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To be a successful dealer these days, there’s no getting around the fact that you have to create an excellent shopping experience for the customer. Online user reviews and increased pricing transparency mean that customers can be choosy when they are deciding from which dealership to purchase their new vehicle.
There are many ways to create a welcoming environment in your dealership, but all the best practices in the world won’t do a lick of good if your front-line employees fail to execute them. Do your employees lack motivation and do only the bare minimum to get by? Are they disingenuous, rude or defensive to customers?
The fact is, if your employees don’t really care about you or whether your dealership is successful, they won’t really care about creating a good customer experience.
So what can be done? Well, first of all, don’t always blame your employees. The problem could possibly be with the work environment at your dealership. Now, most dealers who became successful in their own right are very self-motivated, and/or motivated by money. So they tend to think that other people should be like that. But let’s face it, most people aren’t like that, or they’d all be incredibly successful (and leaving you to start their own dealerships). Therefore, dealers are left with two choices:
1) Retain the status quo; i.e. constantly fire and hire new people (this gets old), or continue to complain about how it’s so hard to find good employees.
2) Create a workplace that will attract and retain the best employees.
Here are three tips on how you can create a great workplace:
1) Management Training. In most of the dealerships I have been in, people were promoted into manager’s positions that had little on no managerial experience. Typically the person who steps into the Sales Managers role was the person who was a good salesperson, could “work the deal” and knew how to close. All great qualities but these do not make him or her a great manager. (Question to ponder: How many great baseball players also became great managers?) All their management training was obtained by watching their former sales manager (and who knows what bad managerial traits that person had). They say “lead by example” but what if it was a bad example? All managers should go through some type of supervisory training in addition to training on coaching and reviewing employees.
2) Evaluate Pay Plans. In many dealerships the lack of professional management skills is compensated for by the creation of pay plans that are meant to be “self managing”. Typically dealership pay plans follow the pattern of “If you don’t sell something you don’t make any money, therefore I assume that you will work hard to sell something”. The typical sales manager or service manager may say “Why do I need to do a performance appraisal on a person when he knows he isn’t making any money so therefore he knows he isn’t performing?” Now I am not against “pay for performance” pay plans but in many cases you have young sales people who are thrown to the wolves, as it were, and based upon the typical pay plan, are making minimum wage. How long do you think you will keep that employee? In most organizations that have salespeople (defined as anyone selling a product or service i.e. read Service Writer, Parts Counter, Vehicle Sales) the salesperson compensation is typically based upon a salary (that is somewhat livable) and commission. To make big money you have to sell but if you fall short you are not wondering where your next meal is coming from. And if you fall short your manager is coaching you to better performance.
3) Make Your Employees Feel Valued. People want to feel part of something. Is your dealership engaged in local community events, like Little League or charities? Encouraging employees to participate in community events helps them to feel good about what they do. Also, little unexpected perks or rewards (or even a pat on the back!) for a job well done can go a long way in helping employees feel appreciated.
By the way the answer to the question of baseball managers is…hardly any. Being great at something does not typically transfer to being able to coach someone to greatness.
I’d love additional input from dealers and employees. What have you done to attract and retain top talent? What do you think makes a great workplace?