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To train, or not to train, that is the question

By Jackson Smith

JacksonSmithThe title of this month’s blog is an obvious play on the famous opening line of William Shakespeare’s play "Hamlet," in which Prince Hamlet is contemplating suicide. Although that may seem a bit dramatic for a powersports dealership, that fact is, not training may equate to committing business suicide.

Most businesses understand the need for some basic product and procedural training for new employees. However, in the powersports business, it is imperative that employees have an on-going comprehensive training program. New technology is flooding powersports products every day, from electronic power steering to ride-by-wire throttle control and even inertia-measurement units. This type of rapid technological growth requires service staff to be actively involved in an effective training program. Furthermore, a customer’s use of e-mail, text messaging and online research raises their expectations of customer service. While these factors make it appear obvious we have to train, there may be several barriers preventing this necessary training: Lack of time, low desire and cost just to name a few. From a management standpoint, the biggest barrier seems to be cost. However a closer look at the cost of not training may change your mind. According to a recent study by Yamaha, a highly-trained technician increases their productivity by 15 percent, while reducing their come-back rate 30 percent. Those two statistics alone can make a huge difference to a company’s bottom line.

Our dealership has taken a different approach from many and chooses to look at training as an investment, not a cost. The difference is that a cost is just an expense you pay out; with an investment you are looking at what you get in return for your spending. We all know it makes it much easier and faster to do a job when we know how to do it properly. When we are unsure we can waste a lot of time doing something that should be completed quickly. One simple formula to look at return on investment is to look at the benefits of being able to accomplish one additional hour of production a day. If an employee gets paid $40,000 per year and wastes a total of one hour a day trying to do tasks they could’ve completed more efficiently with training, you are paying the employee over $5,000 dollars per year for not doing their job. When you multiply that by 20 employees, you’re spending $100,000+ dollars for nothing. Now that is a cost!

So if your answer is “To Train” the question becomes how do you impart that knowledge onto your staff? There are many effective ways of training including video, off-site hands-on training and conducting in-house training sessions just to name a few. In our dealership one of our strongest techniques was started by our general manager. All staff are required to attend an hour-long training session twice a week. These training sessions are designed to keep congruency between all departments. We cover topics from how to greet customers and answer phone calls to developing marketing ideas and increasing company profitability. Since each department often comes into contact with the same customers, it is imperative that all staff understands the philosophy and goals of the dealership as well as those of each individual department. This total team approach has greatly increased staff morale as well as ensuring that customers consistently receive a high level of customer satisfaction.

In addition to these group sessions, our service and parts departments have established a training schedule for each of our staff that is customized to fit their position. We have each staff member complete one to two sections of online training material each month and our techs attend an annual hands-on training session for each of the OEM lines we carry. We have a short in-house cross training session with our staff each week. This cross training investment pays off almost daily by allowing our departments to run flawlessly whenever an employee is absent, needs time off or is just unavailable while helping another customer.

We all understand the need for training and looking at training as an investment will help us overcome the cost objection. Reducing the cost of wasted time will result in an even greater return on our investment. Ultimately, these investments will result in more efficiency, increased customer satisfaction and higher profits.

Jackson Smith is the parts and service manager at Destination Powersports, a multi-line OEM dealership located in S.W. Florida. Jackson has over 30 years experience in both the automotive and powersports industries.

Contact:  Jackson.S@destination-powersports.com

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