Improving Communication Between Techs and Advisors
In the fall of 2017, Michael White’s new employees looked lost. And, the dealership leader knew he needed to find a solution.
White began his role as fixed operations director at Ocean Honda in Port Richey, Fla., in September of last year; soon after, he often noticed employees meandering all over the shop floor, searching for someone to answer their questions.
“You see people wandering around—that’s inefficiency,” he says. “And it’s costing the store money.
“You’ve got to find out why they’re wandering around. You know, it could be a problem with an advisor ducking and weaving, it could be a problem with a tech.”
White, who has served in leadership roles throughout much of his 28-year career, wasn’t about to start his tenure at Ocean Honda with a shop floor full of inefficiencies, knowing full well that his job security largely relied upon him pushing a steady stream of vehicles through the service department. So, he set out to aid in the communication between employees, like service advisors and technicians.
White was quickly reminded, however, that technicians and advisors don’t often see eye to eye.
The way White sees it, on any job, on any ticket, no matter how thorough descriptions are written out by an employee, co-workers are likely to be left with a question or two. Those are simply the realities and limitations of human communication, especially in a fast-paced work environment where more than 2,000 repair orders are addressed per month, like at Ocean Honda.
“It’s an age-old issue,” he says. “The tech’s got to say something to the advisor, and vice versa. And it just takes so much time away from each other’s position to get that communication across” in a face-to-face manner.
Questions are inevitable, White says. The key is getting them answered as efficiently as possible, so businesses can avoid being saddled with subpar customer satisfaction scores, as was the case prior to 2017 at Ocean Honda.
White has dealt with such inefficiencies on occasion throughout his career. And, he spent a long time searching for answers.
In Port Richey, though, he found a solution sitting right under his nose.
For years, employees at Ocean Honda have had access to the ELEAD1ONE software system, which aids communication between staffers. Problem was, when White arrived, most employees had long ago given up on using it.
“Everybody at dealerships has a DMS, and most groups have some sort of estimating system where they’re shooting messages back and forth,” White notes. “But you’re still relying on somebody sitting back at a computer screen. And advisors and technicians are always on the move.
“When I got here, I saw the system and liked the system, but I talked to everybody, asking, what are its downfalls? ‘Well, I sent messages to Joe out there, and he never checks his screen, and I’m waiting for hours. It’s like, why do I bother? Because the guy on the other side’s not looking at it.’ … Everybody ignores it and just kind of pushes it to the wayside.”
After a thorough examination of the ELEAD1ONE software, which aids in communication and with estimates, White was convinced it could streamline the process of disseminating information among employees—and keep technicians from wandering around, aimlessly searching for a service advisor to answer a question.
Starting in the fall of 2017, he required each of Ocean Honda’s shop workers to start utilizing the technology’s full set of features. That message has been hammered home consistently, often through 8 a.m. meetings and question-and-answer sessions.
And, as a backup measure, White collected the cell phone numbers of employees and passed those out to co-workers. That way, text messaging could be used as a backup measure, if one employee had strayed away from his or her computer screen (and thus, the ELEAD1ONE system) at length.
“That way, if you utilize texting, you can just say, ‘Hey, I sent this to your screen,’” White explains. Because “everybody has a cellphone. The majority of these technicians and advisors are pretty savvy. So they’ve got the latest and greatest Androids and Apples.”
Once White nudged his new employees in Port Richey toward using the ELEAD1ONE system more thoroughly, production numbers soon rose, while the facility’s CSI score jumped to 93.6.
And, once shop statistics made a slight uptick, it was even easier to sell the merits of the new messaging procedure to the entire staff.
“People fall into habits, and you’ve just got to stay on them and try to intercept that,” White says.
By establishing a more thorough in-house messaging procedure, and urging employees to stick with it, White helped improve multiple performance statistics in Port Richey. After all, by communicating more thoroughly, Ocean Honda’s employees started performing all tasks, such as each element of an inspection, more consistently
“We’ve gained so much more efficiency—the efficiency numbers have just gone through the roof,” he says. “Our dollar per RO was up $35. Our gross is up 28 percent right now. … You’re looking at a 27 percent increase in hours.
“We’ve had huge increases here, just by being more efficient. And we haven’t added one person.”
Veteran employees that used to complain about shop hours are frustrated no more, White notes. His entire staff seems to be on the same page now, and employees seem happy.
“One guy said this is the most hours he’s ever made at this store,” White says. “Once they start seeing results, they’re like, ‘Oh, OK, this makes sense. … Hey, this isn’t so bad.’”