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Monday, October 18, 2021
As hard as it is to recruit technicians these days, you want to do everything you can to be sure they will have a long, successful tenure at your shop. Unfortunately, the early quit rate (within two years of starting) is painfully high for employers in almost all industries.
The first few weeks and months that somebody is working at your shop has a huge impact on how long they are likely to stay with you. Just like building a house, you are setting a foundation in those early days. Build a strong one and that house will stand for a good, long time. Fail to invest in your materials or take shortcuts and the first strong wind may take that house down.
So how do you avoid the vicious cycle of hire, train, quit, rehire? Or more likely, the much worse recruit, recruit, recruit, hire, train, quit, recruit, recruit, recruit, rehire? Bruce Tulgan and his Rainmaker Thinking workplace research team have decades of research on this topic so we’ll take a good look at what they’ve identified as the top four causes of early departures and how to avoid those issues at your shop.
This is where the employee feels like they were presented with a beautiful vision of what the job would be, but they start and the job is actually very different. They were sold on a family-like atmosphere where everybody supports each other, but from day one they can tell that’s really not how the shop operates. And it appears like the other techs don’t like each other at all.
How to Avoid It
You’ve got to be open and honest in the hiring process. Getting a candidate to buy in to a false reality only sets them up for disappointment and failure and puts you on track to live in the vicious cycle of rehiring.
If you have challenges, you should share that with potential hires as you get closer to hiring them. That doesn’t mean you have to share all the dirty laundry but let them know what life is really like in the shop. If you are making efforts to improve things, let them know that they are part of the solution and give them the vision of what you are working toward. In those cases, be sure that you are communicating with them consistently.
It starts on day one and only gets worse from there. A new employee comes in but there is clearly no plan for how to get them up to speed and what they should focus on. Nobody helps them connect to the mission, vision and values, or their colleagues at the shop. Demands start coming at them before they even understand shop procedures.
Four weeks in and it hasn’t gotten any better. They’ve only found out about things when they’ve asked other techs. There is no open line of communication to management. Their biggest influence is the most disgruntled tech in the shop.
How to Avoid It
Create a documented onboarding schedule that will set them up for success. No matter how big or small your shop is, this can have a big impact. You are making a big investment in a person. You want to be sure you are doing everything you can to help them be successful. Think through what they need to know, who do they need to have as a resource, what processes will be critical to their job, what are the expectations for how they communicate to customers, and more.
What do they need to do on day one? What should they know by the end of week one? What do they need to know by the end of the first month? Set up their schedule and give them time for all these things.
I know – you are hiring a tech because you’ve got more work than you can handle and you need them to be productive right away. That’s understandable. But take the time to make this a solid four to eight year investment instead of a four to eight week waste of time.
You’ve got the new tech fired up to join your team and you’ve presented a picture of what life will be like at your shop. And even on day one you’ve spent most of the day with the new employee and it’s been good. But on day two they get handed off to their actual supervisor, the shop manager, who doesn’t express the same enthusiasm. In fact, they seem to be only focused on getting the work done at all costs – no breaks, no leaving a couple hours early to see a child’s school performance, no “thank-yous” or recognition for a job well done.
How to Avoid It
First, be sure the supervisor/manager is involved in the hiring process. You want to give the potential employee and the manager the chance to connect (or not) and make a good decision based on the result.
This can also fall in the overselling category. Don’t set your manager up for failure by underselling how much work there is to the potential employee.
Finally, make sure you and anybody who will be managing employees at your shop are on the same page. Managing managers is a critically important job. You’ve got to make sure they are aligned with your values and beliefs and are demonstrating those to their direct reports. It’s a well-known truth that people don’t leave organizations they leave managers. If you have a manager that is not managing well, you’ve got to coach them up or coach them out.
This one can be tough for an auto repair shop, but it is often a significant advantage that independent auto repair shops have over dealerships. Regardless, a tech can’t work from home. But this applies to more than just work location and in a shop could apply to types of jobs, schedules, training, and other things.
How to Avoid It
The key here is to set expectations early on. Let the incoming tech know where the guardrails are on flexibility. Do what you can to be flexible and be open to new ideas. You don’t have to provide the exact same type of flexibility to each and every employee. Understand what matters most to each individual and accommodate and reward them in that way.
Understanding these top four reasons employees quit before they reach their second anniversary can help you put measures in place to avoid it happening in your shop. By conducting a thorough, open and honest hiring process and considering the employee experience when they join your shop, you can set new techs, and your shop, up for long term success.
