Raising the bar
Last year, Fairchild says, Honda conducted 350 parts and service training workshops. They lasted from one to three days. Senior Honda field managers asked for the certification program to ensure that the workshops would not be a waste of time, he says.
Honda will conduct the certification program by computer. Dealership parts managers and service managers will run a virtual department individually. The program will ask them to make decisions based on what they learned at the workshops. Then the two managers will operate a department together.
The managers also will be tested on such variables as business management, sales, inventory control, customer service and interpersonal skills. Honda will base the test grades on parts and service standards achieved by the top 20 percent of Honda and Acura dealers.
After they complete the certification program, parts and service managers will get a customized simulation exercise for their own dealerships.
"We call this active learning," Fairchild says. "It shows what you can do, not necessarily what your learned in the workshop. We hope that if they can do it in simulation, they can do it in the dealerships."
Unlike the workshops, the certification program is not mandatory. But Fairchild says Honda may offer incentives for participation. For example, the company could allow dealerships to advertise that their parts and service departments are certified.
"Peer pressure by itself may make people want to participate," he says.
Gaining certification could take as long as two years, Fairchild says. That period includes the mandatory workshops and the virtual dealership test.
The Honda program was developed by CraneMorley, a training company in Long Beach, Calif. It cost about $1 million.
Fairchild says Honda has not determined how long its parts and service managers will be certified, but that the designation could last for three to five years. Managers would have to be retested earlier, he says, if Honda introduces a new workshop or makes major changes to an existing one.
Honda will announce the certification program to dealers this fall.
You may e-mail Kathy Jackson at [email protected]