As I listened to Gus Hoelscher talk a few weeks back at a small gathering of fixed ops professionals in Orlando, I was reminded of Carlisle & Co.'s recent Automotive Service Manager Survey.
It asked service managers from North America to share their strategies for retaining technicians and service advisers. And while compensation was a big part, it was not the only thing that mattered.
In fact, the managers shared how factors such as benefits, career development and workplace environment also were important.
Which brings me back to Hoelscher, the innovative service director at Austin Subaru in Texas. We wrote about the financial literacy classes he helped organize for the service staff in the February issue of Fixed Ops Journal.
He shared with the group in May that he was running a contest for his service advisers based on who scored highest in customer satisfaction. One winner per quarter would receive complimentary maid service once a month for three months.
Hoelscher is not alone in thinking outside the box to keep employees happy, engaged and motivated, as the Carlisle survey showed.
Service managers said they treat workers to steak lunches for hitting production goals, hold work anniversary celebrations, pay tenure and retention bonuses, or allow technicians to work on personal cars after hours, offering parts at a discount.
Several also told Carlisle that benefits such as a 401(k) match, insurance packages and no-interest loans for tools has been successful in keeping technicians happy. Others found providing no-cost training and outlining a career progression track also has worked.
"By supporting technicians and encouraging them to grow within their role, service managers see greater job satisfaction and retention rates in their staff," Carlisle wrote.
For advisers, service managers said they try to create a positive and efficient workplace by empowering them to make decisions and including them in bigger organizational discussions. They also try to keep advisers' responsibilities to a minimum so they can focus on serving customers; remove obstacles and "busywork"; and defend them from customer attacks.
One service manager commented that they get to know their workers personally. "So I either know something is wrong before it gets bad, or they feel comfortable enough to tell me," the comment read. "I make sure to communicate how happy I am with them when they are doing their best and have frank discussions with them when they are not."
The retention issues for technicians and advisers are similar — better compensation, for starters. But that's not the whole story.
Technicians want a healthy working environment and clear career path. They'd also like manufacturers to reconsider warranty labor times.
Advisers want continued training and a healthy work-life balance to offset the hours they put in and the stress of being on the front lines with angry customers.
In short, both groups want a place they're happy to come to every day.