Trust On The Decline

Most dealerships closely monitor their customer retention and CSI data, a key piece of running a successful operation. But many of those same stores spend far too little time working to retain one of their most key positions – the service advisor. According to NADA, roughly 40% of service advisors leave their jobs each year. Why is this happening and what can be done to keep them on the team?

One major reason for turnover stems from whether employees feel they can trust their employers.  Trust is on the decline. According to 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, public trust in business and institutions has fallen sharply in past year, the steepest decline in the history of the poll.  Of the more popular memes being passed around social media, many resonate with an expectation that job security does not exist.  One such clamors, “You’re killing yourself for a job that would replace you in a week if you dropped dead.  Take care of yourself.”

This is especially true for many working in the auto industry. The long hours advisors spend dealing directly with the public, most of whom would rather be doing nearly anything but be with us at the dealership, takes its toll. Add in other factors like unappreciative managers, grumbling coworkers, and commission-based pay, and the lack of trust kicks into high gear. As managers and leaders, we should be cautious to avoid burning out our advisors and watch for the early signs of discontent – late arrivals, call outs and the lack of “smiling faces” on the drive.

A lack of trust resonating in an employee can quickly move from concern to fear. Fear is detrimental to employee morale and performance. Leaders that are not careful will end up with a disengaged workforce and sliding profitability. A disengaged employee can also have a powerful effect on customers. Not prioritizing timeliness or communication with the needs of the customer is often the cause of them not returning.

We must concern ourselves with what can turn the tide in our individual operations.  As technology plays an ever-expanding role in the dealership environment, the human element of being able to understand frustration and share feelings becomes increasingly important.  This brings us to some practical steps we should all take to earn and keep the trust with our teams.

For your existing team, leaders should encourage and create open forums to listen and really hear your employees.  Holding regular one-on-ones with your team is a must.  Management should also commit themselves to doing semi-annual performance evaluations.  A good way to start these is to distribute a “self” evaluation for each employee to get their perspective on how well they are doing their job.  This allows the evaluation to be a two-way conversation.  When doing evaluations, it should not be a surprise to the employee if there is a low score or grade if we are doing our jobs correctly.

Another key step in earning trust is to set clear expectations for performance, provide regular feedback on that performance and give support in any way needed.  Goal setting best practices include using the “SMART” method (goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-focused, and Time-bound) and done with input from the service advisors.  People will be more committed to hitting those goals when they feel they had a role in determining what the targets would be.  Clear goals bring a higher level of transparency, which directly contributes to trust.

At the end of the day, like any good relationship, trust is fostered through open communication and honesty. Our employees should know their standing with the dealership and the best way for this to occur is for them to know what we expect from them and, potentially even more importantly, what they can expect from us. Having an open-door policy shouldn’t just be a policy; it must be a daily practice.

About the Author