Detail Employees: Raising the Bar

Anyone in business has problems with employees, but for auto dealers, employees in the detail department are a major problem. It is always a problem to have incompetent employees, but in the detail department, it is worse because of the importance of used cars to the dealership’s bottom line profit.

It seems that the common complaint voiced by most dealers is the quality of the employees willing to work in the detailing department.

The first issue is that there are simply not enough skilled technicians in the detail field. There are those who have detailed cars, but not enough with real training.

What’s the Answer?

It begins with management. First, you must take a hard, close look at your present employees and their behavior. And then, establish some standards for the type of employees you want in the department.

This simply is not done in most dealerships when it comes to detail employees. The bar is set so low that almost anyone who says they have detail experience is hired.

The big error is looking for people with good skills. Do not look for people with good skills; hire people with good values and teach them the skills. The biggest mistake a dealer can make is to hire experienced detailers (Call me, I’ll tell you why).
Employee Attitude

As anyone who hires employees knows, they are strange. They are people. Some good, some average and some, unfortunately, bad. Based on this, you can bank on that one-third of your present detail staff might not be doing the job. And, with detailers it might be over 50 percent.

Consider a moment the complaints you have about your detail employees? Tardy, continually absent, misuse of equipment, indifferent towards the quality of their work?

Poor attitude is one of the biggest complaints we hear dealers voice about their detail shop employees.

Employee behavior will vary from day to day, month to month. Like equipment, employee attitudes are subject to wear and tear. Therefore, you need to be on guard and watch for this and be ready to repair and replace as needed.  Few, if any, dealers really monitor their detail employees.

As a good employer you must know the likes and dislikes of your employees. This will allow you to convert some marginal individuals into better employees.

Don't take employees for granted. No one, in any position likes to be taken for granted. Keep communication lines open. If you give them some responsibility, make sure it is clearly defined. 

As has been stated many times, “there are no bad employees, only bad bosses.” A good boss will not permit a bad worker to work for his business.

I guess there must be a lot of bad bosses in dealerships, because there are a lot of bad detail employees. Why is that I wonder? Do you wonder, too?

Employees Are Human, Too!

Employer-employee relationships are not one-sided. The employer must realize that his employees are human, so treat them with respect and compassion.

If you ask most detail line employees how they feel they are treated by employers, you will find the responses very interesting.

Put yourself in your employee’s shoes. Evaluate how they must feel about the way they are treated in your dealership.

If you want your detail employees to improve, to take an interest in the job they do, then ask them how you can improve working conditions to help them to do a better job.

In my own personal experience I found that must dealership detail employees wanted the following:

  • Respect
  • Better equipment to make the job easier and faster
  • Clear job descriptions
  • Extra pay for overtime
  • Profit-sharing
  • Medical program
  • Paid vacations and sick leave

While this may seem costly, if you want to have good detail employees, you have to “raise the bar” and do for them what any good employee would demand of an employer. If an employee is not interested in these things, you should not hire them; they are more of what you complain about now.

The cost to have employees feel secure in their jobs, a security that generates an attitude to go beyond what is expected, is minimal compared to the benefits.

Pay Makes A Difference

No matter how you want to justify it, excuse it or deny it, the facts are clear. Good compensation leads to better employee productivity.

However, compensation doesn't have to be in the form of increases in hourly wages. On the contrary, incentive programs seem to work best. For example:

  • Profit sharing
  • Performance raises
  • Salary percentage
  • Health insurance paid by employer
  • Bonuses based on volume increases

In fact, improving working conditions in the detail department is seen as a benefit by the employee and can result in improved employee attitude and increased productivity. It shows you care.

Management Makes the Difference

If you expect employees to improve, you too must improve. Look at yourself, your management style and treatment of your people. You can improve. Like most of us, both you and the employees can probably find many ways to improve, if you are honest in your evaluation.

One of the biggest improvements you can make is to keep an open line of communication between you or your manager and your detail employees. Make them feel you care about what they have to say and what they think.

The hardest thing in maintaining sound communication between employer and employees is for both to believe such communication is possible. Most employee problems develop when the employer gets caught in the self-centered attitude of making money as the only purpose of the business. It is proven that employees will “put-out” when the boss makes them feel they count when it comes to the business success.

Technical Void

There are very few “detail technicians.” This is true even among the several thousand individuals performing detail services on a daily basis. And, the void continues with no major industry effort being made to provide a way to train individuals in the skills of detailing.

There is a move within the nation's high school vocational programs and community colleges to offer a detail curriculum. You might check with your local vocational high school or community college to see what they offer. Many have developed excellent curriculums on auto detailing as a trade and as a business.

One of the biggest problems we face in this area is apathy. If you do not care about some method to train detail technicians for your dealership, who will?

In lieu of any formal training program it must be the dealer’s responsibility to develop his technicians.

If you are uncomfortable about the technical expertise of your detailers then make the effort to take one or two of your existing staff and find a formal training program for them.

If you do not have people on staff you are comfortable investing time and money in, you should the local high school vocational counselor or community college for recommendations they may have for candidates.

When you do find a person willing to work in your detail department as an apprentice, spend the time and money for their proper training.

Involve them in any and all training sessions you can find. The manager of the department should work with them as often as possible on a one-on-one basis. And, above all, pay them enough to keep their interest. They will be an investment in your future, not an expense.

If your detail department is to improve, you have to develop good technicians.

Many of the technicians you are looking for may already be on your payroll. All you have to do is change your attitude and many times you will be amazed how theirs too will change.

If existing employees don't meet your standards then hire those that do.

Summary

To improve attitudes with current employees let me suggest a few questions to ask each employee on an individual basis:

  1. Are you secure working for this dealership?
  2. Are you proud to be part of the dealership?
  3. Are you proud to be called a detail technician?
  4. Are you clear on your work assignments and our expectations?
  5. What can we do to improve communication lines?

If you plan to seek better employees you must be able to sell them on the advantages of working in your dealership in the detail department. You have to convince a qualified young person to want to learn the art of detailing.

Starting out as a detailer in the dealership may not be a high paying job, but you need to show them a person can have a bright future with your dealership. You know that as cars, trucks, and boats are used as a means of transportation the future for you and the detailer can be extremely prosperous.

Remember a qualified technician should receive all the important awards: RESPECT, INCOME and PRIDE.

Respect - If those in the dealership are made more aware of the importance of the detail department they will give the detailers more respect which will improve their attitude.

Income - As many dealers know, the income potential for a qualified and aggressive detailer is staggering for a relatively unskilled job.

Pride - Every day the work is different. The detailer is hardly in a rut; no two jobs are the same. If a person can use both their hands and can move them with common sense, there is a job for them in auto detailing in your dealership

If I can help you, please me [email protected].

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