71% of Employees Are Disengaged: So What Makes You Think Yours Are Not?

Feb. 15, 2018

Do you see what I see? Of course not! If you could see through your customers’ eyes, they would tell you how well, or how poorly, your employees engage customers. It’s not that easy to track, however.

Whether perception or reality, customer service seems to have declined in every business sector, including retail tire stores. A recent Gallup poll revealed 71% of employees today are disengaged. As I like to say, “Training is not something you did, it is something you do.” And it is not always done anymore, at least at an acceptable level.

I would like to go a step further and expand on that phrase for 2018: “Training that changes behaviors is not something you did, it is something you do every day.”

What is going on?

Many business owners, not just retail tire businesses, simply do not know what is really going on in their businesses on a daily basis. Even though they have procedures in place to make sure service goals are met like changing oil and tires properly, keeping families safer, and helping their customers’ cars last longer, many retailers miss what is most crucial to fulfilling their brand proposition.

The area I allude to is how their people engage customers on the phone and/or in person. It has been said you should, “Inspect what you expect,” but how often, as owners, do you do that?

 One only need watch the popular show “Undercover Boss” to see that reality is distorted when an owner, CEO, vice president or regional director shows up. A person who works with a national cinema company recently told me that when the top brass visited, the employees put on a “dog and pony show” and after they left the premises, things went “down hill” and back to the “down hill” normal.

My advice is to hire a third party to come in and mystery shop your stores in person and via telephone. If you want to take it to the next level, also hire them to come in and interview all employees to find out how the employees engage with each other as well as their leaders. Remember: Happy employees create happy customers.

Employees seem to care more when the boss or owner is around and less when real customers are in the stores, on the phone, or in their parking lots.

Why should this matter?

In the retail tire business you are losing customers one poor customer engagement at a time. This happens on the phone, in your store, and after the sale every day. This happens usually over a period of 24 months. We had a client (prior to our involvement) who lost 2,400 tire units in that same time frame to a new national competitor. These units were lost mainly because the manager of the store was disengaged (giving customers info they could get online), and this attitude trickled down to his employees. Of course the owners had no idea this was happening.

The manager’s excuse was the national competitor was stealing business away due to a lower price. Strange that when we listened to phone calls and asked customers the “why” question, seldom was price mentioned as a key reason they had visited the store in the first place. Customers told us these factors were more important:

  • professionalism,
  • a knowledgeable staff,
  • a sense of trust,
  • buying from a local company.

 In my experience, these factors are the same everywhere, with price almost always low on the list of reasons why customers initially did business with their stores. In this case, by coupling the detailed phone interviews with customer experience training, we were able to help the dealer regain most of those lost tire units without dropping prices.Are you engaging enough?

Before we call to solicit new retail clients, we shop them via phone and in person to be sure we can help move the needle in new customer acquisition; increase profits and sales; and help them build equity in their businesses. The challenge is cutting through the layers of pride and helping CEOs and/or owners understand they will never see their stores like we do.

We recently evaluated the greeting and check-in processes for a large hospital chain. The CEO of the hospitals was shocked to see the many photos offering proof that his employees were disengaged.

As consumers continue to change, it is important that you change how you engage them in order to make the experience more meaningful to them. I will leave you with this quote from a tire dealer who owns four stores: “I did not realize how bad we were until I heard our team talking to customers via recording.”

The good news from a competitive standpoint? Everyone else also seems to be that bad. And that’s not good.    ■

Mike Townsend is owner of Townsend Strategies, a sales and leadership training and marketing firm. He has nearly 30 years of sales experience, 12 of them in the tire industry.

As a Six Sigma black belt and professional trainer, Townsend says he “has witnessed every scenario and heard every objection in the retail tire environment across every state in the U.S.” For more information, call (865) 318-4588 or (800) 319-8552, or email Townsend at [email protected].