Cultivating a Versatile Staff
For any employee at VIP Tires & Service, being versatile is a major key to success.
Kenneth Bridges knows this firsthand as a member of the VIP team for the past six years. He started his career as a driveline specialist, working for race teams in the NASCAR Busch Series, Craftsman Trucks and the ARCA Series. Bridges joined VIP six years ago as a service manager, and was recently promoted to market manager, now overseeing two VIP Tires & Service locations in Maine.
His nominator, Tim Winkeler, says Bridges has been a strong leader and an innovative force within VIP, which has 56 shops throughout the Maine and New Hampshire area. As service manager for the Ellsworth location, Bridges’ customer count was up 20 percent when the rest of the company was flat, as he emphasized to his staff the importance of being versatile, and always saying “yes” to customers. With that information, Winkeler created a hybrid position for people who could be cross trained between the counter and the shop.
Bridges can not only do both repair and service advisor work when necessary, he also tries to cultivate a staff that is able to do similar work, so his staff is able to say “yes” to any customer who walks through the door.
Bridges lists the three keys to growing a versatile, customer-focused staff.
1) Hire effectively.
When looking for a new employee, Bridges looks for people with a strong background in the automotive industry. For anyone working behind the counter, he makes sure he or she knows enough about cars to be able to have an educated discussion with a customer, and are able to do basic repairs when necessary.
When hiring technicians, Bridges makes sure to hire people with good personalities and people skills, so they can take on service advisor roles when necessary.
“Some technicians shouldn’t be talking to customers, so you have to have the right staff in place to make it work,” Bridges says.
Bridges often sits in on interviews with these candidates, and discusses with his store manager whether the candidate will be the right fit for the right position.
2) Train your team to assist each other
Once the right people are in the right roles, Bridges trains his team to be able to take on other staffers’ responsibilities when needed.
“If the desk team is super busy, the shop team can go in and help out with phones,” Bridges says. “If the shop’s super busy, my desk team can go out and help them.”
For Bridges, this involves training his technicians on the shop’s computer systems as well as how to answer phones in the lobby. If the counter is busy, a technician can take on the role of a service advisor when selling the work, bringing the customer back into the shop and showing them what needs to be fixed.
Additionally, all service advisors are trained as technicians, and everyone on the front desk can step in and work on cars when necessary.
3) Show, rather than tell.
One of the things Bridges is most proud of in his VIP shops, he says, is the shop’s “open-door” mentality with customers. In his six years of working at VIP, Bridges constantly takes customers back into the shop to let them see the cars, and educates them on what’s going on. This is a mentality he’s worked to pass on to the rest of his staff.
Rather than having a service advisor simply explain what’s going on with a customer’s car and sell the work, front desk workers bring a customer back, and show him or her first hand what the issue is with his or her vehicle.
And on the other side of things, the shop’s technicians are able to show and explain to customers exactly what’s going on with their car after they do a multi-point inspection.