Standardizing the Service Desk

May 21, 2024
AJ Nealy has streamlined customer interactions at all five of his locations.

The Commander’s Intent. 

It’s a principle of command in the Army that empowers subordinate decision making. It’s a leadership principle that AJ Nealey has adapted for running his business–the five-location MSO Nealey Tire & Auto in Maryland. 

By being clear with the overall mission of his business, Nealey says that his service advisors have autonomy to make decisions because they know what the overall vision—the Commander’s Intent—at Nealey’s is: to impact lives. 

For Nealey, it’s more than just auto repair. Vehicles are what get people to and from work, to see their family and friends, to church or to soccer practice. Fixing a car keeps people moving and their lives on track. Nealey’s entire staff buys into the core purpose and this starts at the front counter. From the first phone call to the initial walk-in and every step throughout the repair process, Nealey’s puts the customer first. How does he make sure it’s done every single time when he has five locations to manage and that everyone knows “The Commander’s Intent”?

Very thorough SOPs. 


AJ Nealey has come a long way since he started his shop in his garage in 2011. He now manages five locations and 33 employees at all times and has had to become much more streamlined in his processes. He now runs his company on an Entrepreneurial Operating System, or EOS, which basically means that there are processes for every major function within the company, from answering the phone to reaching out for future appointments. 



Nealey has always had his North Star purpose within him, but he wasn’t always the best at communicating it to the rest of his staff. After reading "Traction" by Gino Wickman, he had an “aha!” moment and realized he needed to start using foundational tools to help run his business and streamline how he’d like everything to run, even when he’s not at a specific location to oversee what’s going on. 


Nealey says that a phrase he “stole” from Uber is “frictionless experience.” That’s what he wants to create for his customers and that’s why he has created a system of service SOP for his locations that outlines exactly how he wants his staff to handle customer interactions. There are SOPs that details how to handle every step of the process with the customer–from the first impression to follow-up. Nealey houses all of the processes for his staff within his management software, and it can be updated in real-time. He says it’s a living document that is constantly being tweaked. The SOP is never done—it’s never final, Nealey says of his point of service SOP. He’s always looking for ways to make the experience better for the customer. 

Nealey says he’s really started holding his staff accountable on executing his processes this year and that getting buy-in from his staff is the key to getting it to work. He explains that he’s had to trim his staff because not everyone bought into the overall vision of his business. Nealey says he’s had to assume a coaching role and be more intentional with his staff to explain the overall why.


Since Nealey has become more intentional in holding his staff accountable to his processes, his overall sales and ticket average have gone up, even with a lower overall car count. 


Having a clear process for every important step in your shop that reflects your vision can be daunting but Nealey shares his best advice for getting started. 

“Do one thing at a time,” Nealey says. “What’s the one thing that you can be intentional about that will have the greatest change?”

A few months back, Nealey focused on his shop’s greeting. He made sure that it was consistent with everyone in the company and, even though it seemed like a small step, it had a huge impact. Getting that greeting right will have a trickle effect. He adds that, if you want this to work, you have to be intentional and that success starts from the top. You need to be the most passionate person in the entire company and pass that passion on in order for your staff to buy into your “why.” 

"Look in the mirror,” Nealey says. “Do you have a passion for customer service?” 

If you don’t have that passion to put your customers first, nobody will want to come to you. It’s as simple as that. Be intentional about putting your customers first and create company-wide buy-in and you will create a winning culture.


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