Build a Culture That Carries Itself

Oct. 2, 2016
Audra Fordin writes that if you create a culture that’s based on caring for customers, your staff will follow suit and earn their coworkers’ and customers’ trust.

I believe your work environment can make or break your business. If you create a culture that’s based on caring for customers, your staff will follow suit and earn their coworkers’ and customers’ trust. Drivers aren’t a number on a balance sheet. As auto professionals, we should always be looking out for their best interests.

Culture is created by our words and actions. Sure, policies and procedures help, but if you want a lesson to stick, you need to be a good example. My shop just held our 83rd anniversary celebration (please note: I haven’t been alive that long—it is a family business!), and while the event didn’t begin until 10 a.m., I was there before 7, providing volunteers with fresh raspberries from my garden as a snack. We had our neighbor Slim’s Bagels and the local Dunkin’ Donuts bring pastries and coffee, too. Volunteers were helping me out, so feeding them was the least I could do!

Educating drivers was the theme of my event and the premise was “tell, not sell.” With that in mind, the culture was able to carry itself. Of course, we provided our guests of honor—the local driving community—with a process and practiced the key steps. We called in Women Auto Know to run it and they set up eight stations, each of which discussed a different aspect of the automotive experience and connected it to the human body. For example, station No. 1 covered individual health records, such as VIN numbers and the importance of keeping receipts for any major repairs or maintenance services. You never know when you’ll need those!

The best part of the event? I didn’t have to do any of the heavy lifting. We had volunteers from Lincoln Tech, local automotive parts suppliers and parts manufacturers teaching drivers at each station. I was able to take my hands off the wheel and enjoy the ride (hey, this sounds like an advertisement for self-driving cars).

Sure, things are busier than normal, but it’s nothing my crew can’t handle. We’ve built systems that are based on serving customers. My staff has practiced these steps enough to feel confident in their roles and the world never ends when I leave the shop for a day or two. Running a business is hard, but it should not consume your life. If you feel like you can’t walk away for even a second, take another look at your policies and procedures. How can those be used to develop a positive and proactive staff? You tell me.

Is your crew performing an inspection to identify safety hazards or sales opportunities? Does your staff explain how a service will improve a vehicle’s longevity and/or performance? When a service advisor meets a driver who doesn’t “get it,” do they get defensive or patiently explain the issue using other words? They don’t teach communication or customer service in trade school—that’s on you. Will it take time? Sure! But it’s worth the effort. If you create a culture that puts the customer first, that culture will begin to carry itself. And when it does, take a vacation. You earned it!

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