good news? It’s easy to solve.)
There’s a lot of talk in our industry about the biggest threats
coming to automotive. While many believe it’s disruptors like EV or selling
methods vs traditional methods, I’d like to think it’s simpler than that, and it
begins within our teams.
What is the biggest threat I see to our overall success as an industry? Micromanagement.
If you speak with half of the dealership teams out there today, they will tell you the biggest problem is they don't feel empowered to solve problems. So how can we flip this script and begin making our team members, and in exchange, our customers happier and more profitable overall? Following are a few ideas.
the Right People
Step one is not hiring quickly but instead hiring correctly. Your goal when hiring is to look for someone who fits the job description but also will be able to take the position and run with it. Hire people with the potential to exceed in it. I think we have a lot of people who are used to being over-managed. They think that if we are not giving constant feedback, it means they are not doing a good job.
To these people, I say, "I hired you. And I'm paying you what I am because I believe you can do this job. I'm empowering you to go and do whatever it is you need to do to do your job."
The key here is empowering your staff to make their own decisions. What does this look like? Mini business owners in their realm of responsibilities. For our warehouse staff, it can be as simple as removing a leaking case from the pallet. Don't let FedEx pick it up. Don't let the trucking company pick it up. Pull it out and redo it.
a Budget Limit for Problem-Solving
You have to trust the people you're hiring and give them the ability to fix things without coming to you. With today's process in most service departments, the consumer goes to the advisor for an issue; the service advisor has to go to the technician and then get it solved by going to the service manager. This process is inefficient at best and a surefire way to irritate your customers.
How do you solve this? Set a problem-solving budget. In my company, if something is within a $200 fix to make the customer happy, I tell my team to
move forward to make it right. We have to give our service advisors the power to discount and resolve problems even at a cost, when needed, within the problem-solving budget to make our customers happy.
It's time to disrupt the loop of service managers making all of the decisions. Imagine the progress if a store told their customers, "Don't worry, I can solve that for you now, today," here on the spot (instead of saying, I'll have to get with my manager)? If you can fix this issue under the budget limit and think it's the right thing to do, do it. Empower employees while making the customers have a great experience.
We can’t keep losing the ability to create lifelong customers over
a $200 fix.
the Culture to Embrace Empowerment
If you are starting this shift after the old way of doing things, you will have many hesitant employees at first. The message must be top-down, and we must make room for mistakes. The mindset needs to change from "If I do this wrong, I'll be fired" to "If I make a mistake, I will learn from it and move on."
I recently spoke with the owner of a big dealer group, and
he remembered starting in automotive, knowing that he was “only good
for the next 30 days.” This mentality is damaging and teaches your team to fear
A culture of openness and the ability to make a mistake won't happen overnight. Service managers open to this change will need to explain the new parameters for problem-solving and consistently remind their team that each individual is empowered to make the customer happy. The message must be, "We're teaching you how to handle these things so that you can do it without me."
When you change to this mindset, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish within your team. Your staff members will begin to feel like they are part of the decision. And that leads to them feeling like a part of the family and looking out for the overall good of the dealership. As a result, you'll see staff happiness increase and CSI scores go up. And these things will eventually lead to greater overall profits month after month. If there is one thing you can do to collectively uplift employee morale, increase customer satisfaction, and retain and bring in new techs and service advisors, it is to stop micromanaging and start empowering these valued team members.
the CEO of Petra Automotive Products, the fastest-growing premium automotive products
manufacturer in the world, delivering Petra branded products to 37 countries