I’ve written many times about the value of training and professional development to employee retention. Training, in combination with a company culture designed to create engaged employees, can help make a dealership a force to be reckoned with. Employee retention has always been a pain point in the automotive industry, because many employees feel there is no job security. Until very recently, it has been up to the dealership itself to foster this environment and provide ongoing training for its staff. Mercedes, however, has decided to take matters into their own hands.
In a recent article in Automotive News, it was reported that Mercedes is launching an ambitious training program with an ultimate goal of training all 22,000 Mercedes franchised dealer’s employees, and 4,000 Mercedes corporate employees, in a program they’re calling the “Brand Immersion Experience.” At a cost of roughly $1,200 per employee, (not including travel expenses) and a total investment of $30 million over the next 4 years, Mercedes has decided to stop waiting and take action. The training isn’t in-dealership, as most OEM training is, but rather at their factory in Vance, Alabama. “For the past several years, Mercedes-Benz has been investing heavily in its people, processes and technology to improve customer service,” reported Automotive News.
Decades ago, there was minimal involvement by OEMs in dealership operations. As time progressed, however, OEMs started realizing the value of training and having knowledgeable dealership personnel. They began implementing certifications in both sales and service. CSI scores became more important, and bad scores lead to increasingly harsher ramifications – everything from lowered allocations to loss of factory money – something that could equate to tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
I doubt that most dealers would disagree that training is important. The problem is who in the dealership should be responsible for training and ensuring that it continues on a consistent basis. I’ve heard many stories of dealers sending their sales staff off to a sales training seminar, returning and implementing weekly (or daily) training, just to see the training slowly dwindle down until it stops altogether. For any training to be effective, make it a priority and ensure that the training program is set up to be consistent and ongoing. Without consistent ongoing training, the enthusiasm and immediate results that are seen right after a training session can quickly evaporate. Those employees then regress to their old habits and methods.
An ongoing training program for your entire staff – from the receptionist, to sales, and service – shows your staff that you value their professional growth. It can also foster a company culture that is conducive to your company’s vision. Chances are good that, if you don’t, your manufacturer might decide to do it for you. While this might seem great on the surface, keep in mind that a manufacturer’s primary concern is training your employees in brand loyalty, not loyalty to your company.
The fact that Mercedes recognizes the value in training and how it can affect customer service is great. However, I think dealers will see better results if, once an employee has gone through their Brand Immersion Program, upon return to the dealership there is additional, ongoing company-centric training. Mercedes wants owners of their vehicles to be satisfied and loyal to them. It’s up to you to then train your employees so customer’s want to be loyal to your specific dealership.