Carlisle & Co. survey finds service department turnover issues go beyond pay

Q: When it comes to technician retention, some of it is simply pay. You could raise base pay. But what did you see service managers do to address other compensation issues such as diagnostics pay, bonuses, retention or other benefits?

A: Yes, pay is certainly a major pain point for technicians and a key reason they are left feeling frustrated and undervalued. Especially for newer technicians who may have difficulty earning hours (compared to hours worked), concern over pay and the variability of pay is a real concern. We’ve seen some dealers implement minimum base pay, which can help alleviate that uncertainty. Additional pay structures and components like productivity and tenure bonuses are also becoming more common, providing technicians with ways to earn more. Smart dealers are also considering the entire “compensation package” and improving benefits and flexible work schedules.

Money alone won’t fix it. What are service managers doing to promote career development for technicians?

“Money alone won’t fix it” is absolutely true. Fixing the pay issue is table stakes, but there’s a lot more going on that needs just as much attention. Like most people, technicians want to feel they have opportunities for growth and their career can continue to evolve. Instead, many feel stagnant and have little visibility into what the future could hold.

The best service managers are actively supporting ongoing training, providing educational reimbursement, establishing robust mentorship programs and actually mapping out possible career trajectories. Dealers need to show techs (especially new ones) what their career could look like and what paths they could take. A technician could grow into a master tech, a service manager, a field rep — just to name a few. Providing a map and growth plan is something very few dealers are doing well today.

How important is work environment when discussing technician retention, and what are some things you heard service managers are doing in this area?

The work environment is critically important to fixing technician retention. Dealership management and relationships with co-workers are the most commonly cited reasons from technicians on why they choose to stay at their current dealership, and conversely why they want to leave. A good culture can really help you, and a bad culture can really hurt you. This can be more difficult to address because it is less tangible, but its importance can’t be overstated and it can’t be forgotten.

Service managers with happy technicians are actively doing things to build a positive culture like periodic technician recognition, standing team meetings to promote communication, one-on-one meetings, team events and social activities. Technicians today feel incredibly undervalued, and anything that helps them feel seen and appreciated goes a long way.

Service advisers show higher job satisfaction and are not leaving the job as quickly as technicians. Still, service managers are working to keep them happy. What areas are managers focused on to keep advisers happy?

Actually, service adviser turnover is at an all-time high and is nearly approaching 50 percent. It’s definitely a concern, especially given these are the people who touch the customer. Fifty percent is a big number! Despite the high and rising turnover, we do see service advisers have higher job satisfaction than technicians. But there are still a few key issues and pain points in the adviser role that need to be addressed — both to reduce turnover and to improve effectiveness.

Much like technicians, we see dealership culture and management is very important to service advisers. The service adviser’s team relationships and dynamics are incredibly important; these tend to be people-focused individuals who crave connection. Beyond this, schedule is another important factor and some dealers have found advisers are much happier with several long days and several short days, or some other more flexible combination.

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