By Allen Markowitz and Allan Gerber
Technology — it is all around us. We read about it every day and spend untold thousands on it, but even with all of our knowledge and best efforts, we are missing an important mark. We are not providing enough training for our industry’s greatest assets — counter professionals.
Yes, we invest in upgrades to our computer systems; we now have connectivity to our customers via the Web or manufacturers links. The Internet is playing a larger role in parts sales. There are numerous apps and texting to keep in touch, but we are overlooking the necessary human factor, which is still a key component in our everyday business. None of this actually replaces a well-trained counter professional.
While we make huge efforts to train our technician customers on today’s modern automotive systems, there is very little training going on within our own organizations — especially for the counter professional. Do not underestimate how important a well-trained counter professional is to the bottom line.
I will admit this is somewhat of a new concept. We never needed formal training for the counter professional — they learned the business from a mentor and usually were ready when the customers accepted them or asked for them by name. But times have changed.
There were no cell phone distractions. People were more polite and most actually cared about what they were doing.
I recently gave a presentation to a national group of jobber marketing managers and heard over and over, “Our counterpros could use some training.” We also recently met with several large jobbers on just this very topic. Their concerns were that many of today’s counter professionals lack phone skills, sometimes common courtesy, and the understanding that they are there to make a sale — not just to give a price. One owner actually said some counter professionals simply do not care.
Understand that in no way does this diminish the incredible knowledge, value and professionalism that many of today’s counter professionals exhibit daily.
We are not simply looking at a counter professional’s knowledge. Today, with all of the mergers and acquisitions going on, there seems to be a culture disconnect. We see jobbers with good solid cultures acquiring stores where there was either a lack of discipline or this training simply did not exist. We see multi-location operations where the phones are answered differently, the methods of asking for the sale have not been instilled or a new larger company culture has not been explored.
In meetings with several multi-store jobbers recently, they expressed exactly these issues. Each one was looking for a better method of counter professional training. They took the huge first step in realizing that this problem does exist and that something has to be done about it.
Like anything else that requires an ongoing effort, this takes time and a commitment by management. When this training is correctly implemented, the jobber will have a template that can then be used for new hires over and over again. Undoubtedly, the end-results include a happier workplace, additional sales and an increased bottom line.
We precede this training with a mystery shopper program, which opens the eyes of management as to many of the areas that need to be addressed.
Albert Einstein has been quoted as saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” That may be true. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
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.