Train to be the Best!

In the latest of our series, thanks to legendary service adviser trainer, Lloyd Schiller, of and Brooke Samples of Profit Blueprints, Brooke discusses the importance of ongoing training.

If you got a cool new toy, like a drone, and you had never used one, you were probably dependent on reading the manual to get started. (Just kidding, no one reads the manual.) And you wouldn’t ask Tom to make a cheesecake without providing the ingredients or telling him what kind of cheesecake you wanted, would you?

It would make it easier and faster for you if you had someone show you how to use your new drone or if Tom had step-by-step directions (a recipe) to make a cheesecake. Similar scenarios play out at dealerships daily when managers ask employees (new or experienced) to do something without providing enough training or refresher training.

If the goal is to have a high-performing workforce, we need to be in a continuous, consistent training mode to develop employees’ skills. While reviewing Profit Blueprints analysis for the past 12 months, I noticed some departments spend nothing on training, while others well exceeded the target percentage. What I couldn’t confirm for many dealerships was a direct correlation between training (or not) and the net profit.

I hope that when you invest in training your staff, you are able to measure its impact. An additional measurement, besides increased net profit or better CSI scores, is the employee turnover rate. If you’ve invested in training, your employees the turnover rate should be reduced from the previous year.

Use your income statements for this exercise. You can also do this by department. Determine how many employees you issued income statements who are no longer employed. Determine the average number of employees for 2020/21 (add the number of employees at the beginning of the year to the number of employees at the end of the year, divide by two). Take the number of employees who left and divide it by the average number of employees for the year. Multiply that by 100 to get your percentage of employee turnover. Example: 40 employees are no longer at the dealership. The average number of employees during the year was 80. (40/80) x 100 = 50% turnover rate.

You know you’ll invest time in training new employees as they learn about your company, your policies and procedures, and their roles and responsibilities. But don’t forget about your existing employees – refreshers on how to best perform their jobs and to learn new skills to aid them in their career growth. Receiving continuous education also means they’re always on top of industry developments.

Make sure you review with employees what they learned. A 2015 study for the Harvard Business School found that “participants who were asked to stop and reflect on a task they’d just performed improved at greater rates than participants who just practiced a task.” Reflecting on what employees have learned and how it benefits them (and the dealership) helps you polish your training program.

Use the following techniques for your in-house training or to supplement to third-party training:

Use two videos with a “before” and an “after” scenario. Create a video of the wrong way to do something, such as a Service Advisor writing up a new Service Customer. Ask folks from Accounting or the Sales department to be the actors. During a Service meeting or training session, play the video and ask the attendees to critique the performance – what could the fake Advisor have done better? Make a list of the ideas for improvement, augment them if needed.

Later use a Service Advisor to create a new video on the proper way to greet the Customer and write-up two repair orders – one Customer with an appointment and one without an appointment.

You can use these videos for one-on-one training for new Advisors. Use videos for training Technicians on performing a Multi-point Inspection or for a Salesperson highlighting features of specific vehicles or to learn how to use those features.

Let them teach themselves. Self-teaching is not a substitute for more formal training, but it works to supplement a skill set or knowledge base.

There are many things your employees can learn best on their own like the benefits of regular vehicle maintenance items or for Salespeople to learn the difference between your vehicles and the competition’s vehicles.

Encourage employees to use materials at the dealership (service menus, factory information), to search the internet for the answers, or to speak with other employees.

The advantages of self-learning include the “student” may gain a broader view of the topic versus what you have ready to teach. This knowledge will stick with the employee longer; it teaches self-discipline and responsibility.

Set time frames for the employee to learn. When they finish, have them share with you, or with the other employees, what they’ve learned.

Use stories to help employees to remember. Storytelling is a strategic learning tool that conveys action – not static information. For example, you could tell Technicians and Service Advisors the importance of completing thorough Multi-point Inspections and reporting ALL of the findings to the Customers or you could tell the story of the New Jersey dealership that paid out a $5,000,000 lawsuit settlement. All because its employees were lax in doing their job, plus the lawsuit exposed that the dealership was making fraudulent claims about how the dealership inspected Customer’s vehicles.

Here’s how this came to light:

A tyre blew out on a Customer’s vehicle and the vehicle rolled over. According to court documents, that happened three days after the Customer visited the dealership for a pre-vacation inspection and services. The Advisor failed to notify the Customer about the Technician’s concerns about a serious problem with the rear tyre, along with the prior service records and Inspection reports that showed problems with tread depth and wear patterns. I bet they’ll remember that.

Encourage employees to share stories during staff training meetings on how they’ve applied the knowledge they’ve gained. As part of ongoing training, stay alert for stories that reinforce skills or knowledge and write the stories down to share when needed.

Incorporate a variety of training methods to give your employees the skills they need for their success. Richard Branson, Virgin Group founder, sums it up: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”