If You’re Not Producing Gross, Support Those Who Do

If You’re Not Producing Gross, Support Those Who Do

For years at the dealership level, I have often heard the phrase “non-productive” employees. It is a term that puzzles me because why in the world would anyone want to employ “non-productive” people?

When I ask for more of a defined idea of who falls under the “non-productive” category, the answer I normally get is, “those are the folks who don’t produce gross.” Another response I often hear is, “those are the folks in the accounting office.” So, it appears that based on the above definition of “non-productive,” it is not possible to have salespeople or technicians fall into this category. This is something I don’t buy and neither do you.
In my opinion, you should have only two types of employee-related categories for those who work in the dealership: productive employees or supportive employees. Nothing complicated here – merely a simple and easy to understand concept.

Productive employees are deemed to be those folks who directly produce gross profit for the organization. They either deal with customers one on one or are directly involved in the production of gross. These include salespeople, F&I producers (as opposed to an F&I director), service and body shop advisors, service and body shop technicians and parts counter people. Everybody else in the organization from the top all the way down to the bottom should be considered supportive employees.

Simply put, every person in the dealership is either producing gross or supporting those who produce gross. Managers do not produce gross. Yes, they may in many instances “manage” or control the gross generated by others who come in direct contact with customers, but overall a manager’s job is more diagnostic and analytical than to be on the front line with the customer.

One of the most important tasks management faces is to find ways to allow the gross producers to do just that, produce additional gross and surround them with support staff that possess the necessary enabling tools and processes to make this happen. It becomes an ongoing evolutionary process of trying to make your top producers more effective while working smarter vs. harder. Process management is a function of senior management with the ultimate goal being to eliminate waste and make things easier, faster and value-driven.

We see examples where process changes lead to higher grosses, additional volume and/or higher CSI. For example, we all know that having the customer’s primary data entered into the DMS system before the customer gets to F&I speeds up the paperwork. Therefore, the process is to have someone—a supportive employee—enter the client’s information while the test drive is taking place.

Another example is to allow your top sales producers—as long as they have the ability to work well with others and to delegate and monitor—to have assistants who help them with certain sales or delivery tasks. This enables the producers to spend more time on what they do exceedingly well; selling vehicles. In this case, many dealerships have gotten stuck on how the pay plan is going to work, rather than on how well the end result could be. The pay plan could be as simple as creating a fixed percentage for that “sales unit” and then the unit decides on a fair and mutually acceptable internal distribution of the commission.

On the service side, one of the most frustrating bottlenecks confronting dealers and their customers is the early morning write-up process in the service lane. It is at this time that service advisors are busy handling customers in the lane, while at the same time taking telephone calls from customers who want to know if they can bring their vehicles in for service or who want to know the cost of a particular service.

By merely changing the process so that a trained supportive person handles these types of phone calls during the early morning rush period. They can either make an appointment or address the customers’ questions. The support person enables the service advisors to be less distracted, leading to higher dollars per customer pay repair order and improved CSI.

In the accounting office, the liaison between the productive staff and the supportive staff is essential. Imagine that your dealership is striving for improved CSI while the accounting office neglects to make a timely pay off on a trade-in. The customer receives an unexpected late notice from the finance company for a vehicle he no longer owns, which undoubtedly leads to a poor CSI grade no matter how exceptional the sales process had been.

Even though changing culture in any organization is difficult, starting at a grass root stage makes sense. The chasm created by the term “non-productive” is deeply imbedded in the dealership psyche and this needs to change.

Once the folks in your store fully acknowledge and understand the symbiotic role that every associate plays in the delivery of excellent and timely services to customers, the functionality of your operation will be greater. Less time will be spent on firefighting and operational disconnects and more time spent will be spent on fine tuning systems, processes and superior customer service.

Appropriate guest handling skills and process improvement initiatives require that all people work cohesively. Perhaps this starts with what category you place your employees in.

This article by Jeff Sacks originally appeared in Dealer Magazine.

Jeff Sacks, president of Jeff Sacks & Associates, is an auto industry speaker, consultant and trainer and is actively involved with dealership and OEM consulting and training.
His website is www.jeffsacksauto.com and his phone number is 800-867-2160.