Strong connections between service department managers and technicians are vital on two fronts: productivity and customer satisfaction. But sometimes poor communication, lack of training, and other factors impact workflow and the fixed ops bottom line. Let’s explore what causes this friction and how to smooth things over to foster teamwork and camaraderie.
Causes of disconnection
While service managers and technicians are on the same team, they really live in two different worlds. This divide comes from distinct job responsibilities. Plus, the gap grows wider when other circumstances are at play.
Many challenges in the workplace can be traced to a lack of training (both in quantity and quality). If a staff person responds to a situation with an “I didn’t know that” comment, you can rightly point to deficient training as the reason. Of course, staff education extends beyond technical instruction. Managers and technicians should fully understand the procedures and systems related to their specific jobs.
Promoting from within is a great way to motivate employees. But let’s be honest in saying that not every top-flight technician is well-suited to joining the ranks of management. Yet, it happens all the time. In these cases, resentment builds from both sides.
A new manager gets overwhelmed by different priorities, and technicians get frustrated by someone who forgets what it’s like to be in the trenches. At the same time, that newly minted service department manager may not be as familiar with the role as they should be (another instance of a lack of training).
Unclear goals and expectations
It’s easy to fall into the trap of just getting the work done and not looking at the bigger picture. Perhaps plans and objectives were discussed at one time, but those discussions are no longer a regular occurrence. It’s hard to follow a path when there’s no roadmap to follow. To create a framework for goal setting, try devising S.M.A.R.T. goals using the template below:
Creating a unified service department
Getting service managers and technicians on the same page isn’t rocket science. Using tried-and-true techniques, you can establish or re-launch the necessary connections.
Just like training is vital, so is communication. According to a study by Dynamic Signal, ineffective company communication causes workplace anxiety for 80% of U.S. employees. It’s impossible for someone to keep up with expectations if they’ve never been told about the requirements. An expanded dialogue will keep everyone in the loop and foster inclusion instead of isolation. Approaches can include starting or expanding stand-up meetings, printed memos, or a regular email newsletter.
Take advantage of technology
Chances are your dealership already has the technology infrastructure that can help improve communication among service department staff but isn’t being fully utilized. Take a look at what’s available and incorporate these systems into an expanded communications plan.
Work towards shared goals
Service department staff will perform as a team when working towards common goals. This reinforces the “we” mindset rather than a “you versus me” approach. For instance, customer satisfaction and retention rates are benchmarks that both managers and technicians can relate to.
Provide feedback opportunities
Look for ways to incorporate feedback into management and technician interactions. This could be done informally, such as during a meeting or under an open-door policy. Or through a more structured process like 360-degree reviews where technicians can assess their managers.
Importantly, demonstrate that you’re acting on the feedback that’s received. This doesn’t have to happen every time, but nothing is worse than an ignored suggestion box.
Fostering teamwork through team activities and events can create stronger bonds between service managers and technicians and open a dialogue. Something as fundamental as sharing a meal can go a long way to building connections and culture.