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Mentoring in service department a technical win

By Kate Swanson

Chicago H-D awarded with Power 50 Best in Class honor

A recent lack of upcoming service technicians has inspired one Harley-Davidson dealership to empower its employees to “start here, grow here and stay here.” Chicago Harley-Davidson, of Glenview, Ill., was recognized by Powersports Business as a Best in Class dealer for Service Department during the 2017 Power 50 awards ceremony held in Columbus, Ohio.

“For us to win the award specifically for our service department is great. Service is pretty tough. You’re typically dealing with people who are not happy in the motorcycle world because their source of fun is broken,” said Steve Trujillo, general manager of Chicago Harley-Davidson. “ To be recognized for some of our diligence that we have put into this program together between service managers and the service department — we are all honored and excited.”

Powersports Business editors award Steve Trujillo of Chicago Harley-Davidson with the Best in Class award for Service Department during the 2017 Power 50 awards program.

Service training 

The dealership first began its two-year, technician-focused Fast Lane training program at the end of 2016 and it has continued to grow. During this process, each new technician is paired up with a master-level mentor technician. Both are reviewed on their progress on a monthly basis and when they reach milestones. The dealership says the purpose of this program is to prepare the entry-level tech for his or her future in flat-rate pay.

“We took what our dealership group uses in the automotive industry and refined it for what we needed in the powersports industry. We took what Harley-Davidson was requiring for an entry-level technician and broke out every class and put a milestone in,” Trujillo said.

The mentor technician is compensated on the hours produced by the entry-level tech. The entry-level tech is expected to complete the program as a fully-trained technician, well prepared to efficiently produce a quality service experience, while earning a generous income in the dealership’s service department. Even with this training program in place, Chicago Harley-Davidson averages a 94 percent technician proficiency rate.

“Every two weeks, the entry-level techs should be meeting a new milestone of where they should be training,” Trujillo added. “For us, it’s setting them up to succeed when we send them to Harley-Davidson for training and certification.”

Providing premium experience

Located just 22 miles outside of downtown Chicago, the dealership has faced a lot of competition in recent years, with neighboring dealerships in all four directions. “There are 18 dealers I can name off the top of my head who are in our dealer assigned territory; the closest dealer to me is 10 miles away,” Trujillo said. 

In order to maintain its success, the dealership has not only upped its service department game, but also goes the extra mile to make sure its customers feel welcome and comfortable in the dealership. 

Chicago Harley-Davidson, of Glenview, Ill., is located just 22 miles outside of downtown Chicago and aims to offer a premium customer experience to standout against heavy competition. Photos courtesy of Chicago Harley-Davidson

“We’re making sure that when customers are walking in our store that they don’t feel intimidated. We’re making sure our customers feel welcome in all departments, not only in the sales department — whether they buy something or not,” Trujillo said. “I feel that is what differentiates us from the competition in town. We offer a consistent customer experience and we treat them like family.” 

On average, Trujillo said a Harley customer will come into a store 20 times before they buy anything, which gives the dealership opportunity to build a relationship with potential customers long before the sale. 

“We’re not trying to cheapen the experience, we are trying to build value in what we are selling,” said Trujillo. “Our dealer group aims to create a lifetime of remarkable experiences, and that’s exactly what we’re doing as a dealership, not just one time, but every time.”

In 2016, Chicago Harley-Davidson made a renewed effort to get new riders into the dealership with its Harley-Davidson Rider Academy program. “We directed our focus to the H-D Rider’s Academy, which yielded five times the amount of customer traffic compared to 2015 to the dealership specifically from the Rider’s Academy,” the dealership wrote in its application. “We exceeded Harley-Davidson benchmarks in conversion, which helped soften the blow of the reduced market share in our dealer assigned territory.” 

In 2017, the dealership saw just under 10 percent of growth in the Rider’s Academy program. 

Hometown favorite

Chicago Harley-Davidson’s efforts to provide a premium experience to its customers has not gone unnoticed. In 2016, the dealership was awarded the 22nd Century Media North Shore Choice Award for the entire North Shore of Chicago. This competition was awarded based on readers of eight local publications who voted for their favorite services and businesses in the North Shore. 

“With the nomination process, we were blindsided. Our customers nominated us without us knowing, so that’s kind of gratifying for us. To know that while we’re out here trying to make a good impression and offer a remarkable experience, we end up winning this award for what we’ve been trying to do this whole time is very satisfying.”

Chicago Harley-Davidson is excited about Harley-Davidson’s new models heading into 2018 and will continue to host popular events. “For 2018, we’re going to keep promoting the product, we’re going to keep growing riders and make sure that people come into the motorcycle world, whether they are looking for a Harley-Davidson or not,” he said. 

The dealership’s Harley-Davidson Riding Academy was a key focus in 2016. The program saw about 10 percent growth and helps bring in new riders to the dealership.

 

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