employee retention

Interview: How to Improve Service Technician Retention

Hear from two of the best in the business when it comes to understanding and improving service technician retention; Ed Roberts and Jeff Daniel.



As part of our Trends Report on Retention, we had the privilege of speaking with two of the best in the business when it comes to understanding service technician retention. Ed Roberts, COO of Bozard Ford Lincoln and Jeff Daniel, Service Director of Maple Hill Auto Group discuss this and outline some steps we can take to improve our tech retention. 


Quantum5: From the 2022 NADA Dealership Workforce Study, on average, entry level or hourly techs are at a 58% retention rate, meaning that these employees don't even last 9 months at a dealerships. We’re losing our potential future A-techs and this puts immense strain on Service Departments who are already struggling to find employees. What are some of the things we need to start looking at as an industry to improve this? 

Ed Roberts: I hope this is eye opening to everybody because if 58% of our techs are gone within the first year, that says something about who we are as an industry and who we are as an employer. We can’t just keep blaming the industry either...we have to take a look at ourselves too and tackle this head on. We have to start by creating an onboarding process and create targets for these employees so they have a clear path to become a C-tech, B-tech, and eventually an A-tech. 

Jeff Daniel: Onboarding is 100% the key. If you don’t set expectations, and by that I don’t mean, “This is your bay, now go to work...” saying “these are our expectations for you, our company standards, where we want to see you at 60 days, 90 days,” etc. Also, asking your techs to tell you what they need to succeed, it’s a 2-way street. We’re failing as an industry to recognize that you can’t get your expectations met if you don’t communicate these expectations with your new techs. 

Q5: While onboarding is a major issue industry wide, we need to look in the mirror as this is only going to get solved at the store level; the OEM is not going to figure this out for you and they’re not going to give you an onboarding process. We need to work within our stores to address this. 


Employee experience and exit interviews 

Q5: When creating an environment that people actually want to work at and stay at, what are some of the key things that stores can do to get a program started at their dealership(s)? 

Ed: There are several things we can do here and it just depends on who you are and your individual store and needs. Don’t forget that no matter what we do, we’re all going to have some turnover still. One of the things we can do is to learn from that and to have someone do an exit interview with the departing employee. And that someone might not be you, if you’re the leader they’re leaving, as they’re probably not going to open up to you directly. Whether it’s the HR Director, Sales Manager, Parts Manager, let someone do an exit interview with them so they can speak candidly about their experience, and you can find out what their frustration points were, what they’re going to do next, etc. This could give you a list of where to start from in terms of addressing potential issues.  

Also, take a look at it from where they got started. By that, I mean for those who go to trade schools, vocational programs, etc., they might not have the confidence or skills yet for what’s thrown at them in their new role. They might get something handed to them on an RO that they’ve never seen before or even knew existed on the automobile and now they are expected to fix something that they never had any exposure to. This is a huge training opportunity for us to overcome these obstacles and give them the training they need, so they can up their skills and confidence and become higher level technicians. 

Q5: It is an intimidating experience, no matter what type of job you’re entering, to go in and feel like you’re on your own when it comes to complex situations you never encountered before. Many new technicians are worried that they’ll fail and not having the right mentorship or training opportunities is a contributor to that. 



Q5: What types of things are you seeing at tech schools that are working to help new technicians or advisors who are entering the field? 

Jeff: There are some big schools, like WyoTech in Wyoming, who are expanding their facilities and are graduating classes of 500 students at a time. There are industries who are knocking on their door, such as the aviation industry, but not a lot of dealerships are showing up and working to attract these students into the auto industry. Just as you need new techs joining your team, you also can’t replace the knowledge of the tech who has been there for 30 years. When that 30-year veteran tech might not be producing as much as he had been, that’s a great opportunity to pay for his (or her) knowledge and compensate him to become a mentor for your newer techs. That takes the fear factor out of newer techs knowing that if they have a problem, they can ask the veteran techs for help and the veteran tech can answer that question and assist without fear of losing income, fear of being replaced, etc. When 5 years down the road comes and that veteran tech is ready to retire and you need your B-technicians to be at that level or as close as possible, you’ve created that pipeline. By treating your veteran techs (and all techs, for that matter) with the respect they deserve and compensate them for their loyalty, knowledge, and mentorship, you’ll retain not only the veterans but also the new techs who are watching how you treat your employees. Not only that, but they will also they pass along their unique knowledge, they’ll tout your dealership as a great place to work to people in the community and potentially help bring in other new employees down the road. 

Q5: Mentorship and keeping people is key. This goes for all positions within the dealership, not just the technicians. You don’t want to lose the knowledge that your people have attained about the workings of the dealership, tips about certain vehicles that others might not know, and general tricks of the trade that are gained by experience. 

If you’d like to learn more or discuss this topic further, drop us a line here. 

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