Training multiple learning styles—from customers to techs

May 1, 2017
Finding the right way to teach someone, whether it’s a technician or a customer, is like adding color to a wiring diagram. When you explain an idea the right way, you can see the lightbulb click over their head.

Do you remember the first time you saw a colored wiring diagram? Those things are a beauty!

Before those came along, technicians were left deciphering a spaghetti mess of wires, connecting 40 (or 400) different components and a harness. Trying to identify a single wire was a nightmare.

When they added color, the whole game changed. Now you could see exactly where a single wire comes from and where it goes.

Training works the same way. When you don’t fully grasp a concept, it’s like looking at a black-and-white wiring diagram. Some people may get it, but no matter how long others look at that image, they only become more frustrated. 

That’s because people learn in different ways. Understanding how someone thinks can solve hours of frustration explaining the same thing over and over again with no results.

Finding the right way to teach someone, whether it’s a technician or a customer, is like adding color to a wiring diagram. When you explain an idea the right way, you can see the lightbulb click over their head and – bam – there’s color!

Multiple Learning Styles

Not everyone learns the same way. Some people can hear a concept once and master it. Other people need to see, read, touch and feel the concept in real life before the idea will click.

In other words, some people might pick up the concept of gravity by reading a textbook, but others will never grasp it until they see you drop an apple and watch it hit the ground.

I fall much more into the second group. When I don’t understand something, I ask someone else to explain or show me how it works. You might prefer to tinker or listen to a podcast. We’re all different.

It took years of reading articles, listening to advice and testing concepts in my shop before the significance of this finally sunk in with me. If not everyone learns the same way, I cannot expect the same results from each individual using only one method.

There are obvious applications of this throughout your shop.

Just consider your front counter. If you’re advising every customer the same way, you’re guaranteeing that some people are never going to understand what you’re recommending and therefore, cannot make an informed decision They may buy, but chances are high they’ll develop buyer’s remorse and never come back

What’s true of the customer at the front counter is absolutely true in the rest of the shop.

If you’ve ever felt like you can’t find good employees, or that training your team is a waste of your time and money, you’re not alone. It’s a common belief among shop owners.

But I’m here to tell you that teaching your employees in the way they learn best – coupled with measurement and accountability – can change the way you think about your team.

It Doesn’t End with Training

Even the most tested and proven concepts will fail to take hold for two reasons.

The first, we’ve covered. I could hand you an article that teaches how to grow your profits by $1,000 a day, but if you learn best by listening or tinkering, you’d never capture that money.

That’s true whether we’re talking about shop policies, like the inspection process you teach your techs, or whether we’re talking outside training, like the class your service writer attends. Be sure to provide – or seek out – training that addresses multiple learning styles.

But just as important as the way in which we train is the way in which we hold our teams accountable for executing the things they’ve learned.

If you teach your techs how your shop inspects a vehicle, but you don’t hold them accountable to do it every time, they’ll absolutely go back to pencil whipping inspections. Even when they fully understand the expectation and completely grasp the importance. Without accountability, they are likely to fall back on old ways.

If your service writer learns the best way to advise at the front counter, if they fully understand how they can directly impact the shop’s growth, but you don’t hold them accountable to advise every customer that way each time, they’ll go back to old habits.

Training doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Even the best training will be useless unless you’re willing to hold your team accountable to do what they’ve learned. You must measure daily, track daily and hold accountable daily.

To bring this back full circle, the same goes for your customers at the front counter. After you’re done educating in their learning style and they’ve made an informed decision about their vehicle, your job isn’t done. That’s why customer follow up is so critical. When you offload your customer follow up to an outside firm, you take away your chance to reinforce your education and address concerns.

No Shortcuts

If there’s a key takeaway here, it’s that there are no shortcuts or magic words.

Educating your customers so they can make the right decisions takes patience and follow through, but leads to long-term relationships and bigger sales. Any trick or gimmick that pretends to shortcut this process will lead to burning trust with the customer

Educating your employees so they execute takes patience, accountability and measurement, but leads to sustainable changes and growth. Trying to shortcut this process is what leads to feeling like training doesn’t work or employees aren’t worth the effort to train.

There is no easy button. Because people learn in multiple ways, you cannot shortcut the training process with a single tool or class – you need a system or a toolkit that incorporates all of the tools for success. Seek out programs that adapt and involve, find multiple ways to teach your customers, and follow through to make sure the lessons are sticking.

With multiple tools in hand, you’ll be able to maximize your effort so your customers and your technicians can make better decisions. You won’t have to spend time explaining a concept over and over to someone who simply doesn’t understand because you’ll be able to approach it from multiple angles.

Training is a powerful tool. Understand the training you are providing your employees and the advisement you provide to customers, inside and out, so you can hold employees accountable to those policies. Follow up with your customers to ensure they understand your advice or identify areas to improve.

Understanding how people learn empowers you to train and educate them more effectively. But it doesn’t end there. Follow through and hold your team accountable to make sure the training sticks and adds real value to your business.

About the Author

David Rogers

David Rogers is president of Auto Profit Masters, Shop4D, and the award-winning Automated Marketing Group, and the COO of Keller Bros. Auto Repair in Littleton, Colo. Together, these companies form an ecosystem of success for shop owners, offering proven, sustainable solutions for maximizing efficiency and growth, growing customer bases, and creating a culture of excellence. With nearly half a century of experience in the automotive industry (and they’re still growing exponentially), Auto Profit Masters and Automated Marketing Group have the tools and resources to help set your shop apart from your competition and elevate your business to the next level. 

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