If efficiency is one of the most important factors to a dealership's success, then employee communication is certainly one of the most important factors in having an efficient dealership.

Miscommunication is a problem that plagues many different businesses. Even successful businesses will often have communication problems at times. According to Inc.com, these issues can not only lead to conflict, but they can also cost you and your employees valuable time.

Causes of Miscommunications

While some of the sources of miscommunication can be solved with better technology, often it is human error that ultimately is responsible.

There are a seemingly endless number of reasons why communication can break down at any workplace, including dealerships. In two articles on the subject by the MBA Knowledge Base and Forbes, some of the common issues are:

  • Language: When a message is too complex, has too much information too broad or is generally unclear, it may be misinterpreted.
  • Differences in Roles: When someone sends a message to a supervisor, they may tend to focus only on things the supervisor will be interested in and ignore more important information. On the other side of the coin, a supervisor may interpret a message as a challenge to their authority.
  • Conflict/Lack of Trust: If people are in a state of conflict, information can both be kept from people, misinterpreted or ignored. Ultimately, the system breaks down to a point where people may be purposely avoiding necessary communication.
  • Distractions: There are a broad range of distractions that can cause communication breakdowns including background noises, hunger, room temperature and even the font in an email or message. 
  • Mode of Communication: Sometimes emails can be missed or misread when it is something that could have been said in person or quickly on a messaging app.

As the owner of your dealership, you should an active role in studying how people communicate with each other. Are important bits of information lost as it moves down the chain? Do you have people replying late to messages or missing them altogether? Do you have some employees who seem to be on a different page?

Here are some tips that can improve communication between you and your employees.

Communicate through Messaging App

Bad communication on email or messaging can cause mass confusion at your dealership

Everyone who has worked in a business with email has inevitably been asked this question: Did you see that email I sent?

And, just about everyone has responded to that question at least once with this reply: No. What email?

Technical problems can cause many miscommunication problems at a dealership. Maybe an employee was assigned a work order but never received it. Maybe technical problems have caused your accounting manager to stay an extra hour finding information on a sale. Maybe someone missed an important meeting because they never received an email.

Whatever it is, modern dealerships need efficient technology to make sure communication does not break down because of technology.

One worthy investment might be an instant messaging application like Microsoft Teams or Slack, where people can message each other individually or as a group. According to Mobile App Dailey, messaging apps have several advantages over email including being truly instant with notifications that you received a message or that your message has been read, keeping a record of old communication, and better accessibility.

The best feature will be for group chat, as your employees can send quick, easy-to-read messages without having to go through the process of starting an e-mail chain or going person-to-person.

If you set up a messaging app, make sure to create different channels for different purposes. Give your sales and service departments their own channels. Create a channel for business updates from you. Have a channel be a place for different employees can praise each other. These will organize communication and prevent your employees from getting unnecessary internal emails.

Even if everything works, you need to make sure how your employees talk to each other on messaging or through email is clear.

Remember ABC: Accuracy, Brevity, Clarity

No matter how you communicate, whether it is in-person, over the phone, email or instant messaging, you must ask yourself these three questions when passing on information:

  1. Is what I'm saying true and accurate?
  2. Is it concise and not over complicated? 
  3. Is it clearly understood by my audience?

If the answer to one of those three questions is no, then you need to rethink how you are communicating. This goes back to language as a source of miscommunication. 

Accuracy: Sometimes, a person might make a statement without full knowledge of what they are talking about. If inaccurate information is passed along, it is hard to stop. Even if the information is accurate, if it is grammatically incorrect or the wrong word is used, someone can misinterpret that information. 

Brevity: When you pass along information, take out what is unimportant or irrelevant. Try to avoid repeating things. Keep it simple and your audience can more easily take it in.

Clarity: Be specific and unambiguous. For example, instead of, "We've had several customers complain about wait times for service," you can say, "We've had 15 customers, about 20% of our customers this month, complain about having to wait a day longer than they expected for their service." The second statement allows the audience to better understand the severity of the problem and address the causes of the problem.

You can also use images to help clarify yourself. Whether that is a picture of a vehicle's faulty fuel pump or a graph of sales figures, images help to eliminate questions and provide more clarity.

It's always a good practice for efficient communication to encourage people to ask questions if a message is not fully understood.

Resolve Conflicts That Blocks Communication

Good verbal communication includes correct tone of voice, listening and speaking with clarity

As a dealership owner, you should watch how your employees communicate information to each other, especially verbally. You should pay attention to the tone of voice people talk in, how well people are listening and the words they use.

Conflicts can arise with a misinterpretation of someone's work, causing that person to become defensive. Most workplaces have a wide variety of personality traits working under the same roof. While this many times works to the advantage of a business, it can lead to conflict. 

According to Business News Daily, as the owner, your role is to make sure all conflicts are addressed early. Your managers should also embrace their role to address conflicts between employees as early as possible.

Once you identified the problem, you can begin addressing how to improve communication that reduces the chance of a conflict breaking out.

A few things you can do in the short term is teaching your staff to practice active listening and "I statements" rather than "You statements." For example:

You Statement: You are not working efficiently this month.

I Statement: I feel like you have not been at your best this month. I want to discuss how I can help you.

In the "I Statement," the speaker is communicating what they feel like they see, not declaring what is actually happening. It comes off as less of an accusation and more like identifying a possible issue. 

It's important that people's differing personality traits and opposing views should be respected by everyone at your dealership. By respect and listening to everyone at your dealership, you not only build a healthier workplace, but also, you'll also find solutions to problems that otherwise would have been missed.

Begin Long-Term Solutions to Improve Communication

You should always view improving communication as a work-in-progress. So as a dealership owner, think of communication as a long-term process. The best way to do this is through team building. You will not only be able to improve communication but as an owner, observe the natural tendencies of your employees outside of a work environment.

Team building should involve everyone, including yourself. Any exercise you do ought to be both challenging and fun for everyone involved. 

There are literally hundreds of team building activities you can do both in and outside of your dealership.

Within the office, one popular team building exercise is office trivia. You can buy Trivial Pursuit and split your employees into teams. This can be done randomly or by department (i.e. sales vs. service vs. managers). Then, you can have an ongoing game doing a round or two of questions every meeting. Especially with tougher questions, your team will have to talk through the question. Their competitive nature will kick in, and they will need to communicate well to make sure they go with the correct answer or best guess.

Other games that might improve communication are Taboo and Password. These games will help your employees learn each other's language and how their brain works through a word association problem.

Outside of the office, you invite your employees out to an escape room or a ropes course. These activities are not only a fun way for your team to see each other outside of the office, but they require strong communication to succeed. 

If you're looking to bring more efficiency to your dealership, you can learn more about EverLogic by watching our demo below.

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Matthew Copeland
Post by Matthew Copeland
September 11, 2022