Raise your hiring standards for detailers

Low hiring standards are the major reason for dealership problems.

Nearly every dealer I consult with says the same thing about their detail employee problems: “It just isn’t realistic for us to have hiring standards for detail shop employees; we need someone with experience, and most of these are ‘warm bodies.’ We have to take whoever walks in the door.”

As I have stated many times, dealers have for too long followed these same hiring practices.

But, if you keep following these same hiring methods you will continue to shoot yourself in the foot, and end up with a permanent limp.

The Great Depression

When the Great Depression hit this country with a tornado-force in the 1930s, many major companies slashed their advertising budgets. Some even stopped advertising altogether. On the surface, this seemed the most logical business decision considering the state of the economy.

There were two notable exceptions to this common practice. They were the Campbell Soup Company and Procter & Gamble. They continued advertising and were even the sponsors of the first radio programs.

This is when Campbell’s famous “Mmm Mmm Good” jingle was born. And when Procter and Gamble promoted Oxydol soap on the famous radio serial “Ma Perkins” (who even remembers), among the factors giving birth to the famous term “soap opera.”

So what does all this history have to do with hiring detail employees?

Today, these companies are household words, two of the largest advertisers in the U.S., and extremely successful. Why? Because they raised the bar in spite of tough times.

The point is, neither company lowered the bar, so to speak. Sure, they made adjustments, but they maintained a high level of performance.

And that is what I want to tell you. Do not accept the conclusion that there are not good people out there to hire in your detail department, or that you have to take what there is.

This reactionary mindset does, and will continue to, undermine any positive progress you want to make in the operation of your detailing department.

Good employees produce profits

We all have heard this cliche so many times it almost becomes meaningless. Nevertheless, let me put it another way: would you purchase second-rate or out-of-date equipment for your service department or body shop?

When you build a new dealership facility, is it designed to look no better than the competition’s, or even not as good?

If you say no, then why is it ok to hire second-rate people for your detail department? And, on top of that, employees who have little or no management or operational standards?

If you settle for second best, you get second best. And I must tell you — that is what almost every dealership I have visited has in their detail department: second best.

If you want something better from your detail department, you must first expect more. People who expect more get more.

What is it you expect out of, or are looking for, in the operation of your detail department?

We’re as good as anyone

OK, you might say to me that, “Our detail staff is just as good as any other dealership.” That is fine if you want to get by as you always have. But is that really what you want?

Wouldn’t you like to have a clean, organized detail department, manned by reliable and dependable employees, who turn out quality work, quickly and profitably? Of course you would!

But, you must have a vision and some simple standards for your dealership, especially for this problem child, the detail department.

How to be better than the others

One of the best ways I know to have a detail shop that is better than other dealers is to do a better job of hiring and managing than they do, as well as having better equipment that saves time and reduces labor.

The single best predictor of a company’s overall excellence is its ability to attract, motivate and retain the best people.

More objections

If I had a dollar for all the objections I get from dealers about hiring better employees in their detail departments, I could retire.

A common objection (excuse) is that, “I let my GM run the dealership, and I can’t convince them it’s worth it.”

Or, “I just don’t have anyone willing to manage the detail department. The service manager doesn’t want it, and the body shop manager has his hands full.” Or, better yet, “The department could not justify the salary a good shop manager would require.”

As the dealer, you have to realize when someone will not do what you would like them to, it is because they don’t understand what is in it for them.

Yes, you are the owner and you can command them, but you and I both know that no one does anything they do not want to. They will pretend to cooperate, but as is usually the case in most dealerships, they do a sloppy job of it. Just look at your detail department.

What this illustrates is two things:

1. This type of behavior is typical, and

2. If you want someone to do something new, you had better take the time to explain what they have to gain.

It is no longer acceptable to say, “Because I said so.” It is futile, and in the end, the “inmates end up running the institution.”

If you run your dealership with the command and control management style, you will have high turnover and poorly operating departments.


Therefore, if you want better employees in your detail department you need to get the managers in your dealership to buy into the philosophy I have been expounding. If they do not see that better employees will be better for them, their department and the dealership, nothing will change.

Detail shops are not profitable because of employee turnover, and it erodes morale. There is also a strong correlation between employee retention and customer retention. Think about it; what will happen if you keep hiring second-best people in your detail department?

The greatest cause of employee turnover is not low unemployment or downsizing; it is, plain and simple, hiring mistakes. And how many hiring mistakes have been made in your detail department?

If you would like to discuss this or anything related to detailing call me at (1800) 284-0123 ext. 4 or email [email protected].

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