To learn how Repair Shop Websites can help you bring more vehicles into your shop, and promote your job openings, call us at 855-294-6397 or email us at Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com.
Friday, September 24, 2021
We talk to a lot of auto repair shops across the country every day. One of the more common challenges that we have heard from shop owners in 2021 is that they would like to get more maintenance work.
To provide our customers with strategies and tactics to help them sell more maintenance work, we hosted a Peer Learning Group in early September and had a special expert presenter in Koole Bolina, a Performance Coach with ATI. Koole has been in the automotive industry since 1998 and he loves to positively influence those who want to do better and be better.
Koole provided a plethora of tips and insights for getting more maintenance work. You’ll have to ask him for all the secrets, but we’ll share five of the many here:
Walk around the vehicle to check on its condition and reconfirm with the customer the details they shared when making the appointment. Establish rapport. Make a personal connection if you can. This is an opportunity for you to build trust and credibility. Don’t allow the drop off to just be transactional. If you stay behind the counter, customers will see you as a ticket agent at the airport.
Use fluid test strips. For a waiting customer, “show and sell.” If it is a drop off, a picture is worth a thousand words. Point out the issues and talk to them about the levels. Help them understand why it is important to address the issue and what could happen if they don’t. Give them an estimate for any maintenance services. If they are not ready for the service today, see if they’d like to schedule an appointment to come back.
When you sell a brake job, sell a brake flush. If you are replacing a water pump, sell a coolant flush. These are natural combinations and good opportunities. In addition, if you don’t sell a coolant flush at the same time, you’ve left 50% of the old coolant in the system. That older fluid can ruin the part.
Tell them they can only be moved when they are emptied. Give them the challenge of getting rid of each bottle before the end of the day. This approach keeps those services right in front of them. On day two replace any of the bottles that are missing. Tell them that if they can show you that they can make those bottles move that you’ll keep them off their desk after a few weeks. If you remove the bottles and they stop selling the services, start all over again.
You are making maintenance recommendations because they are in their best interest, but you’ve got to establish a trusting relationship before you start throwing a bunch of additional services at them and they just see dollar signs. Listen well. Don’t allow distractions when you are talking to them. Show empathy. Take an extra step to serve them and let them know you did it. Don’t do this in a “pat yourself on the back” type of way, but in a “we are always going to be looking out for your best interests” type of way.
We thank Koole and ATI for providing such valuable guidance to our customers. ATI (The Automotive Training Institute) is the leading coaching and consulting automotive management company in the United States, with more than 1,600 active members. Since 1980, ATI has been helping independent auto repair and collision repair shop owners improve their businesses and their lives, with proven, measurable and field-tested strategies and practices.
If you’d like us to help you build a web presence to attract more maintenance work (and to connect with shop owners from across the country through our customers-only Peer Learning Groups), contact us today at 855-294-6397 or Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com.
Wednesday, July 28, 2021
We recently surveyed our customers to ask them how busy they are compared to 2019:
When you consider the fact that many shops are down one or more technicians compared to 2019, it’s shocking that 85% of them are handling as many or more vehicles than 2019. Many shops said they are having their best months ever right now.
It’s a problem that many businesses would love to have. But when your processes are already running at full speed, small problems can quickly become bigger ones. Delays can lead to vehicle backups, longer working hours and eventually lower productivity levels and technician burnout. The alternative is to reach out to customers with scheduled repairs and push those repair dates out. That’s not a great recipe for customer satisfaction, and it can do long-term reputational damage.
Here are three things you can do keep your shop running smoothly and avoid that uncomfortable call.
Things can get messy when your shop is too busy. Unfortunately, that applies to the shop floor, too. And while it might seem like there’s “just no time” to organize work areas, the reality is that all of those minutes your technicians are looking for misplaced tools or moving vehicles around the shop can add up to hours of lost time.
That’s why it’s important that each day starts out and ends with an organized workspace. Ideally, nobody should have to search the shop to find where someone left a tool (or where someone put a previously delivered part) during the day. Everyone should know where vehicles can and cannot stay parked while they’re awaiting parts or attention. And if you find that a lack of lifts, laptops or other equipment is slowing you down, there’s no better time to take care of that than when you’re bringing in the extra revenue that comes with a very busy shop.
Manufacturers of all types are having trouble acquiring shipping container space, and it’s delaying delivery of critical materials. Auto parts manufacturers are getting hit by these delays. And because material suppliers often wait until a delivery failure is inevitable before alerting the auto part manufacturer, the delays are unpredictable, with parts suppliers sometimes receiving only a few days of notice that material shipments will be weeks late.
