Top 5 tactics to create successful fixed ops employees

From adding service bays and express lanes to extending hours, many dealerships are investing heavily in fixed operations. However, the impact of that investment to the bottom line could be minimized if your fixed ops employees are unhappy. Dissatisfied employees lead to higher turnover, higher costs, reduced service capacity, and decreased customer satisfaction. If you’re thinking, “But I have an employee retention plan to take care of all that!” you may not be doing enough. Retention plans assume there will be dissatisfaction and attrition. Instead, create an employee success plan to proactively keep problems from rearing up and to help you attract the best talent. Get started with these five tactics.

1. Commit to a training plan
If you want your employees to feel good about themselves and the work they are doing, start by giving them the training they need to be successful. There’s nothing more frustrating than wanting to do your job well, but feeling hampered by lack of training. Today, cars are more high-tech than ever so well-trained employees give you an important edge over the independent shop down the street. After all, the technology systems you have in place are only useful if your employees are properly trained to use them. Also, don’t limit your resources to only automotive education and improvement; cross-industry training can lead to improvement in many aspects, including customer service. Learning about what your employees’ interests and goals are can help in identifying the perfect training for them.

2. Promote better communication between advisors and techs
You may not know it, but poor communication could be costing you money and employees. A 2013 survey by Carlisle & Co. of 9,000 techs from 15 major automakers found that 43 percent of repair orders required additional clarification from service advisors, costing each tech 30 minutes per day of follow-up time. They went on to extrapolate that a typical dealership with 12 techs at $60/hour, each losing 30 minutes a day, would result in approximately $90,000 in lost revenue per dealership per year. It’s not hard to see that this lack of clarity and clear communication can lead to frustrated employees and lost revenue. It’s important to invest time in developing processes to streamline internal and external communications, and to also invest in the technology that helps supports it.

3. Implement career advancement opportunities
Many dealerships struggle with employee satisfaction because they have not established a career path for fixed ops employees. Sure, a technician may eventually become a lead tech, or a service advisor may rise to service manager, but in most departments those positions are filled by employees who will remain firmly rooted for 20 to 30 years. We all thrive on getting to the next level; stagnation leads to dissatisfaction. Smart dealers create different levels of responsibilities and compensation so employees know there is a viable career path moving forward.

4. Take a hard look at compensation and benefits
Too many dealerships cut corners by hiring cheaper and less skilled employees. This does not drive the success of the shop and is simply bad business. Instead, invest in the best talent and focus on compensating them well. That, in turn, will help you attract more great talent when openings come up. Also, keep in mind that compensation doesn’t only refer to salary. Great employees require an investment up front to bring long-term success to your dealership. Find new ways to offer more to employees in regard to benefits and perks. If you can offer more PTO, a 401(k), or a health plan, why would your employees leave for a shop that doesn’t offer these extras?

5. Think and act like Google
We’ve all heard about the free food, fitness facilities and massage rooms, but what is the top reason the cream of the crop go to work for Google? Their culture of innovation. They continually invest in new products, improve existing ones and encourage “blue-sky” thinking to keep the innovation culture thriving. Take a page from Google and start thinking about how your dealership can be a destination for fixed ops jobs. Are there new tools and technology you can try? Are you tapping your employees for new ideas? Are you encouraging blue-sky thinking? This is the type of culture that will make other shops worried about losing employees to you.

When you stop thinking about retaining fixed ops employees and instead focus on what practices and tools you can put in place to proactively help them thrive, your turnover rate will decrease and you’ll naturally attract top talent. Get started by researching different approaches to these five areas and discover how your dealership can become a leader. The first step is to commit to the ideals you have and put them to paper. The key is to plan for success, not dissatisfaction.

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Matt Hurst

Matthew Hurst is the Director of Product Management for Fixed Operations at Dealertrack. Working with Dealertrack for more than eight years, Matt manages the strategic direction and product development for Dealertrack’s Fixed Operations offerings, including its Service Pro and Service Check-In solutions. In addition, he works directly with dealers to help them transform their Fixed Operations Departments to drive efficiency and profitability for their businesses. Matt is highly respected in the Fixed Operations and Dealer Management markets for his experience in marketing, product development, strategy and professional and customer service.