Auto Service World
Feature   March 1, 2007   by Andrew Ross, Publisher and Editor

Learning Curve

It is clear in this industry that many are committed to the need for training, but too few will commit to it.

It seems that while everybody has an equal stake in the success of an industry — the poorly-run business with apathetic management will surely feel its declining fortunes as keenly as one that tries hard but still has trouble — too few actually take action.

For anyone paying attention, it is pretty clear that the same faces show up at training clinics, industry events, and conferences again and again. And, based on more than a little anecdotal evidence, these are also many of the same individuals who regularly seek help, and offer it, in online forums. Which is just to say that it’s not necessarily about the ability or willingness to travel that lies at the heart of the issue.

Perhaps it is a consequence of human nature that a minority are active pursuers of knowledge, but in some cases at least it has to be something else.

Take a current example from our own publication, and our sister magazine Service Station and Garage Management.

Our assistant editor J.D. Ney, while working his way through some SSGM duties, brought some comments to my attention. It seems that a shop owner had recently commented that there was simply not enough training being offered, and the industry needed to step up. This struck the young, astute Mr. Ney as particularly humourous, or at least bewildering, as he had just finished an article for this magazine where jobber after jobber had noted that they had a heck of a time getting technicians out to training.

Clearly, he observed, there is a fundamental disconnect here.

It is pretty plain that this industry has failed utterly to spread the word about how important ongoing training is. Too many technicians see the last of their formal training the moment they get their ticket.

And, before you point the finger, only 30% of counterpeople go to more than one clinic a year, and 40% of those who answered our survey say not a single counterperson at their business had received any formal training in being a counterperson. They want it, but they don’t get it.

Asking people who are not a part of a training culture to convince others of its importance is like the blind leading the blind.

A dealership tech once told me the trouble with training was that all it did was allow him to do his job tomorrow — it never helped him advance. Maybe there is a message in there that the emphasis in training needs to shift, to promote not just a better understanding of technical systems, but also customer relationships. The ride control initiatives noted last month certainly seem to indicate this.

Finally, stop offering training that fails to attract attendees. If something isn’t working, refusing to change shows a serious lack of learning ability on your part. It wastes everybody’s time and effort, and nobody wants that.

You need to drive the training agenda.

Ask your customers what training they crave, and what they’ll pay for it. Tell your training providers what you need, and accept nothing less. Make a pact with your customer, then deliver on your promise. You have much to gain and precious little to lose.


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