Article > Opinion

How Are You Training Your Counter People?


The importance of developing a systematic approach to training starts with greeting the customer, and ends with completing the sale.

By Allen Markowitz and Allan Gerber

Unfortunately, automotive terms leave a lot to be desired. While some are simple (4WD – four-wheel drive; A/C – air conditioning, A/T – automatic transmission), others are somewhat difficult (ELD – electronic load detector sensor, HEGO – heated exhaust gas oxygen sensor, RSS – road-sensing suspension). Training our counter people to always look for a footnote is a daunting task, especially when the list we took these few from had more than 1,100 entries!

The importance of developing a systematic approach to training starts with greeting the customer, and ends with completing the sale. Go back to basics, start your training program utilizing paper catalogs from your store’s library. Role-playing is an excellent method to introduce sales and customer retention techniques. You, the trainer be the customer, and see how the counterperson handles different situations. Once the counterperson has mastered the basics, then move the individual to electronic cataloging, then start the role-playing again.

A recent survey indicated that the new workforce is becoming just plain rude. Much of the modern technology in the workplace has caused a vast decline in basic manners. The last time you came across a person with a Bluetooth ear bud permanently attached to their ear, did you think that they were really busy of just plain crazy? Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

Did you know that even when we train effectively, many employees retain less than half of what they learned without the proper training reinforcement? It is crucial to implement a training reinforcement plan to challenge employees to apply what they have learned.

Here are a few examples of training reinforcement programs:

•Have employees carry out reinforcement activity daily and weekly. Ask them follow-up questions such as: What did you learn? How would you apply the content in a realistic scenario? Let them visualize themselves putting the newly learned content into action.

•Have the employee select a specific customer and context in which they will practice applying their training. Afterward, ask a few brief questions to get them to evaluate their execution and improvements. What do you feel worked well for you? What aspects do you think you could improve upon? How will you go about improving these aspects?

This method of employee coaching will assist your employee in developing their newly learned skills.

Another additional item in your counterman training program has to be ongoing product knowledge training.

Our industry mandates that we learn the form, fit and function of the products we sell. How can we and why would we sell a product we have not learned anything about? The value of product knowledge is invaluable.

It actually is very simple: we must learn as much as we can, as often as we can … because if we don’t, a competitor will and use this information to win over our customers.

Allen Markowitz and Allan Gerber operate Auto Biz Solutions, which provides training, marketing, management and business consulting services to both the automotive jobber and independent repair shop.
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