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Anatomy of the parts & service department staff

Successful Dealer Staff February 27, 2014

Peanut butter and jelly. Starksy and Hutch. Parts and service. Without one, the other just isn’t the same and in some cases, is irreparably harmed.

If the parts department doesn’t manage its inventory well, the service department will lose efficiency completing repairs, thus driving business away. If technicians are dumping old, greasy parts on the back counter in search of quick replacements, the parts department staff may find itself strained, harried and more prone to error.

But before you have a parts and service anatomy to discuss, dealerships first need to staff both departments.

Staffing shortages are an industrywide plague, and though everyone has his own pet anecdotal story about finding the best service writer or the best technician, there are some common denominators.

Age is definitely one such commonality. The experts Successful Dealer consulted agreed that the baby boomer workforce is being eclipsed by technologically-savvy twentysomethings, creating a different learning curve in the dealership.

Portland, Ore.-based TEC Equipment holds 11 Mack and Volvo dealerships, predominately on the west coast. The company employs about 600 people, so successful search and retention techniques are prized.

“We’re always looking at where our next generation workforce is coming from and that’s really critical. How are we going to staff the next generation?” Dave Thompson, owner/president, TEC Equipment.

TEC Equipment has tackled the question of attracting quality staff by looking in non-traditional places.

“We’re saying that this job is like working a main counter. You could be at a NAPA parts store or a Nordstrom’s department store-you’re just not dressed as nicely,” Thompson says.

In increasingly metropolitan markets, it is not sufficient to search for employees through word of mouth, or to rely on staff regeneration through the progeny of current workers.

“We go after young people,” said Thompson. “We look at the industrial arts departments or the vocational departments of high schools.”

Tapping into this fountain of youth and integrating ages has proved itself to be a successful strategy for TEC Equipment, in both parts and service.

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