Carter Myers Automotive is hiring more female service advisers across its 13 dealerships by prioritizing candidates' potential over their experience.
At the Charlottesville, Va., dealership group, 18 of 40 service advisers — 45 percent — are women. That puts the retailer well beyond its peers. In 2016, women filled 19 percent of service adviser positions, according to the 2017 NADA Dealership Workforce Study.
Dealership group managers, all the way up to CEO Liza Borches, have made a concerted effort to encourage women with the skill set and aptitude to be a service adviser to apply for the jobs even though they have no technical experience in a shop. Candidates typically come from positions traditionally occupied by women at dealerships — billing clerk or other back-office roles, Borches said.
The increase in female advisers has paid dividends for the retailer — in terms of customer outreach and bottom-line profits, she said.
"By encouraging more women to apply for positions in the auto industry, Carter Myers Automotive is more likely to cater and identify with them as their customers," said Borches.
And as the number of female advisers grew during the past three to four years, the dealership group has increased customer-paid labor sales and hours per repair order.
"We have seen consistent growth in all of our service departments, and our service advisers definitely have played a large role in that growth," said Borches. "We have seen our customer retention continue to increase as well. Whether it is related to a more diverse group of advisers would be a subjective assumption, but we know that the stronger the relationship and the more trust that our advisers have with our customers, it will help increase customer loyalty, retention, and ultimately, sales."
Across its dealerships, 25 percent of the Carter Myers work force is female. That's six percentage points higher than the rate of women working in dealerships in 2016, according to the 2017 NADA Dealership Workforce Study.
To add female advisers, Borches said her team observes how women interact with customers in their current roles. If they build solid customer relationships through trust, good communication and organization, they are encouraged to apply to be service advisers.
The group also began creating social media "spotlights" to highlight female advisers at its stores and promote the opportunity to other potential candidates. On Colonial Honda's Facebook page, for example, employees are recognized on their employment anniversary, which reinforces the South Chesterfield, Va., dealership's credibility as a sustainable employer.
Borches also tries to ensure that a female employee participates in interviews for female candidates. Having a woman present during the interview introduces those applicants to someone with whom they can identify.
"Empowering women in the auto industry means taking the time to connect with more women in a way that gives them the confidence to feel as equally qualified," said Borches. "A lot of women shy away from pursuing a career in automotive because they think they don't have the technical or educational skills to succeed. But what they need to realize is that we can teach them the technical parts."
Naomi Bussinger, an adviser at Colonial Honda, said she was initially intimated by a service department job, but a conversation with the service manager, Karl Soloe, persuaded her to give it a try.
"Hearing a male in the auto industry express the value that women add to the industry was empowering," said Bussinger, who was hired in January.
"His leadership mentality reassured me that this is a company that encourages a women-friendly environment and equal opportunities for everyone."
During Bussinger's interview, dealership managers expressed their respect for women working in auto retailing and told her that they continually look for ways to educate employees so that they can excel. She immediately felt comfortable and that she would be part of a women-friendly environment. While company employees share a vision of creating a powerful and collaborative environment, she particularly credits the chief executive herself.
"This entire experience has been life-altering for me," said Bussinger. "Liza embodies not only a successful business but a close mentor whose best interests are to provide women with a successful career in automotive."