Training for Success
By Tom Nash
Automotive technologies may change, but the crucial need to keep your technicians up-to-date with the latest training is a constant factor in the long-term success of your shop.
The importance of continued training cannot be overstressed. Failure to keep your technicians trained in the latest technologies will only lead to financial disaster. The loss of work your shop is unprepared to perform, the loss of potential growth, the loss of technicians seeking to improve their skills and earning potential, and the loss of your customer base will all add to the downward spiral of failure. The ill will and liability that results from an incomplete or improper repair job, because the technician was not properly trained, is not worth the risk.
It's a Win-Win Situation
Staying on top of the latest technologies and methods will result in positive results for everyone involved. The value to the shop will be an improved number of vehicles repaired correctly the first time. That equates to a more profitable bottom line and a higher level of customer satisfaction.
The high level of skills and the fact that your techs are constantly updating their skill level can also be used in your advertising efforts. Customers consider this a sign of quality so be sure to point it out whenever and however you promote your business. Make the fact that your technicians are highly trained a selling point, along with any honors your shop has received, ASE and state certifications and any specialties you offer (A/C, transmissions, emissions, etc.).
Having greater skills and knowledge on a wider range of automotive services will extend your opportunities for business. The fewer vehicles you turn away because you are not able to repair them, the greater the overall customer retention level.
Recently, a neighbor asked me to recommend a local quality automotive service facility. I suggested a very good local independent shop. Shortly thereafter, the man purchased a used Cummins diesel-powered Dodge Ram. He wanted to have the truck inspected and serviced as needed and took it to the facility I had recommended. When he drove the truck in, he was abruptly told by the service adviser, "We don't work on diesels." Disappointed, he left and took his truck to a local Dodge dealer. He then wrongly assumed that all independent aftermarket shops aren't capable of repairing his truck.
What the service adviser at the local independent shop failed to recognize is that his shop could have serviced the non-diesel systems of the truck, established a relationship with a new customer and recommended a diesel service facility. By turning the customer away, he created a negative experience. Furthermore, he turned away the possibility of servicing the three other vehicles my neighbor owns!
The point here is: try to be trained and prepared to service every vehicle that comes into your shop, or at least give the customer a positive experience by recommending a local facility that can service their vehicle. Don't forget to ask the customer to come back to your shop if you can be of any other service.
Good for Technicians
chnicians certainly benefit from improved and advanced training. Not only do they upgrade their skills, improve their techniques and expand their knowledge, they also feel a sense of satisfaction and pride. All other things being equal, most techs show loyalty to a shop where they know they will be trained, recognized for their skills and respected.
Advanced training will help prepare your technicians to service new vehicles. Don't wait too long to become skilled in the new technologies they have on board though.
Don't forget your service advisers. They need upgrade training too. Service advisers need to be trained to recognize vehicles with new technologies and the unique components and systems aboard.
Value to Customers
Customers also benefit from a high skill level of trained techs in your shop. Rapid turnover times - a direct result of top-notch training - produce high degrees of customer satisfaction. Happy customers will have confidence in your shop and won't hesitate to recommend your services to their friends.
Nothing's Better Than Customer Satisfaction
I recently had a positive service experience. I took my vehicle to a repair facility for four different problems - expecting to have to leave it for a couple of days. The shop repaired all four problems in three hours. Beyond the fact that the service advisers were friendly, the waiting area was pleasant - they even washed my vehicle - and the mere speediness of the service impressed me. The key to the rapid repair, I was told, was a technician trained to work on my vehicle and familiar with the technologies needed to service it. Was I a satisfied customer? Yes, I was. Will I go back there for service? Yes, I will. Will I recommend the facility to others? Yes, again. Measuring the facility against the shop I had been using up to that point, I decided that I had now found a new service facility that I was happy to use, confident that the shop can handle my vehicles, and I hope to further the relationship.
Start Planning Now
If you haven't made training a key part of your business plan, start now. Dedicate a part of your annual budget to training. Identify who needs training and in which areas of expertise, then follow through with a training program.
Develop a plan to improve the knowledge and skills on vehicles you normally service and those you wish to add to your service program. For example, if you normally restrict your service to domestic passenger cars and light trucks, develop a plan to locate training programs to educate your technicians about the latest systems, components and technologies from those manufacturers. If you specialize in Asian vehicles, find training programs that will increase your expertise in that area. If you are an air conditioning or transmission facility, extend your knowledge of newer vehicles and technologies.
