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Saluting dealerships’ unsung heroes

Published December 21, 2012

With the festive season upon us, I thought it would be timely to devote a column to the unsung heroes of the retail automobile industry.

I’m referring to the thousands of men and women who work at new-car dealerships across Ontario.

These dedicated individuals are your siblings, your parents, your relatives, your friends, your neighbours and your acquaintances. Indeed, they hail from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and they represent the backbone of one of Ontario’s most vital and progressive industries.

They work in an industry that doesn’t get a lot of respect (their efforts and achievements are often overlooked outside of the workplace), but the work they do is exciting, challenging, fast-paced — and essential.

These unsung heroes include front-line personnel, such as receptionists, salespeople, sales managers, business managers, service managers and service advisers. These are the people who customers usually interact with when purchasing or servicing their vehicles.

But there are many other individuals who work behind the scenes, and who are just as important to the success of any dealership.

They include controllers, human resource and office administration personnel, warranty staff, appointment coordinators, service technicians and apprentices, detailing experts, parts managers, parts and accessories personnel, and collision repair specialists.

All of these positions require varying degrees of skill, expertise, education and training. Many professions require four or more years of training and education to achieve full accreditation and, in many cases, the training and education continues well after a degree, diploma or a license has been earned.

Job requirements and expectations are changing all the time, from service technicians upgrading their computer and diagnostic skills to human resource personnel mastering social networking platforms to recruit new employees.

That is what working at a dealership is all about: adapting to change and embracing new processes, procedures and technologies in order to increase efficiencies and to better serve customers. In today’s fiercely competitive business environment, it’s all about the customer experience.

When I reflect back on the past three decades of my career, it’s incredible how far dealerships have evolved in terms of facilities, architecture, product presentation, signage, customer service and product offerings. As dealership facilities have evolved, so too have dealership personnel.

Today’s workforce is better-educated and better-trained to meet the evolving expectations of customers than at any other time in history. The pace of change is too quick and too demanding to allow our workforce to rest on its laurels.

Recently, someone asked me what makes a great dealership. Without hesitation, I replied, “It’s the people.”

A car dealership can have the best location in town, the largest new facility on the block and the most award-winning vehicles in its showroom.

But without the right people in place, working as a team to deliver great products and “wowing” customers at every turn, a dealership cannot hope to achieve any sustainable measure of success.

As president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, I’ve had the privilege of visiting many dealerships across Ontario, and I’m amazed at the level of talent and professionalism on display in all departments.

These unsung heroes not only do their jobs extremely well, but they volunteer on numerous committees at work, such as health and safety. They take part in company charity efforts and are actively involved in their communities, many coaching young children in sports, etc.

These individuals take great pride in their work and deserve to be recognized for a job well done. So, this holiday season, I wish to acknowledge the thousands of men and women working at dealerships across this great province.

The TADA and its board of directors salute your efforts and wish you and your families much health, happiness and good fortune throughout this season and in the New Year.

This column represents the view of TADA. Email president@tada.ca or visit tada.ca. Frank Romeo, president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, is a new car dealer in the GTA.

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