Are your customers feeling the squeeze?

The infamous technician shortage continues to pose a challenge to shops

You may have heard, but there’s a shortage of technicians working in the aftermarket. And according to recent reports from the TechForce Foundation (‘Technician Demand,’ October 2017 and ‘Technician Supply,’ June 2018) the situation appears to be getting worse. These reports indicated that while the demand for skilled technicians in the aftermarket continues to rise, the number of new talent coming out of Votech and postsecondary schooling is on the decline -- with the exception of a slight increase of students entering the diesel field.

            The automotive repair business is essentially dealing with a perfect storm of conditions which challenges not only technicians, but shop owners and the mobile tool business, by extension. First is the challenge of ‘selling’ tech careers to students … and painting an accurate picture of what the job entails (with all the diagnostics at work, there is and will be more to repair than just poking around under a hood). Next, those new vehicles with multiple sensors are making their way into the bays. Technicians will need an updated/advanced knowledge of vehicle systems and the tools required for repair. Finally, there’s the problem of wages in this business, which in many cases are not in step with employee hiring and retention.

Joel Simmons, mobile tool dealer and owner of Bearded Outlaw Tools, mentions this conundrum in this month’s cover story. Simmons drives a route in Louisville, Kentucky. He’s got a good rapport with his customers, and he often gets a first-hand look into their struggles.

“I’ve had some customers do Uber on the side, and they make more money doing that than being technicians,” Simmons says. He, like others in the industry, has a sense that something’s got to give in the coming years. Simmons believes those shop owners and technicians who embrace computer-based programs for servicing vehicles and running a shop will lead the charge into the next era of automotive repair. It’s just a matter of making it to the other side.

Here’s how you as a mobile tool dealer can help to ease the way for [struggling] customers.

1)   Do the research for them. Simmons built his reputation on learning about new product well enough to ‘teach’ it to his customers. “There were mobile dealers out there who would lie about what a scan tool could do, and I would make sure [customers] knew what it wouldn’t do.” Describe to customers how this scan tool or A/C machines can simplify the workflow … and then let them get back to work.

2)    Do the legwork, too. If a customer is in need of a specialty tool but doesn’t know what that tool is or whether it even exists, he or she is essentially stuck. It might take a couple of calls on your part to crack the case and deliver the solution. Your customer will thank you for it.

It’s not an easy time to be a technician. The industry is changing very quickly; the next generation hasn’t yet picked up on the potential of the profession. Show customers you’re in their corner, so you can keep building that relationship for years to come.

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