Why did you call this meeting?


meetingWhen was the last time that you held a really productive service department meeting and said to yourself, “that was a great meeting.”

The bottom line is that most of us are not good at holding meetings and even if you thought it was worthwhile, many of your staff might have very different opinions!

Did you send out an agenda prior to the meeting and did you or someone take down the minutes? In our rapidly changing marketplace, open two-sided discussions are more important than ever. It is also worth noting that giving feedback after the meeting is also hugely important, so you had better get your ducks in a row before bringing the staff together.

Telling the staff there is going to be a meeting they have to attend and not giving them enough notice is a big complaint, followed by not letting them know what the meeting is going to be about. Avoiding the input of your staff is another complaint. “We work for a dictatorship, all we got was beat up!”

You honestly don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that this type of formal meeting can destroy morale and cause animosity with the employees, not to mention reducing productivity. Last but by no means least, starting the meeting late, losing focus and then finishing late could be the kiss of death.

We have held some of our best meetings around the coffee truck right in the shop, they are quick, to the point, no one has to give up valuable time and the staff are also more relaxed and open to suggestions. The only downside is you might have to buy the coffee! We generally get a much better feeling of team building and then everyone is back to work. Give it a try — you might be pleasantly surprised.

We believe that your staff are your biggest single asset, so you owe it to them not to waste their time. If you are not setting out an agenda, taking minutes and giving constructive feedback then you should not be holding a meeting in the first place. We are often completely amazed how little most of the staff know about how the service department is performing against their peers, or whether their performance is good, average, or poor.

At the end of the day, meetings should be about opening up two-way communication and sharing information which is why we like to see service advisors, technicians and the parts department all in the same meeting. Some people think we do this because we like to see blood going up the walls which is not true.

The topics to discuss of course are up to the individual dealership, but here are a few suggestions. We are often told that technicians only care about their last pay cheque, but let’s be honest, often they lack communication and feedback from management so that is all that they know. Many of the staff have seen their salaries eroded over the last few years and are becoming frustrated by the situation. Discussing the current market and listening to their concerns can have a positive impact. Technicians have often complained to us that they are not getting their fair share of the posted door rate. This was mainly because no one had bothered to talk to them about the effective rate which can run significantly lower.

When holding a fixed operations meeting there are some key performance indicators that everyone has an impact on, so why not start with those? Discuss how last month’s labour sales compared over the previous year and how the numbers look in the current month. That can lead you into a discussion on hours per work order, which is still a hugely important number to measure. By the way, we like to make both service advisors and technicians accountable for the average sales per work order and believe that both should be measured daily.

How is the shop policy account running? If it is out of line, have some work orders as examples of what caused it — at times 80 per cent of issues concerning this account is caused by 20 per cent of the staff. Ask the staff what they would like to see done to improve business and often they will want some promotions on service specials, to drive the business. This is a good time to explain to the technicians just how expensive it is to put on a good service promotion and ask them if they are willing to buy in. An example would be reducing the usual labour operation time down from 1.6 hours to 1.4 hours. When a manager tells us that his staff will not buy in, it is often because of poor communication and leadership.

There is no point in asking the staff for feedback and then getting upset when they respond, it is amazing how many people believe in freedom of speech until someone answers back. One big complaint from the staff is not hearing back after the meeting. Even bad ideas deserve a reply.

The number one job of a manager is giving feedback to the staff, whether that is around the coffee truck for a 10 a.m. huddle or in a meeting room. Not doing it appears to be a major failing in a lot of stores.

About Jim Bell

Jim Bell is a writer, consultant and motivational speaker. He can be contacted by phone at 416-520-3038 or by e-mail at fixedbygac@cogeco.ca.

Related Articles
Share via
Copy link