Consider them Cliff’s notes.
Every week, Alice Cliff—the service and parts manager for Subaru of Hilton Head in South Carolina—jots on a notepad the items that require correction in her department. But, while Cliff often has new concerns she’d like to see addressed, a top agenda item at most meetings remains unchanged. Let technicians offer their opinions.
“Technicians are very, very hard to come by,” Cliff says. “And the ones that you have that are good, you want to do what you can to keep them.
“You try to appease them as much as possible, and make them feel … that you really want them to be here.”
Because of those sentiments, Cliff makes sure that her bi-weekly, end-of-day technician meetings always feature time for technicians to express what they feel isn’t working on the shop floor, and what can be done to make things more efficient. Cliff, a veteran of 32 years in the industry, spoke with Fixed Ops Business recently and shared several of the ways she feels technician meetings can be made as productive as possible.
At Subaru of Hilton Head, “technician meetings” feature far more than just techs and their superiors. All of Cliff’s employees are welcome to attend—a fact that helps keep the entire staff on the same page.
“Everyone’s included in the meeting because then there’s no finger pointing,” Cliff explains. “If they’re going to finger point, they’re going to do it in front of the other people, and then we can be done with it all at once.
“Communication is everything. And, if we’re not communicating with each other, then we’re just gonna have one fiasco after the other.”
Action Item No. 1
A key element of Cliff’s technician meetings is the acknowledgement of items jotted in her aforementioned notepad. Over the course of two weeks, Cliff has usually noted at least a couple items that require fixing.
“My pet peeves,” she calls them. “What’s not getting done. What’s not getting done right. I start off by telling them, ‘This is what I see is going on. … This is what needs to be corrected. And I always ask them, ‘What can I do to help make things easier on you?’”
Cliff tries to keep her technician meetings to 30 or 40 minutes. That’s long enough to address multiple issues at length … but not long enough for any employees to start nodding off due to boredom.
She has also found that it works best to have such meetings at the end of the workday, rather than at the beginning—when her service department may have multiple “waiter” vehicles that require prompt attention.
Cliff tries to end her technician meetings on a positive note, if possible, expressing her gratitude for her employees’ hard work.
“I always thank them for the job that they do,” she says, “and let them know that I’m appreciative of the time that they spend here, and for the effort they put forth.”
A key to delivering your message to technicians clearly: meet with them consistently. Cliff typically holds technician meetings bi-weekly, but says some dealerships might require more frequent get-togethers. She also says it’s important to remind technicians of your message in the days following meetings.
“Whatever they say needs to be changed, I immediately address that, like a good-faith thing, to say, ‘Listen, I kept my end of the bargain, now it’s time to keep yours,’” Cliff explains. “I make sure that they understand that I’m going to be constantly monitoring what I’ve asked them to change.”