A story published in May showed how a shortage of fishing line slowed down oil filter production, and a shipping delay on a 12-cent part stopped production of a major part assembly. And the Commercial Carrier Journal is reporting this month that fleet mechanics are spending hours tracking down some parts, and part hoarding is making it even worse.
Of course, it doesn’t make sense for you to buy every part you might need over the coming months. But there may be cases where it does makes sense to buy several of a frequently used part ahead of time. It’s also probably a good idea to have a backup plan in case your supplier does end up backordered on a part you need for a major repair.
Hiring technicians has been a challenge for years. It’s only gotten harder over time, and it’s not expected to get much better in the near future. Unless you’ve decided to permanently downsize your workforce (and your car count) going forward, now is as good a time as any to start investing in new talent.
“Investing” doesn’t necessarily mean hiring anyone yet. Due to the intense competition for technicians, only some opportunities will get filled. Many shop owners make the mistake of thinking that compensation is all that matters to technicians. But the best and the brightest techs are looking for an opportunity at a shop that has a clean work environment, a positive culture and most or all of the equipment they need to get their job done efficiently.
Working to improve your shop in any of these fronts will help you attract talent. But you’ll see benefits long before your shop attracts the attention of potential new hires. These “shop upgrades” will help with employee retention, job efficiency and customer satisfaction.
Want to learn how Repair Shop Websites can bring more of your favorite repairs into your shop? Call us at 855-294-6397 or email us at Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com.
Friday, July 23, 2021
The pandemic has shrunk the workforce, and that’s bad news for the auto repair industry. Jobless claims have dropped significantly since last April, but there are still seven million fewer people with jobs than before the pandemic.
Many businesses are hoping that there will be an influx of job seekers when schools open and unemployment benefits shrink. Those things will certainly bring some younger workers back into the job market. But more Baby Boomers retired in 2020 than in any year in history, and they aren’t coming back.
For the auto repair industry, it’s especially unlikely that hiring will suddenly become painless in September. Technicians were already hard to find before the pandemic, due in large part to a shortage of young workers interested in the job or the industry.
Dealerships, franchises and independent shops are even more desperate for the small stream of newly trained technicians entering the industry than they were before the pandemic. Whatever it took to attract new employees in 2019, it’s likely to take more now.
And that’s why it might be time to look outside of the industry for hires.
Many employees in restaurant, retail and hospitality jobs weren’t considering different industries before the pandemic. But after those jobs evaporated overnight, many were forced into rethinking whether those high-stress, off-hours jobs were worth the low pay they offered.
Even though these employees aren’t likely to have experience in the automotive industry, they might be a great fit for a service writer or customer service role. They’re accustomed to providing customer-facing service, staying on their feet and keeping things moving in environments where margins depend on it.
For restaurant, retail and hospitality workers looking to change careers, a job in an auto repair shop offers things their current occupation probably doesn’t. Independent repair shops, for instance, can offer reliable hours and a low-turnover environment with a positive culture. Employees coming from these industries tend to be younger than the average US worker, which means they have plenty of time to grow into their roles and continue supporting your shop for years (or decades) to come.
Unfortunately, it’s more difficult to fill technician roles with employees from other industries. To provide value to the shop, technicians need at least enough experience to handle the most basic jobs that come through the doors. That means technicians with little or no experience are likely to slow your shop down at first, rather than speed things up.
That doesn’t mean hiring a novice can’t work out well for your shop. If an employee is interested in the work you do and motivated to grow quickly, they can become one of your best performers over time.
Once you’re able to train someone to handle basic jobs like changing oil and replacing tires, you can free up your more experienced technicians for higher-value roles while making money off of your new hire each day they’re training. And unlike an auto technician program at a community college, they can get paid while they learn the job, instead of going in debt to do it. That’s a major draw for anyone considering a job in the industry.
It’s true that many franchise oil & lube shops already offer these “no experience necessary” types of roles. But unlike those shops, technicians who choose to start at an independent repair shop can gain exposure to more advanced work whenever they’re ready to take it on.
Believe it or not, there are still kids in high school who are more excited about jumping right in to the working world than spending four years at college. And there are also plenty of gig-economy workers who gave up on that career during the pandemic and want something more stable and reliable. If you’re willing to take on the responsibility of mentoring someone who is new to the industry, it’s a great way to skip the line full of other shops willing to do whatever it takes for another experienced technician.
