It was one business conversation David Rogers initially felt wholly unequipped to handle, and one he’ll never forget.
One night in the late 1990s, as Rogers wrapped up a shift working the counter at Keller Bros. Auto Repair in Littleton, Colo., he received a phone call from a frantic mother. The young woman’s brakes had failed in her vehicle and she was careening downhill—on a major Denver thoroughfare—with two young children as passengers.
“She called us, and the first thing I thought was, ‘Oh my God, why did you call me? You should be on the phone with 911,’” Rogers recalls. “But I didn’t have time to scold her for that. … I was petrified. It was scary.
“I just tried to help her understand how to slow the vehicle as best she could. … She finally got the car slowed down to where it was controllable.”
That event, in which the customer’s master cylinder had failed, gave Rogers a crash course on communication, and how to clearly provide an automotive-related tutorial. It’s a skill he has largely mastered in the nearly 20 years since that eventful evening. Nowadays, Rogers still has to think on his feet, while providing training sessions through his work as president of Auto Profit Masters, as an accredited instructor for the Automotive Management Institute (he’s also the COO of Keller Bros.).
Rogers, who was nominated for a 2016 Ratchet+Wrench All-Star Award, offers his advice for making training sessions as valuable as possible.
SEEK VARIED TEACHING METHODS.
Rogers notes that people typically learn in one of three ways: visually, aurally (through hearing), or kinetically (relating to movement). An ideal training session would cater to each of those learning styles as much as possible, in order to ensure that all attendees absorb the subject matter.
Rogers uses a mixture of lectures, group exercises and the recollection of workplace anecdotes.
“Think about people when they go to college,” Rogers says. “Some people do very well in a large university, where the classes are all lecture. Some people fail miserably in those large classes. They drown in a sea of people, because there’s no kinetic involvement. … If I just give you straight information, half the class is going to be snoozing before lunch.”
FIND RELATABLE INSTRUCTORS.
When a trainer talks over the heads of his or her pupils, it lessens the chance of the instruction reaching each member of the audience.
“Anybody can come out and talk about the latest techno babble that’s floating around the industry. Yippee for you; you’ve got the buzzwords down,” Rogers says. “But you’re not accomplishing anything, and you’re certainly not helping your clients.”
Rogers tries to speak to audiences in ways they can relate to. He has found that instructors leave a true impression when recalling situations from their own careers, drawing upon lessons they’ve learned from working in shops.
Valuable training sessions don’t end when attendees file out of a classroom or log off from a video conference. In order for lessons to truly stick with technicians or service writers, key points need to be hammered home further down the line.
“In order to be certain anyone retained anything from that [training] process, the key comes in follow-up,” Rogers says. “Our clients are shown where they’re below their benchmarks, and then they’re given the training they need to improve. Then, we get them to commit to hitting targets.”
Rogers suggests reviewing goals on a daily basis after training is completed.
KEEP EXPANDING EXPERTISE
Rogers feels strongly that those working in auto shops should consistently study all industry trends. … Even if that includes researching subject matter that’s intimidating to you.
“If I focus only in those areas [of strength] … where am I growing?” Rogers notes. “Get in there and learn stuff that you don’t understand.
“It’s our fear that keeps us from growing. Remember that, always.”
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