Test for behavioral aptitude in your service department

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Employees need training to get them up to speed. If neglected, an employee’s job performance will degrade. In a worst-case scenario they’ll crash — and burn the business in the process.

But employees also need support after their initial training to maintain your desired results. This is especially true when it comes to behavioral skills such as customer service and sales.

Changing behaviors is much more difficult to accomplish than teaching a procedure such as mounting a tire. With behavioral training you’re not teaching them a new technique, you’re asking them to change who they are. Difficult, yes, but it is achievable. I’ve seen a number of dealerships accomplish behavioral change on a business-wide scale.

It’s easier when a manufacturer provides comprehensive training and support. In that regard, one of the best examples I’ve witnessed is in the training and support that Harley-Davidson provides the dealer network’s service departments. A shining example is the Service Consultant Selling Techniques (SCST) program. This two-day Harley-Davidson University (HDU) program has been the most successful course of its kind to 1) change employee behaviors and 2) achieve increased sales and enhanced customer service.

Chris Tribbey, manager of service marketing and retail capabilities at The Motor Co., was the driving force to get the selling program up and running (yours truly created the class and cross-trained three other trainers to co-facilitate it). Tribbey has experience in the dealer and manufacturer ends of the business and was well aware that Harley-Davidson service consultants, as a group, do a good job of identifying motorcycle needs. Pointing out customer desires needed some improvement. So Tribbey set out to develop training and follow-up support to maintain the momentum. The SCST class was designed to be an onsite program that could be held at Harley dealerships across the country to reduce dealer expenses and encourage more dealers to participate.

In the 2010-2011 training season, there were 23 SCST classes in the U.S., teaching more than 350 service consultants working at 238 dealerships. Tribbey realized several goals:

• Make Harley owners significantly aware of the thousands of Genuine Motor Accessories that can customize their motorcycle for fit, function, style and performance
• Get service consultants to routinely engage customers on a personal level and identify wants and needs that can enhance upsell opportunities
• Develop service consultants’ reputation as experts in maintenance and enhancement
• Increase service parts and labor sales
• Educate customers so they know what differentiates Harley-authorized service from that of the standalone independent shop
Addressing the last goal, Tribbey developed a marketing program called More Than an Oil Change. He and his team created posters, inspection sheets and other support materials to educate Harley owners about the complex and critical elements of routine services, starting with the 1,000-mile first service, all the way up to the 20,000-mile comprehensive service. Most Harley dealers now use these materials to communicate this message. Service managers can download the materials from the Harley-Davidson Dealer Marketing Engine website (exclusive to authorized dealers).

Results have been incredible, with some dealers increasing return customer traffic in double-digit percentages.

CAN THE METRICS COMPETE?
The Motor Co. also employs roughly 40 service operations area representatives who visit dealerships routinely, as often as once per month. They assist dealer service and parts personnel in the daily operation and growth of their departments. Most of these specialists have personally completed the SCST class, which enables them to engage graduates in follow-up training to keep their skills fresh.

The SCST course is just one of about a half-dozen onsite, service-oriented sales and management classes that HDU offers to its U.S. dealers. Additionally, dealership employees are engaged in completing dozens of HDU online training programs that cover topics from product and process information to diagnostics to customer service skills. The HDU recognition system motivates individuals to pursue their education.

In contrast, I feel compelled to tell you about the recent conversation I had with a service manager at a multiline metric dealership. He told me he has not seen a manufacturer service rep in more than a year, and that he felt metric service training and support pales in comparison to that of Harley-Davidson.

Now, I don’t want to make waves here, but one thing I know; dealership personnel need continuous education, follow-on support, encouragement and reward to keep them from falling down on the job. Like with spinning plates, if one falls, it’s no big deal. But, when the group is left unattended, the masses will wobble, crash and burn. That’s when business goes into crisis mode.

Individuals who interact with customers are our industry’s most valuable asset. Train them continuously, support them consistently and reward them appropriately. If we do that, we’ll get a standing ovation — from our employees and our customers.

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews July 2011 issue.