Another benefit – you won’t have to retrain them to do things the way you do them at your shop.
To learn how Repair Shop Websites can help you bring more vehicles into your shop (and advertise your job openings!) call us at 855-294-6397 or email us at Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com.
Wednesday, June 23, 2021
We’re halfway through the year, which is a great time to measure progress toward your shop’s annual goals. This year might be an outlier, however; many business owners didn’t set annual goals for 2021 because it was too uncertain of a time to be putting together year-long business plans.
Fortunately, the United States is in a much better place than it was six months ago. Coronavirus cases are down nearly 95% from their peak, masks are off, and people are anxious to get out of the house.
Those things are great for our health (and our sanity), but they aren’t filling up every auto repair shop’s bays. A shop’s car count still depends heavily on the local economic environment.
Most urban areas are doing well. People are moving around even more than they were in 2019 – and they’re using their vehicles to do it. Offices, restaurants and retail establishments aren’t quite as busy as they were in 2019, but parking lots are far busier than they were in 2020. Those things are enough to keep many auto repair shops busy – but a vehicle shortage and a year’s worth of delayed vacations are also bringing people to repair shops, flooding short-staffed garages with more vehicles than they can handle.
In areas with fewer resources, however, economic activity remains depressed. Many towns in rural America were already suffering from outflows of money and people before 2020, resorting to measures like selling water systems to make ends meet. People in these areas are keeping vehicles parked at home to keep costs down. That’s hurting shop revenue, keeping them from hiring or making new investments.
So what’s the best strategy for your shop for the rest of 2021? That will obviously depend many things – one of these is your area’s economic climate. If your area faces a tough economic climate, you may need to shift strategies more aggressively to stay profitable. Meanwhile, a bustling shop comes with its own set of challenges. It’s difficult to keep employee morale high and meet customer expectations when a long line of work starts taking over the calendar.
The strategy will be different depending on how busy you are. But the focus is the same.
Whether you’re trying to figure out how to get customers into your shop or how to get them to leave you alone until you’re up a few technicians, positioning yourself for success requires understanding these three groups.
Why do customers come to your shop? It’s easy to assume they come in because they need a vehicle repaired – but unless you’re the only shop in the area, that’s not the full story.
Different customers probably choose your shop for different reasons. For some, your shop is the closest or easiest option. Others may say it’s the most affordable. Still others may trust your shop (or an employee in your shop) to give them an honest opinion of what needs to be done.
When you understand why customers come to your shop, you can make sure they’re getting whatever it is they value most out of the relationship. It’s hard to provide great service (the key to continued long-term success) without understanding that most-valued trait.
Even if you’re flooded with customers, you need to know what customers value – because, if you can’t provide them with anything else, you want to make sure they always get that one thing. If you really disappoint a customer, they might not care how busy you were. And if you disappoint enough of them, you’ll soon find yourself with far more spare time than you ever wanted.
Workplace cultures have a feedback loop. Ideally, it’s a positive one, where employees have learned to trust and respect one another over time. During a bad week, employees can lean on those relationships to motivate them towards success.
But when things go south, it can seem like every interaction makes things worse. Small disagreements can turn into petty and aggressive behavior, killing productivity and morale. That’s when employees start assuming the worst possible reason for every uncertainty.
Negative feedback loops are especially dangerous when the shop is “unsteady” – when things are too quiet or too busy. When things are quieter than they should be, employees want to know what changes you’re planning to get business back. When you’re too busy, employees want to know when things are going to calm down so they can get back to their lives.
In either case, it helps to project a sense of calm and to provide some insight on how you plan to smooth out the workload going forward. If employees don’t like what they’re hearing (or if they don’t hear anything), they may assume the worst and try to find employment elsewhere. And whenever you can, contribute to a positive feedback loop by making the shop a great place to be.
The word “community” casts an intentionally wide net. It includes other businesses, schools, churches, local governments and even competitors in your area. It’s also the source of your customers and employees. Each positive interaction you have with community members will have a small impact on your shop’s reputation – and over time, the support you earn from your community can be a vital element of surviving tough weeks, months and years.
If you’re trying to get customers in the door, sponsoring or participating in events with opportunities for face-to-face interaction (like festivals or sports tournaments) can help! Sponsoring free events at your own shop, such as training new drivers to ensure vehicle safety, can also build goodwill.
To learn how Repair Shop Websites can help you attract the best customers to your shop, call us at 855-294-6397 or email us at Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com.