Best Buy, Your Dealership and Automotive’s Hiring Issues

Timm Cuzzo
September 20, 2018

This is a tale of two retail environments, Best Buy and your dealership. Different verticals, uniquely different products but a lot of similarities. Brick and mortar businesses, target driven environments, warrantee upselling and staff turning machines.

The focus of this post is on that last point above – “staff turning machines”. Now I won’t paint all Best Buy stores with the same brush, they are a large corporate entity who spend large amounts of time and budget on building retail teams to service their locations. Just like your dealership, you spend a lot of time and budget (HR salary, training etc) on staffing your store.

This tale is about one Best Buy store and how one employee’s experience matches that of many first-time employees at dealerships, just like yours. Follow along and maybe, just maybe, you’ll see that there are similarities that could identify why our industry is having such a tough time finding anyone to work at the dealership.

The main character in this story is a friend of our CEO’s family, we’ll call him Derek to protect his identity. Derek’s entering his first year of college and knew he had to balance his tuition costs by working part-time. He lands a job at Best Buy, not too shabby for a guy who likes phones, laptops, video game consoles, and wireless headphones. Honestly what 20-year-old guy doesn’t? Here is a key factor about why Derek applied at Best Buy – he’s interested in sales and knew it would be a good place to learn.

Best Buy trains him for 30 days before he starts taking regular shifts at his store. He isn’t paid commission but paid hourly and bonused via quota on sales (*Best Buy sets an hourly average quota of $400 in sales per hour/shift). Derek is ok with this as Best Buy communicates to him that based on their floor process and environment he will excel if he sticks to their path. He’s looking forward to getting into live action.

Fast forward to Derek’s first week after training, he’s stressed out because he can’t make his quotas because of seasoned staff’s “refinements” to the Best Buy Process. He starts experiencing numerous instances of undocumented practices not covered in Best Buy’s training:

  • The “Greeter” at his store radios to the seasoned staff which customers to greet looking for big purchases, allowing them to cherry-pick higher value opportunities.
  • Seasoned staff bully Derek and other new staff to cover off smaller purchases to keep themselves open to larger retail opportunities mentioned above.
  • Managers go and assist in inputting sales into the Best Buy system to “help” new staff expedite the buying process (and entering their own numbers) and in turn take 50% of the quota credit. The new staff doesn’t find this out until their next pay period OR when they start feeling pressure to hit their hourly quotas (and their performance is being undercut by those applying the pressure).

Only after two weeks of being on the floor he’s disheartened and is contemplating quitting. Again, I’m not saying that this is a reality at every Best Buy but it’s clearly an example of the cultural effects at the workplace when the staff starts making decisions on the business’ behalf. At the time of writing, Derek has already given his notice and will have only worked one month after his initial month of training before leaving the job. Best Buy spent energy, resource, and dollars for 30 days to prepare Derek for his position to see him quickly sour on the role. Best Buy is a huge company, I’m sure they are keenly aware of costs associated with employee churn.

Many may read this and say, “that’s the problem with younger workers today, they have to toughen up, they have to be more aggressive”. This isn’t an age-based issue, DEREK WANTED TO BE IN SALES, WANTED TO LEARN, WANTED A CHANCE TO BE SUCCESSFUL. He went out and got the job, no one told him to, he went through the training, he believed in the process and the culture, management, and his peers let him down.

Dealerships all over North America are flagging, every day, at every 20 group and conference, how hard it is to find people to work at the dealership. It seems to be this mysterious puzzle we can’t solve. It’s not that hard to see why when Derek’s experience mimics so many that take jobs on the sales floor.

  • Management favors their top producers (*cough* sharks)
  • Managers spend little time coaching new staff but pressure them daily to hit their numbers.
  • The veteran staffers seem to know that every walk-in customer is “their customer” based on some legacy sale from 4 years earlier (none of which is logged in the CRM).
  • Split deals are rampant.
  • The new staff is required to rigorously follow processes that top producers and veteran staff (and sometimes even management) never seem to follow.
  • Receptionists and greeters favor certain staff over others for walk-in traffic

See the similarities? They are aplenty. Again, I’m not going to paint every dealership with the same brush. Everyone’s reality is drastically different but take heed of Derek’s story in case you find yourself struggling to keep areas of your dealership staffed up. If you’re seeing regular turnover it’s time to take a closer look, top-down, where your vision for the dealership’s culture is taking hits. The core points I’m trying to communicate here are simple:

  1. When we don’t hold our management teams accountable for the professional betterment of their ENTIRE team, those teams sour.
  2. Your entire management team needs to know how much it costs to search for, qualify, hire and train a new employee in their department.
  3. If people love working for you they will tell people about that, maybe there are individuals in their network that are looking for a career change? We want customers to tell friends and family about their buying experience, why not their employment experience?

Happy, engaged and empowered employees are going to make the customer’s experience better. Raising the bottom line. If staff turnover is plaguing your dealership it’s time to take a very close, honest look at why it’s happening and making your leadership more accountable to ensure it begins to stop. The impact is greater than you think.

* Derek’s communicated that his daily quota at Best Buy was for his department only and that it varied for store teams, based on the products they were responsible to sell. We (Nextup) do not represent Best Buy when sharing data shared with us by any previous employee.

Timm Cuzzo

Timm is COO of Nextup, leads the Product Team, and is passionate about marketing.

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