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December 2017
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Perception becomes reality!

More often than not perception becomes reality. If we look and feel successful we will be successful! Many years ago while doing some work for a farm equipment dealer I walked into his shop and service department. It was literally a pig pen! Several weeks ago while doing work for an equipment dealer, I noticed that one of his service vans parked in the lot was a disgrace on the outside, particularly in light of the fact that all other vans looked clean and professional. I opened the back door of the van and was not surprised to see that it looked like a garbage truck on the inside. Reality, as described by Webster is: “The quality or state of being actual or of being true” . . . Webster.

I mentioned to both the service manager and the dealer principal what I had seen and these were their comments: Joe is a “super” technician and we have talked to him on numerous occasions about the appearance of not only his van but his own appearance, to no avail. Well, the first reality is that Joe is not a “super” technician. I’ve discovered over the years that any technician that neglects the appearance of: a) his work-station or b) his service van, or c) his personal appearance is not a “super” technician, but rather a simple “wrench turner” with a low level of efficiency. The second reality is that Joe is holding the service manager and the dealer principal hostage. Both were afraid to take corrective action because, as they told me: “You don’t know how hard it is to find quality technicians in this area of the country!” The third reality is that Joe’s attitude of indifference, his low efficiency, is “dragging-down” the other 15 or 20 shop technicians. The others pick up quickly on what Joe is allowed to get away with and their work habits and attitudes drop accordingly.

Several months ago we wrote two articles entitled: Hire-A-Veteran! I have been pleased with the comments we have received from our readers. Most all of the comments have been positive. Most of the negative comments center around the fact that “these vets” don’t have the experience of working on the equipment dealers sell. That’s probably quite true but let me say this: 1) you will find that they learn a whole lot quicker than someone fresh out of high school because the three years (minimum) time they spent in the military helped them to develop a solid work ethic, and a pretty positive attitude about work. 2) You won’t find a problem similar to what I said at the beginning of this article. They lived under a system of inspections of their work area and of the job they just finished. You don’t have to tell these people twice about keeping their work area cleaned up. 3) Promotions (pay raises) are given out not necessarily for time in grade, but for their work ethic, willingness to learn and their ability to work as a team. As one client, who has numerous veterans says: “Yes it takes a bit of patience, but we have found that all you have to do is show them or tell them just once and they “get it.”

A service manager recently wrote me the following and with some slight editing I have changed it so that the words flow more easily. “If a service department is to market itself credibly, our dealership feels that service quality is an area that must be strengthened and developed even before a marketing plan is made.” “It is difficult to maintain a high true labor rate if you are constantly writing inefficient labor off in order to invoice your customer equitably, and are mired down in rework. I believe this to be a more difficult practice than proactive service marketing, since it is so dependent on the individuals that are hired. I have finally gotten this dragon by the tail at my own dealership. After seven years of careful planning, hiring and firing, I am now able to rely fully on my marketing, since I can now rely on the quality of the product (service) we are providing, and the individuals providing that service.” “I can tell you that this is the single issue I have grappled with the most, and it is very rewarding to be able to see the fruit of that labor borne out in a runaway marketing program and growing margins and market share. I have had competing dealers tell me that in some cases the only reason they cannot persuade a customer to buy their product over ours is singularly due to the quality and presence of our service department. We learned the hard way that service with a poor reputation is a hard sell!”

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