Since 1999, CARQUEST Technical Institute has delivered more than 2 million hours of training to nearly 40,000 technicians.
Next, look for opportunities to build an extended customer base by adding training for newer technologies you don't currently service. Among the technologies that have been around for a few years - and have been avoided by many independent service facilities - are stability and control systems, passenger car and light truck diesel engines, constantly variable transmissions, and hybrid drive systems.
Information on these systems is available from your service information provider or on the vehicle manufacturers' Web sites, listed on the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF) Web site at www.nastf.org or accessible through a link on ASA's Web site, www.ASA shop.org. Most often, training manuals and materials are also available.
There are many automotive technology trainers and training programs available. For the sake of brevity, we will touch on only a few in this article.
CARQUEST Technical Institute offers many instructor-led and self-paced courses on subjects such as diesel, advanced diagnostics, generic hybrid service and others. Information and details are available at www.ctitraining.org.
Much has been written about servicing hybrids in the pages of AutoInc., but have you given serious thought to offering service for Honda and Toyota hybrids? Most of the hybrid vehicles' systems are the same as you would find on a standard vehicle, but the high-voltage electrical motor drive systems tend to scare off most shops because they are not educated about or trained on such systems.
Craig Van Batenburg, a longtime member of ASA and an Automotive Management Institute (AMI) instructor, offers classes in hybrid technology. Van Batenburg's Automotive Career Development Center (ACDC) holds classes around the country for interested shops and groups. For further information, contact ACDC at (800) 939-7909 or online at www.auto careers.org.
Vince Fischelli's Veejer Enterprises offers technical training on a variety of topics related to electricial systems.
Training from ASA
ASA understands the need for quality training and offers a number of training and educational opportunities. Among the offerings are the highly popular technical classes presented at the Congress of Automotive Repair and Service (CARS) held each November in Las Vegas, in conjunction with Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week.
A presenter at the 205 Congress of Automotive Repair and service (CARS) event shares information that keeps technicians updated on the most current technologies affecting the cars they service.
While it may not be feasible to take your entire staff of technicians to CARS to attend the technical sessions presented there, the highly regarded experts who do the presentations are usually available to hold courses for your shop and other local ASA shops. Contact information for CARS technical session presenters is available from ASA.
In addition to CARS, ASA sponsors the International Autobody Congress and Exposition (NACE) for collision repair professionals. NACE offers a multitude of courses geared specifically for the collision industry.
The national office of ASA, its affiliates and chapters routinely set up training programs for the benefit of their members. If you're in an affiliated area, contact your affiliate for training opportunities. Links to ASA Affiliate Web sites can be found on the ASA Web site at www.ASAshop.org.
A new training initiative was launched by ASA earlier this year. Keep Educating Yourself and Staff (KEYS) offers a series of regional training events, taught by the nation's leading instructors, to deliver quality management education and technical training to automotive service professionals. KEYS events will consist of weekend sessions beginning on Friday afternoons and concluding midday Sunday.
"Today, shop owners and their employees are constantly challenged to succeed in an ever-changing business environment and to stay current with the advancements of automotive technology," said Bill Haas, ASA's vice president of education and training. "The delivery of management education and technical training through the KEYS program affords automotive professionals more opportunities to further their education. KEYS offers automotive professionals solutions to the many challenges they face each day. The KEYS program further emphasizes ASA's commitment to industry education and training."
In 2007, KEYS events are currently scheduled in San Jose, Calif., and Ontario, Calif. For the latest information about KEYS events, visit www.ASAshop.org/KEYS.
The Proper Tools, Equipment
All the best training is useless without the proper equipment and the correct repair information to use along with the newly acquired skills. Seek out the best, most suitable equipment for the type of service you plan to perform. Consider diagnostic equipment with expandable platforms, which allow for upgrading and adding software in the future. When setting your budget, allow for new equipment, tools and service information to complement and facilitate the enhanced training.
Expect Good Results
Be positive and optimistic about the results of advanced and upgraded training levels of the technicians in your shop; but remember that it will take time to show a profit on your bottom line. It will take a commitment of time, effort and money. In the end, the return on your investment can be positive and profitable.
| Tom Nash, AAM, a veteran automotive industry writer, is a freelancer whose firm, Blue Car Media, is in Sterling Heights, Mich. He is a 2005 graduate of the Automotive Management Institute, from which he received
his Accredited Automotive Manager designation. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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