Retailer and Technician Training
12 volt retailers and technicians rarely have adequate time for training. We generally seem crunched for staff development time. It’s changing ‘what we do’ or ‘how we do it’ each day. “OEM electronics are no longer simple,” says Andy Wehmeyer, a global product line manager at Harman Consumer Group. “We need more skills than ever to provide consumer value in a successful and profitable installation bay.”
Like many industry veterans, Wehmeyer routinely shares his expertise at training events or in online forums, but often finds a limited installer audience willing to learn those new skills because, again, they lack the time.
It’s difficult to leave a retail shop for off-site training (trade shows, regional training, etc.), or to set aside time in the shop for on-site training on any kind of a regular basis. In fact, training is all but absent in many 12 volt businesses today; it’s a continuing challenge for manufacturers, too. So what’s the answer?
The Culture of Learning
Industry veterans participating in training efforts throughout their 12 volt careers cite a marked change in the culture of learning today. Some comment on younger technicians and their generational learning style differences. Others cite the retail owner/management culture that lacks staff skills development and continued learning. Unfortunately, retail owners sometimes expect technicians to figure things out on their own. But that usually doesn’t work out well for everyone—especially the customer.
Manufacturers have also allowed the industry learning culture to fragment. Industry veterans recall the original Rockford Fosgate R.T.T.I. training courses, or early vehicle security companies who taught the industry’s technicians about relays, diodes and other functional electronics used in security system installations. Those days have long since passed. Though costly, these training opportunities were in-the-trenches and hands-on.
It’s nice to have retailers attend events and consume manufacturer delivered training content, but usually not compulsory. Here’s an idea: If retailers and technicians were required to complete specific training earmarks before being allowed to purchase from manufacturers, a very different culture in the 12 volt aftermarket would exist. However, the economics would not support the sales volumes that many mature 12 volt manufacturers are required to run. The culture of continuous learning in the 12 volt industry is a complex issue—and it’s one that doesn’t have a single silver bullet answer.