Identify Personality Traits in Your Service Department

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Koshollek service techs advice personality

SPRING HAS SPRUNG, and hopefully your service department is humming along nicely with your techs making the most out of the increased customer traffic. In a normal market, I wouldn't be writing about technician behaviors this time of year. But let's face it, in this struggling economy you can't afford to put up with a bad tech, and you should be taking care of your good ones. We need to realize that with all the layoffs around the country, there's no reason to put up with destructive behaviors when right around the corner may be the best employee you ever hired.

It's not quite as simple as "Bad techs cost you money and good techs make you money." Truth is, I've identified about 16 different personality types in the technician world (good and bad), and it makes good business sense that you know how to identify each, know how they affect your bottom line and know what you should be doing about it. Just so you know, I've worked with each personality listed.

As a supervisor, it's your goal to get the best performance out of every employee. In some cases that's easy. In others, it's very challenging. Occasionally, you're better off cutting your losses by cutting the turd from your herd. Here goes:

ROBOTIC ROBBIES

IDENTIFIERS: Robotic Robbies (RRs) work like machines. They're orderly and methodical and they waste no motions. They don't socialize much and they produce very few comebacks.

BOTTOM LINE: RRs may be your most productive technicians. They do what you pay them to do: twist wrenches and fix stuff. It's your job to aid them in that pursuit.

WHAT TO DO: Provide RRs with two lifts so they can continue working while the service advisor gets their parts and shuttles their vehicles to and from their work area. Reward RRs with incentives at multiple productivity levels so they have goals to strive for and don't think the grass is greener across town. Don't waste your RRs' time making them talk to customers — they're best at twisting wrenches, and that's where they'll make you the most money.

SHORTCUT'N' STEVES

IDENTIFIERS: Shortcut'n' Steves (SCSs) may initially produce the greatest amount of work, but often give you the highest number of comebacks because they cut too many corners like skipping inspection points and adjustments.

BOTTOM LINE: When SCSs cause more than one comeback per month, there's a problem. When they skip inspections and adjustments, they break the customer promise and open the shop to greater liability.

WHAT TO DO: First off, have SCSs fix their comebacks on their own time so they feel that pain. Next, have SCSs initial all inspection and adjustment checkpoints on your ROs and inspection forms so they assume additional liability. Third, check their work before delivering the vehicle to the customer. Fourth, if the shortcutting continues, set boundaries in writing with the expectation that deficiencies will be corrected within 30 days.

ORNERY ORVISES

IDENTIFIERS: Ornery Orvises (OOs) swear loudly, slam their tools and throw parts around when they're frustrated (contrary to some opinions, this is not normal technician behavior). Sometimes they even damage customer property. When aggravated, they're very antisocial — to both co-workers and customers.

BOTTOM LINE: OOs scare your customers away, often making them worry about the quality of work being performed and whether they'll damage their "baby." OOs infect other techs and cost the store money in reduced service department productivity. They can ruin your store's reputation.

WHAT TO DO: If you like the work that an OO does, try isolating him from the other techs and customers so his ranting isn't heard or seen. Charge OOs for any property damage they cause and set expectations in writing for appropriate behavior. You can also try a penalty jar for the whole department if others emulate similar OO behaviors. Give OOs 30 days to get their professional act together, and if you can't get the bug out of their ass, consider terminating them. They cost you too much money.

ENTRY-LEVEL EDDIES

IDENTIFIERS: An Entry-Level Eddie (ELE) may be a technical school graduate or an off-the-street hire. They typically own a small tool set, so they have to borrow hand tools from others (not good). They don't understand your store's policies and procedures because they're new to them. They're inefficient, often taking two to three times the normal time to complete a job, and they make illogical mistakes when troubleshooting due to their lack of experience.

BOTTOM LINE: You won't know for about six months the true talents and value of your ELEs. They'll probably cost the shop money for a while, and you'll be lucky if they break even by 90 days. But every shop needs new recruits, and when you get a good one, it's a boon to business because he typically has a great sense of enthusiasm that affects others in a positive way.

WHAT TO DO: First off, hire right. Attitude is No. 1, so look for ELEs with the desire to do whatever it takes to learn their job, do it right and take responsibility for their actions. Create a 90-day entry-level routine that starts slow and builds in complexity. For example, during the first 30 days assign only PDIs, 2,500-mile services (oil change plus inspections) and tire changes. For the next 30 days, add 5K services and accessory installations. After 60 days, assign 10K services and light troubleshooting. Connect ELEs to a mentor technician so they have a go-to person for assistance. The mentor is responsible for ELEs' work and should be a good role model. Review an ELE's performance every 30 days and set the expectation that they need to add to their tool set and reduce borrowing tools from other techs.

NEGATIVE NEDS

IDENTIFIERS: Negative Neds (NNs) shoot down just about any new idea that changes the status quo. They complain more than most about store policies and procedures, co-workers and customers. They're not team players and often resist helping out when everyone else is participating.

BOTTOM LINE: All the complaining reduces the work that NNs complete. Their complaints and lack of team spirit make co-workers negative, which reduces their productivity. If NNs talk to customers, problems escalate because they undermine the customers' confidence in the products you sell and the services you provide.

WHAT TO DO: Everyone deserves a second chance, so first meet with your NNs to determine the underlying problem and hopefully correct it. Consider transferring NNs to a different job position so they can concentrate more on learning new tasks and less on store politics or co-workers they're at odds with. Set clear expectations and give NNs 30 days to correct their behavior. If you can't turn NNs around for the better, then consider letting them go. They're a drag on your business.

I've only covered five personality types so far, with more to come in future columns. For now, let me leave you with these thoughts: 1) Manage with the carrot instead of the stick, and you'll generally get a lot more for your efforts. 2) Remember to document everything discussed with employees; have them sign the document and put it in their personnel file. 3) If you have a human resources person, get specific directions on how to No. 2 — you don't want to be sued for wrongful termination if a problem is resolved by firing someone. Lastly, realize the economic condition we're currently in forces us to run lean. That means every employee has a greater responsibility to the health of the organization. Slackers need not apply.