TO THE EDITOR:
There is one criterion to be a great dealership that may remain elusive for even the Best Dealerships To Work For (Sept. 23): What are they doing about staff diversification and attracting women to the workplace? Information about recruiting, rewards and incentives, training and commissions is certainly valid, but one of the critical flaws in today's dealership work force structure is the failure to recruit and retain a diverse customer-facing staff that matches the customer base they serve. Many dealers say they can't recruit and retain the women needed, but the truth is that they are fearful to change their male-centered model.
Women generally make up 40 to 50 percent of a dealer's customers (some say two-thirds of service customers), and yet few dealerships have ratios of women above 20 percent to serve them. And I'm not speaking about support positions, which in most cases come with little power to do anything other than facilitate processes that have existed for decades.
The first step to restructuring staffs to match the reality of today's customer should be to focus on hiring and retaining more women. That first step is a tough one, but it will prompt a series of behavioral changes needed to restructure a culture steeped in "one size fits all."
ROGER CONANT, Houston, The writer is a retention specialist for a large dealership group and has worked 20-plus years in auto retail.