Technician retention is a pressing issue for dealerships, plagued by problems ranging from compensation disagreements and miscommunications to uncertainty around career growth opportunities. These challenges not only lead to high turnover but also contribute to a disjointed work environment and escalating labor costs.

However, dealership leaders aren’t without options here, and even have paths for proactively growing their staff with loyal technicians. The right approach to long-term retention can help foster a balanced, loyal, and innovative workforce that benefits both the dealership and its customers.

What keeps customers coming back to your dealership in 2023?

Insights from Nearly 1,500 Dealership Customers

Taking stock of your retention options

Technician retention in car dealerships hinges on several key factors, which we’ve covered at length in the past. Top among these factors is competitive compensation, followed by a positive workplace culture that makes employees feel valued. Poor communication from management can exacerbate issues, leading to low morale and high turnover.

Lack of career growth opportunities and unsatisfactory benefits also contribute to technicians seeking jobs elsewhere.

To improve retention and reduce turnover costs, dealerships should adopt a holistic approach that involves all departments. This includes offering clear career paths, better benefits, and open communication channels, for starters.

But when it comes to the technician shortage, there’s often too much emphasis on playing defense. What would being proactive look like?

How strategic hiring reduces aggressive “poaching” issues

Longer-term hiring strategies can offer a more sustainable solution for dealerships. While we’ve encouraged dealers to hire from job boards like Wrenchway or NeedTechs, you can also benefit from digging a little deeper. And no, I don’t mean looking to other dealerships or repair shops.

Instead of “poaching” experienced technicians from competitors, which often leads to inflated salaries and a disjointed work environment, dealerships can plant seeds early (or “farm” for talent as some people call it). This involves recruiting candidates from local high schools, trade schools, or associate degree programs and putting them through rigorous training and internship programs.

This approach not only helps control labor costs, but also fosters a sense of loyalty and camaraderie among team members.

One significant advantage of this strategy is that these recruits are often more open to adopting new technologies and practices. Their enthusiasm can serve as a catalyst for change within the dealership, encouraging more tenured staff to adapt and innovate. This diversity allows you to pair these tech-oriented technicians with staff who can offer the skill and efficiency of experience.

For instance, implementing modern practices (like using telematics data for remote diagnostics) becomes easier when these new techs show eagerness and capability in using these technologies.

Over time, this creates a balanced team of lower-level, mid-level, and master-level technicians, leading to better labor cost controls and a healthier work environment. The end result is a more profitable and harmonious dealership that benefits everyone involved.

Fixing the disconnect between advisors and technicians

Many technicians feel advisors don’t give them the full picture, especially when dealing with tricky car issues that aren’t straightforward to diagnose. This lack of information can waste a technician’s time and even cost them money, adding to job dissatisfaction.

This highlights another key technician retention issue: lower job satisfaction leads to higher turnover. We’ve touched on the importance of good communication for retention before (such as from management), but consider here how you might improve the link between technicians and service advisors specifically.

Technology can be a game-changer here. For example, a well-documented digital process guide could prompt advisors to ask the right questions, making sure technicians get all the details they need to do their job well.

Another approach is to link the performance bonuses of advisors and technicians, so everyone’s motivated to communicate better. When communication improves, technicians are happier and more likely to stick around.

A recent study found that a more satisfied technician could bring in an extra $34,600 per year for the dealership per person. So, better communication isn’t just good for morale—it’s also good for business.

Dissatisfaction and burnout can come in part from these communication lapses, but it also might be a sign your service lane isn’t as streamlined or organized as it could be, and being overbooked creates its own set of revenue problems.

An overbooked service lane leads to more than just burned out technicians, but you have options

A busy service lane can cost dealerships loyal customers, not just the morale and job satisfaction of service technicians. In the 2023 Dealership Service Retention Report, we discovered just how damaging an overbooked service lane can be for customer retention.

When customers can’t find available appointment slots, they are likely to seek services from competitors. This not only results in the loss of immediate business but can also lead to the permanent loss of customers — with 32% of consumers saying “limited availability for service appointments” was one of the top four reasons they might ditch their dealership.

This presents a common struggle, as dealerships try to optimize appointment availability without overworking their technicians. If you’re facing this challenge, we recommend you check out how to expand your service lane capacity, such as by identifying some frequently overlooked areas to increase your efficiency.

There aren’t any quick fixes for technician retention

The challenges facing car dealerships extend beyond technician retention to encompass broader operational issues that can erode customer loyalty. Addressing these interconnected problems requires a holistic approach, from improving communication between advisors and technicians to adopting long-term hiring strategies.  

By focusing on these areas, dealerships can not only enhance job satisfaction among technicians, but also improve customer retention.

What keeps customers coming back to your dealership?

Download the 2023 Dealership Service Retention Report to see what dealership service customers have to say.

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