“I don’t get any respect…” — remember this old Rodney Dangerfield line?
The automotive repair and service industry has also been reciting this line over the past several years. Why is it that much of the general population still associates the “grease monkey” image with the industry when so much work has been undertaken to dispel this image? Unfortunately old beliefs die hard — this is why we, as an industry, have to persevere and work even harder to correct image perceptions.
CARS as well as other industry associations and organizations have been working hard to ensure any work undertaken reflects and promotes a positive image for the industry. Partnerships between industry and education have been developed to ensure that the training opportunities available to the workforce meet the need, thus impacting customer satisfaction and retention.
The industry has acknowledged that continued learning is essential to the success of the workforce. Do we also agree that continued learning on the customer side is also essential — and — we, the industry, are the educators? After all, what the customer sees and experiences every time a vehicle is serviced is what they will base their perception on.
Image impacts not only customer satisfaction/retention but also several other aspects of the industry, including recruitment.
Over the next few years, a significant percentage of the workforce will be retiring. The more alarming fact is that only 7.5% of the workforce is under the age of 25. CARS has explored the question of why more young people are not selecting a career in the skilled trades. Although several factors come into play, the overwhelming reason is negative image.
When high school students across the country were asked what were the first things they thought of when they thought of “automotive industry” the responses included “dirty” and “low-tech”. Where are they getting these perceptions? Television is one source but an impression is also gained from their own experience and their parent’s experience.
Steps are being taken by CARS and industry to introduce automotive careers to young people and to educate them to the realities of the skills and training required as well as the high tech nature of the industry.
Many young people are not selecting careers in the industry because they either haven’t been introduced to the industry or they have received inaccurate information.
The Motorist Assurance Program (MAP) Canada is another tool industry is introducing to ensure consumers are better informed about the service required for their vehicle. The program is based on industry standards of service for automotive repair.
Many repair and service shops have upgraded their customer service and waiting areas to ensure the customer’s experience is positive. Many businesses have also taken extra steps to cater to women customers who now make almost half of the country’s vehicle purchases. For example, some local dealerships are offering free seminars geared to women to provide them with improved knowledge and confidence of doing business with the automotive industry.
There is no doubt that negative image issues are difficult to modify. However, other industries have proven that by working together a positive change can be achieved.
In situations where public perceptions are out-of-date and ingrained, making a big change can be a slow process — but it can be done! For example, consider the computer industry. It wasn’t too long ago that people often stereotyped those working with computers as “geeks”.
However, this industry has worked hard at their image and now computer industry occupations are highly respected. Young people are bombarded with career fairs and media reports on the industry and the exciting occupations available. They are made aware of the industry, what it entails and the opportunities available.
Communication and education is key. The public needs to receive positive messages every time they are in contact with the automotive repair and service industry to learn and understand that it is a professional, high-tech, high-skilled industry.
So we know what needs to be done. Now look in the mirror — Are you doing your part to dispel negative image perceptions?
Certainly, it is a challenge but if we all pull our weight, little by little, the respect deserved can be realized.