Optimizing Shop Communication
Sylvie Priez boasts an immense amount of knowledge when it comes to the inner workings of the front office at Accel Automotive in Waltham, Mass.
At any given time, Priez knows which employee is working on which assignment, and what particular parts need to be ordered. She also knows a fair amount about alternators and tire rotations.
One thing Priez isn’t entirely clear on is this: her official job title.
“You name it, I do it all,” she says. “Secretary. Service Writer. … Cleaner.”
Accel Automotive’s president, John Di Ianni, will tell you that Priez serves as the company’s “office manager.” Yet, he also knows that job title doesn’t quite do Priez justice. He knows that, like at many other shops, his office manager holds several key roles on a daily basis, including delegating work to four technicians, taking appointments, writing estimates, and even aiding the business’s marketing efforts. And, he knows his shop would have countless inefficiencies if it weren’t for the tireless work of the business’s office manager.
“After bringing Sylvie on board, our receivables are handled immediately, our blood pressure has dropped, and our business runs like a well oiled machine,” says Di Ianni, one of Accel Automotive’s three owners, along with Brian Schoener and Leroy Ward.
Priez shares her thoughts regarding what shop owners should look for when trying to hire a versatile―and invaluable―office manager.
Embrace Eager Learners.
When Priez started at Accel, she possessed minimal knowledge of the auto industry. Fortunately, she was armed with an insatiable appetite for learning, and her superiors at Accel Automotive provided valuable hands-on learning in the shop.
“They’ve always had the patience to teach me,” says Priez, in her 15th year at the suburban Boston shop, of her co-workers. “At the beginning they would say, ‘I have to change the alternator;’ I’m like, ‘I don’t understand what you’re telling me.’ So, they would physically bring me out to the car and show me parts―visually and verbally explaining things.
“For me to work the front desk, I need to know what parts are, what they do to the car.”
Strive for Organized Individuals.
Two traits that serve Accel Automotive’s office manager well are focus and motivation.
Priez prioritizes her shop’s assignments easily because she has taken note of how long each task usually takes the technicians. Thus, she schedules accordingly.
“It’s all time management with the scheduling,” she says, “and ordering parts before appointments get in. … I will pre-order all the parts here, so that I don’t have to deal with parts ordering in the morning when the customer shows up.”
The veteran office manager also prides herself on getting her daily to-do list close to 100 percent completed consistently.
“I like that challenge,” Priez says.
Seek Great Communicators.
Priez strives to address others in a clear, concise manner. She views that as a prerequisite for the role of office manager.
“Make sure that [front office hires] know how to communicate with the customers, communicate with the technicians―that is so important,” she suggests to shop owners.
“Usually I give [technicians] a job and say, ‘Listen: This is what the car needs. Come to me first before pulling anything apart.’”
Later, if extra parts need to be ordered, Priez promptly seeks authorization from customers.
Seek Team-First Prospects.
Whenever Priez is asked what makes things run smoothly at Accel Automotive, she inevitably turns back to the business’s team mentality.
“I’ve never really had any issues with any [co-worker] getting on board with anything I say,” Priez notes. “We all work as a team. Because I know if we don’t work as a team, the cars won’t get done.
“I’m proud of all the work that we do as a team.”