Auto Service World
News   January 17, 2023   by Adam Malik

Properly utilizing your techs’ skills

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The old saying ‘use the right tool for the right job’ can be applied to your shop and its technicians: Have the right technician doing the right job.

A shop that doesn’t put its technicians in the best position to succeed will only drive up frustration and force them out of your business, an industry expert recently warned.

Nothing can be more frustrating to a tech and shop owner than when a technician is assigned a ticket beyond their skill level, explained Chris Chesney, vice president of training and organizational development at Repairify. This happens because most shops operate under a first-come-first-serve system — the next available tech grabs the next available ticket.

But if the ticket is a challenge beyond their skills, they can become frustrated by not knowing how to do the job — either they don’t have the experience or they haven’t been put on a path to develop those skills, he said during the recent Technology Conference hosted by the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (now known as MEMA Aftermarket Suppliers).

So shop owners need to focus on the best use of the skills their techs have. “We need to take inventory of skills in the shop. You inventory the skills that are required by your organization to serve your customer, you inventory the skills of your people and you identify the gaps in skills that you have,” he said. “That’s where you need to hire to or educate or upskill people to.”

Rather than focusing on priority or why a customer came in, prioritize work orders based on skill and dispatch the orders to match up with the skills of the right technician. That doesn’t mean one tech needs to work on that vehicle the whole time — if something more complicated needs to be done, bring in the higher-skilled tech. Then when something else can be done by another tech with lower skills, move the vehicle over to them.

“We move the car to that skill,” Chesney said. “Don’t just leave the car in a bay and let it sit and make that one person work on it. I will assure you that moving the car to skill will absolutely improve your bottom line.”

Otherwise, you’re wasting the time of your more skilled techs — and that’s the biggest thing a shop needs to avoid.

“That skilled talent needs to be precious to us — we need to hold it tight. We need to make sure that we do whatever we need to do to keep them in our business because they’re few and far between,” Chesney said.

But don’t forget to keep your lower-skilled techs learning — even though you’re feeding them jobs matching their level, you need to ensure they’re upskilling.

“Life happens. One of [your top techs is ] going to come to you one morning and they’re going to say, ‘My wife has a job 1,000 miles away and we’re moving.’ You need to replace that person,” Chesney said. “If you continue to upskill your team using career pathways, you will have somebody on the bench ready to take their place. Nothing more expensive than trying to replace a skilled technician who leaves and you weren’t planning for it.”

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2 Comments » for Properly utilizing your techs’ skills
  1. Geoff says:

    This article inadvertently makes an excellent case against the flat rate system. The reason for the first come first serve ticket off the board is to prevent squabbling over who gets what job. It’s counter productive for exactly the reasons listed here.

    I think it’s also important to note that despite a tech being skilled at a particular job, they may not enjoy it, or it may very likely be a job that they feel doesn’t pay what it should. That reinforces the idea of getting the surrounding cast up to speed on their skills, and make sure the tech you’re leaning on feels appreciated for what they’re doing. If it’s a quieter time in the shop, make sure somebody else is taking a crack at it.

  2. Barry Makins says:

    I totally agree with Geoff. There is no other trade that has technicians working hours for free because of especially difficult electronic problems. The scenerio in the above mentioned case under a flat rate system would be, the high tech person would receive a penalty resulting in a lower pay cheque than the non high tech person who got to do the non high tech work. That would reinforce my past sayings that the more you know, the less you make. Then people wonder why knowledgeable technicians pull up stakes and move somewhere else. I always went with the theory that the more you know, the busier you would be year round but then the customers and management take advantage of the knowledgeable people and reward the less advanced.

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