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4 min read service | blog post

Turning Fixed Ops Leaders into Change Champions

By Amanda Pliskow  | Dec 9, 2020

More so than location or its products, your dealership is defined by your people. In every department, it's the employees who define the customer experience and determine whether people will return.

When focusing on improvement in fixed operations processes, you have to make sure your team is on the same page and committed to the goals of the strategy. Getting your leaders on board with changing practices is the best way to ensure new concepts last past their initial introduction.

It's also important you have buy-in at all levels of management. While the strategy and direction come from senior management, supervisors and managers must be your day-to-day champions to encourage participation from employees and help them to see the ultimate benefit of the changes. In the end, committing to change and improvement is a matter of company culture, and culture is powered by leaders.

A matter of culture

Employees tend to react to changes to their everyday practices by looking to the people directly above them on the organizational chart. The Society for Human Resource Management added that when there are inconsistent or disorderly messages coming from various levels of the company, transformation may fail to take root. Consistency makes employees feel they can trust their employers and makes them more willing to put in maximum effort. These are especially important values when you are in the midst of an improvement strategy.

Supervisors are also the ones responsible for speaking directly with their team members about growth and personal goals. Tying these directly to metrics related to change efforts will enable supervisors to continue reinforcing the direction and the importance of supporting change within the department to their employees. 

It’s clear that managers must be fully committed to making change last, but in order to fulfill this role, they also need to receive special attention. Briefing and instructing these supervisors on the priorities for their departments, as well as getting their buy-in on overall goals, is the primary way to ensure the organization stays on course. If you choose to consult with outside professional support in your fixed operations advancement strategies, managers must be part of these engagements so they can absorb the key messages and directives and carry out the change in the long-term. 

A safeguard against turnover

No plan is infallible, but if you’re prepared for the risks and challenges that will inevitably arise, you can stay ahead of them. In the automotive industry, including fixed operations, those risks are disengagement and turnover. Recruiting, hiring and training new employees on a regular basis can dampen productivity, and retaining quality technicians and service advisors is notoriously challenging in a competitive industry. Again, your supervisors and managers will play a huge role in minimizing these risks to help ensure your teams stay on board through change.

Automotive News recently highlighted some Cox Automotive findings that state half of service department workers are feeling disengaged from their work. It’s no surprise, then, that NADA discovered that service advisors' turnover rate is nearly 50% annually. It’s no wonder why fixed operations departments may have trouble implementing new goals and best practices. With staffing in constant flux, creating impactful change may simply never become a priority.

Good leadership can make a key difference here. When leaders are clear and open with employees, acting as good communicators and motivators, they are your dealership's best defense against high turnover rates. Times of change can be especially troubling for everyday employees if they don't understand the reasons for the programs or their part in them. Managers who can provide essential reassurances can guide them through the process.

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An opportunity for improvement

After stressing the importance of leadership input to the overall performance of a service department transformation effort, it's worth asking what types of everyday changes these managers will be overseeing.

While every dealership is different, there are a few near-universal constants leaders can focus on to drive better results. For example, efficiency is always welcome, and it's going to be up to departmental supervisors to guide their team members to better practices that will increase their individual productivity.

The data illustrates the importance of efficiency: Cox Automotive's fixed operations research revealed that 62% of franchise dealerships are working on efficiency improvements and that 30% of customer frustration comes from waiting too long.

Comparing personal productivity to benchmarks is the most focused and effective way to take on the process of efficiency improvement. Determining the amount of actual profit generated by each person, then setting out incremental goals is a way to boost departmental revenue as a whole. It's easy to see how such a strategy would not be possible without the close, hands-on attention that comes from supervisor buy-in.

Giving the team goals on a daily level is another valuable part of improvement. When managers are keeping a close enough eye on the numbers to compare each day's productive hours to averages, industry benchmarks and tailored goals, they have the chance to drive constant improvement. Of course, this focus on incremental progress calls for close supervision by service department stakeholders.

A top priority during transformation

When it's time to initiate organizational change at your dealership, including the managers must always be a top priority. When you explain the objectives and specifics of the plan to service department supervisors, they can take it from there, monitoring employees day to day while being empathetic and supportive to keep disengagement and turnover from taking hold.

With the right combination of professional development and collaboration, your service department leaders are your essential allies in creating a culture that is focused on service, driven by key metrics and capable of safeguarding your fixed operations profits for years to come.

Truly impactful service department change doesn't end. Instead, the goals and metrics implemented during the initial process act as useful guides for continuous improvement. Having a strong core group of service department supervisors and instructing them on the finer points of the new strategy can keep such a program running, and ensure your performance initiatives are moving in the right direction.

Reach out to JM&A Group to determine how we can help your service leaders reach their true potential.

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