Since the middle of March when much of the nation was deeply affected by COVID-19 restrictions, automotive technicians have been keeping the nation running. Prior to April guidance regarding essential businesses, only repairs and maintenance were permitted to operate at dealers in the United States. At the core of any repair business is the technician who can fly under the radar unnoticed and unrecognized.
Some dealerships have done well at showing their personal appreciation to technicians who have continued on faithfully amid a time that frightened most Americans, and a few have publicly thanked their service back end. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find examples of managers publicly thanking their technicians on social media or on their dealership websites.
Heightened Expectations for Technicians
In an online search for ‘dealership recognizes technicians covid’, results are overwhelmingly about precautionary steps taken in the service department to protect customer safety. This crucial information helps ensure customers are comfortable returning to the dealership for service and repairs and should not be understated. Statements such as this one from an anonymous dealer are posted:
“Technicians are required to use gloves when inside a client’s vehicle. They are also required to disinfect door handles, steering wheels and gear shifts prior to bringing client’s vehicle into our Service Department for repair.”
In most shops, physical distancing requirements has meant every other hoist stands idle and parts desk interactions have been slowed.
While ensuring customer safety, technicians have largely remained at work while carrying extra burdens with little recognition. Technicians must:
- Don nitrile gloves for every customer’s vehicle and maintain sanitary conditions, a task that’s near impossible for a contact-filled job.
- Expose themselves to higher risk than most Americans.
- Spend extra unpaid time to disinfect vehicles before AND after servicing them.
- Reduce their productivity and potentially take forced days off while hoists are unavailable.
- Possibly work too much to receive federal benefits but not enough to earn a living.
It’s commonplace to call front-line workers like grocery store clerks ‘heroes’ in the pandemic recovery, and it’s deserved. Technicians deserve the same recognition, and perhaps even at a higher level.
How Dealers Can Recognize their Techs
Many technicians are proud to keep doing their best to serve customers. A press release from Universal Technical Institute boasts about their grads like Brandon Rubio, a diesel engine specialist out of UTI-Houston. He says, “”I feel like a doctor for vehicles who is critical to keeping our country operating during this time. I’m extremely proud to be an essential worker and feel privileged to still have a job.”
Techs are happy to be working, but there’s more that can be done. There are those who have personally thanked their technicians for the job they continue to do in the recovery, and that’s certainly the right thing to do. Personal appreciation will help ensure morale stays as high as possible during this time.
Discuss their Needs
Like many Americans, the pandemic has poked holes in support networks. Child care spots, for example, are increasingly hard to find. Discover what each of your technicians needs to get through this time as best as possible and help to find solutions. This is a one-on-one discussion you should have that will prove you care for the individual.
Provide Financial Assistance
It’s a safe bet that on average technicians have had lowered productivity during the pandemic recovery. Some of that is on the back of safety measures which is not the technician’s burden to bear alone. Offer an incentive per work order for safety measures performed. This can be as simple as a .2 or .3-hour bump on the RO. It will have an impact on Effective Labor Rate, which should be tracked as a separate line.
Put out a message on your social channels and a front page banner on your website. Thank your technicians for their hard work during this trying time. It serves multiple purposes with zero cost. It honors your technicians, it puts out a positive message to your social followers, and it shows a community-minded approach that many customers appreciate in today’s world.
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Car Biz Today, the official resource of the retail automotive industry.