee retention in service will become increasingly important due to many factors. Apparently, that’s becoming true faster than even I thought. Auto Remarketing published an article last week reporting that AutoNation and the Asbury Automotive Group are indeed discovering that skilled technicians are becoming harder to find. “In terms of roadblocks, obviously the biggest single roadblock, if you have facilities in place, would be the number of technicians,” said Michael Kearney, Asbury Automotive Group’s executive vice president and COO. Mike Jackson, AutoNation’s chairman and CEO agreed, stating that “it has proven difficult to hire qualified technicians.”

While some of this increased demand can be attributed to the tens of millions of recalls that have been issued this year, some also has to do with a desire to expand the dealership’s service offerings. According to Auto Remarketing, Asbury has chosen to create their own in-house training program “to bring lesser-trained individuals in-house to teach them the skills they are looking for in a technician.” And AutoNation’s director, president and COO stated that their group is halfway to their goal of 400 technicians, and are looking to hire another 200. These large automotive groups are also willing to pay – and pay well - for that technical skill, which should make other dealers a little nervous.

It would seem that there has never been a more important time to focus efforts on acquiring qualified technicians, retaining the ones you currently have and increasing service department efficiency. This demand is only going to increase. If your dealership has not fostered a culture of loyalty amongst your technicians through reinforcement, continued training, benefits and competitive wages, you may well risk ending up with the short straw. We all know just how important service absorption is to dealerships. Available service work is only going to increase as recalls continue and consumers chose to hang on to their vehicles longer.

Consumers are all about efficiency and speed. Today’s service customer is not willing to wait for you to be ready for them. If you aren’t able to accommodate them when they are ready, they will simply find a dealer who can. While you might think the loss of this one RO is not a big deal, the biggest risk you’re taking is that your competitor offers that customer a superior customer experience and wins their future business as well.

Every customer who visits your service drive can mean tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars in revenue over their life. Don’t risk losing that business by being unprepared for the increased demand due to lack of technicians or the inability to perform the work. Get ready now or you may find that your service revenue in your competitor’s pocket.

Robert Karbaum
I would imagine there has been a decline in young technicians entering the industry over the last decade. Does anyone know any hard numbers?
Richard Holland
In my last blog article (linked at the beginning of this article), there are some statistics about that, Robert.
Robert Karbaum
Thanks! It's a strange time for technicians. My dad was a tech for 30+ years. He says that if he was entering the industry now he would be screwed. Most technicians aren't the most tech savy, yet cars are increasing becoming more technological. At what point do technicians also have to be software engineers?
Richard Holland
That's why it's important for dealerships to implement in-house training and participate in ongoing OEM training. Tech school just don't have the budgets or technology to keep up with every brand and it's technology. Techs aren't ready to immediately start working on vehicles straight from school anymore. A mentorship program by pairing up an experienced, knowledgeable tech with an inexperienced one is something every dealership should do to ensure that they can optimize their resources.

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