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Entry-level positions can make big first impressions

Steve Jones, Columnist
June 5, 2013
Filed under Columns

In our quest to reduce business expenses, we frequently focus on payroll, right? After all, personnel costs represent the single largest percentage of our controllable expenses. The question is, are we really aware of the critical nature of some of those low-paying positions that we consider entry-level jobs? Do we take it for granted that almost anyone can do those tasks? Are we hiring unskilled and unqualified people for those positions simply because they will work for minimum wage?

For example, how many of us would consider our parts department shipping & receiving clerk to be an entry-level, minimum wage position? What follows is an excerpt from an email that one of our 20-group dealers recently sent to the other members of his group. It might just change how you view this position.

“Earlier this week I had to fire the shipping clerk because he was late everyday and had been taking 2-hour lunches. He thought he was safe because of how short-handed we were.

“As a result, I’ve had to do the shipping/receiving all week, and honestly, I couldn’t be happier. I have found so many issues that I would’ve never found: Returns not done, parts shoved in nooks, customers never called about their parts being received, etc. I counted thousands of dollars worth of problems and decided that my new job is going to be the shipping/receiving clerk. It’s not glamorous, but it’s one of the most important jobs in the store … and I have always had the lowest-paid person doing it. No wonder my inventory is where it is!”

A number of dealers in this particular group responded with similar stories. Other members of his group described uncovering internal theft issues from shipping/receiving staff. Some dealers commented that they had also discovered that this was actually a very important position and that it warranted significant training and oversight.

Many dealers also use their shipping/receiving person as the parts-to-service liaison. This works well since they have first access to the incoming service parts. How important is this function? How much of the productivity and profitability of your service operation depends on timely arrival of critical parts? ’Nuf said.

Are there other jobs in our dealership that might fall into this “more-important-than-you-thought” category?

Consider this: We all understand that our service departments have a huge impact on customer retention and additional sales. In fact, some surveys show that service is the single biggest influencing factor on whether customers buy their next unit from your store.

So who is the person in your service department who creates that all-important first impression of your service operation to a new customer? Wouldn’t that be your service advisor? What kind of person do you have in that position? A well-paid, highly-trained, customer-friendly, well-organized individual with selling and customer-relations skills, right?

In addition to establishing a relationship that can significantly influence whether those customers come back to your store, the service advisor also has a major impact on the profitability of your service department. He or she is responsible for uncovering all of your customer’s service needs and wants, ensuring that all necessary service is captured at the write-up. Your service advisor provides your customers with up-sell options that increase your parts and labor sales.

Service advisors play a major role in protecting your service department from potential legal issues as well. During the write-up, they document the condition of the customer’s unit to protect you and the customer from “misunderstandings” and damage claims. They ensure that the repair order is properly completed and signed, and that it contains complete tech notes when the job is finished.

Finally, they deliver the unit to the customer and provide the customer with the explanation of the work performed. Service advisors also should try to get an appointment for a customer’s next service to encourage that all-important return. They provide your customer with the last impression of your dealership, as well as the first.

A position this significant might not be considered an entry-level, minimum wage job. Wouldn’t you agree? Perhaps it is time to take a long, hard look at the job descriptions for some of the other positions we tend to take for granted in our dealerships. You just might find that you need to make some changes to ensure that the right people are doing these important jobs.

Saving a few bucks by putting low-level staff in your shipping/receiving position can cost you much more in inventory errors and/or shrinkage. Similarly, not hiring high-quality service advisors results in inadequate write-ups and a loss of potential service sales. This can create customer dissatisfaction resulting in a loss of future unit sales.

Steve Jones is senior projects manager at Gart Sutton & Associates. He has worked in the powersports industry for more than 30 years, for dealerships and manufacturers, and as a consultant and trainer. Contact him at steve@gartsutton.com.

 

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