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Does Morale in your Service Department Need a Lift?

By Curtis Clark

Dealership statistics tell us that half of our employees should be technicians.  With that in mind, we’re going to focus on ways to help keep up morale with your technicians (and other team members).

Ruling vs. Leading  Everyone has a different management style. How you respond and interact with people makes the biggest impact on your department.  Ruling with an Iron Fist instills fear, but not always respect.  Using the Velvet Touch makes you look like a pushover.  Ruling people does not create any creativity, nor does it empower people to take responsibility. They just “do what they’re told”.  You have to find the best balance you can for the team around you.  Some people need to be pushed and even prodded at times; other people need the independence to grow and prosper.  A good leader is not afraid that someone is learning and growing. Leaders help build the next generation of the company, they won’t tear it down.

Training  Have you ever had that moment where you felt powerless to help someone? There’s nothing worse than feeling like you can’t help and provide service, especially in a customer service industry.  Now, imagine coming face to face with a customer only to tell him that you can’t fix his lift.  Why?  Because….. there are many generations of lifts out in the market place along with competitors units, so it’s impossible to be an expert on everything.  With your own equipment, what are you doing to help your technicians understand how to work on that equipment?  Do you have a trainer on staff?  Are you taking advantage of web and factory based training programs?  Some training might be expensive and time consuming.  However, empowering your technician base to learn and grow will help build loyalty and confidence in working on the equipment.  It will also help make them more efficient, which means that quoted jobs might be completed quicker and you can take advantage of increased service billing.

Wages  Not everyone is driven by money, although it is a contributing factor for most of our life decisions.  While we’re not going to discuss wages directly, there’s more to compensation than just an hourly wage.  What do you do differently from the competitors in your area?  Do technicians get to take their vans home?  Do you have a 401(k) match? Do you offer different or better insurance?  How you communicate these advantages when approached about either an increase or a counter offer by an employee can be huge.  Have you ever shown someone what your companies 401(k) match means to them?  You probably have people in your dealership that have worked for other companies. Have you asked them how your benefits package compares to other companies? This may not always outweigh the bump in wage someone is looking for, but you need to communicate it so the employee can make an informed decision.

Establish the Standard  No one likes trying to hit a moving target.  Expectations and goals can change, but you have to effectively communicate the standards that you’re looking for.  It’s not enough to say that you expect someone to keep their van organized and clean.  You need to show them an example of what is and is not acceptable.  When was the last time you explained what was expected on a PM?  While everyone has a PM checklist, does every one of your technicians go through that entire checklist?  Have you outlined billing and time expectations for your technicians?  Establishing a baseline means that everyone knows where they need to be.  Some will exceed, others will hit the target and still others will be off.  Following these simple guidelines will make everyone understand what is expected of them.  If they don’t meet the expectations, at the very least they will understand why you’re talking to them about the matter.  You won’t hear, “Well I didn’t know that” from your technicians.  Setting the standard will make everyone understand the goal of the department.

Build a team   Sometimes work can be a throwback to high school.  People have a tendency to form cliques and be comfortable with certain people.  Not all personalities mesh together.  If your team isn’t working together, then you have fragmented groups that will rely on each other instead of everyone working together.  One technician should not be afraid to call another if they feel they’ve encountered a similar problem before.  Dispatchers should also communicate with one another and understand strengths and weaknesses in the team.  You need to rely on others (read: delegate).  You need team captains because you can’t be everywhere at all times.  The more cohesive the unit, the better you’ll be at servicing your customer and empowering the team to get things done.

You can’t make everyone happy all the time.  No matter how good you are, you’ll have people who move on, whether it is for money or any number of other reasons.  Incorporating changes to your team and helping them acclimate to your team culture is just as important as how you create that culture.  Keep in mind, there is not a “one size fits all” for these scenarios, just as there is not a “one size fits all” for managing people.  A wise person told me a long ago, “I manage everyone the same, which means I manage everyone differently.” While the expectations that you set up should remain the same for everyone in the department, every individual personality will need to be managed differently to have a huge effect on morale.


Curtis Clark can be reached at cclark@superiortire.com or at 800-289-1456 x100