What do learning disabilities and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) have to do with running a dealership?

This column series, Technology for Profit, focuses on how successful dealerships use technology to satisfy customers and build a profitable and sustainable business. This month we’ll bring in the “people” side of your business and examine how you can use technology to:

  • Compensate for certain behaviors of your employees.

  • Increase employee productivity by removing barriers to allow them to do their jobs better.

Nobody likes paperwork — especially salespeople. Let them talk!

An issue in almost all dealerships is getting salespeople to do necessary paperwork. As a group they don’t like to fill out call reports, provide good trade-in information or send follow up notes or emails.

A large part of this behavior is why certain people go into sales. They like to talk with people. They like relating to them. They use their people skills to their (and the dealership’s) benefit. They just like talking with and relating to people. The flip side is they don’t like the detail, drudgery and time required for doing the paperwork.

Beyond that, some, maybe many, salespeople exhibit behaviors that are similar to symptoms of ADD. I’m not a psychologist but here are some symptoms of ADD. Do you recognize these in any of the people in your organization?

  • Procrastination or avoiding or delaying starting projects that require a lot of concentrated mental effort.

  • Hesitation or concentrating on organizing and planning for the completion of tasks.

  • Difficulty finishing projects or completing assignments when performing many tasks simultaneously on the go.

  • Forgetting to complete tasks and details after temporary switches to more stimulating tasks.

Some dealerships are compensating for these characteristics of salespeople by using the simple technology of voice recording, either on their smart phones, a hand-held voice recorder or by calling into a dedicated answering machine. Here’s how it can work:

At the completion of each customer contact, the salesperson flips on the recording device and dictates the results of the contact and any required follow up. Then they go onto their next appointment. Someone else at the dealership transcribes the recording and prepares the paperwork (call report, trade-in info, follow-up).

If the device is a dedicated hand-held unit (cell phone or voice recorder), the transcription must wait until the sales rep returns to the dealership. If the dealership has a dedicated answering machine, then the transcription is done periodically at the dealership.

Another alternative is to use the cloud storage capability of Android or Apple. This way the recording after the contact is done on a smartphone that stores the recording either on a public service (e.g. Apple iCloud) or a private service, maybe even the dealerships own server. Then the person who does the transcription will access the recording from the cloud, which might be right after the contact is recorded.

Dealerships that utilize this system have better contact with and management of their salespeople. Their management information is in “real time” and, most importantly, the information for successful selling is recorded and used. This is important especially for dealerships that employ a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system that are most successful when every customer contact is recorded.

Some will say there is an extra cost for the person doing the transcription. For sure there is a cost, but the benefit should be greater. The salesperson can complete the recording quickly and move onto the next sales opportunity. Their information is recorded immediately so it can be used to respond to the customers needs, and the sales manager has immediate management information about the activities of the sales reps.

Why technicians are good with their hands.

Here’s a task for your service managers. Ask them to evaluate all of your technicians and discuss each person’s abilities and comfort level with reading, writing or math. If the service managers don’t know their reading capability, then the next time there is a question about a machine, hand them hand the technician a technical manual and ask them to research the problem. Then hand them a schematic of the machine.

If the reading task appears to make the tech uncomfortable but they light up and respond more positively to reading the schematic, this technician likely has some type of learning difficulty/disorder (LD) related to reading.

LDs usually fall into 3 categories:

  • Reading: comprehension, speed, dyslexia

  • Written Expression: poor grammar or spelling, organization of thoughts, punctuation, handwriting

  • Math: difficulty with math concepts like quantity, decimal points, time or organizing numbers to solve a problem.

Techs with LD are frequently found in machinery dealerships. In our experience, up to 50% of all technicians have some level of LD. They are successful because they are good at spatial relationships and figuring out how things work. They may also do things to help them overcome their LD.

For example, when disassembling a machine, some technicians will be very meticulous in laying out each part, fitting and hardware in a strict sequence so they can re-assemble the machine correctly. Often, this is because they are not good at reading the technical manual.

So, in addition to being sensitive to the LD needs of many technicians, how can you employ technology to help increase their productivity?

Here are couple things that are in early development.

Using tablets for diagnosis and repair. Most manufacturers are providing schematics and repair manuals and photos on a tablet (like an iPad or Surface). Technicians with an LD are often more comfortable with these pictures then the written word. Some OEMs provide the disassembly sequence programmed in a series of pictures or time-lapse videos on the tablet.

Activity recording using motion detectors. Some innovative companies who provide dealer management software are building in systems to automate the preparation and completion of work orders.

Imagine a system that uses the motion and spatial detectors built into today’s smart phones and tablets. As the field technician is dispatched from the dealership or previous job, the built-in GPS records the travel time. As the tech pulls up to a farmer’s machine, the software on the tablet records the transition from moving (travel time) to working on the machine (repair time).

The software is coordinated with the flat rate or job costing information that prompts the tech for the disassembly sequence, parts needed and used. Once the repair is finished and the tech moves to the next job, the system automatically prepares the repair order draft with times and job codes. The tech can review any written or verbal notes or video clips he takes and include them in the repair order file.

In the latter scenario, note how a tech with an LD can use the technology to overcome reading, writing or math difficulties.

Thanks to the Mobile Strategy gurus at Single Source who provided this perspective of things to come in the very near future. (www.singlesrc.comk)

Author’s note: We’d like to hear other ways dealerships use technology to help employees overcome limitations to become more productive. 

George Russell can be contacted at GRussell@CurrieManagement.com.