I once heard that our customers’ heart rates peak as they enter our facilities. Given that we know purchases in our industry are largely viewed as stressful, that comment doesn’t seem inconceivable. And for professional leaders in our industry, that fact should sting — a lot!
By and large, our homes are our largest investment, with our vehicles coming in second. Taking care of our homes — that is to say, investing in them — is generally much more pleasurable than making an investment in our vehicles.
That doesn’t seem to make much sense given that the emotions associated with a new car purchase rank right up there with a new home purchase. After all, our purchases are mostly emotional.
Dollar for dollar, the vehicle purchase may actually be more emotionally rewarding — at least until it’s time for service.
If I told you that the retail tire and auto service industry trails behind advancements in other retail industries, would you be surprised? Likely not.
Our industry has sustainably advanced at a much slower rate than consumers have expected it to. Other segments of retail have passed us by — not to mention we’ve had years of stress-inducing purchase environments thrive before the one we have now. While the reasons for this are many — some of which we may never understand — I can definitively share with you one very significant, inexcusable reason that these facts exist. Unlike other retail spaces, our customer service team members are expected to perform a 360-degree set of skills at a reasonably high level.
The roles that we ask our customer service team members to fulfill involve a broad spectrum of personality skills. Those of you who have ever had that one new front counter person come in and change your store’s performance in very short order have experienced this firsthand.
The reality is we all have given strengths in our personal toolboxes.
Very few of us have the Taj Mahal of personal toolboxes that cover all the various behaviors we expect of our customer service teams.
We expect them to excel in one high-stress, long-hour, daily grind of a job.
We expect our customer service team members to be strongwilled and results-oriented, while also enthusiastic and highspirited, and also even-tempered, accommodating and patient, plus systematic and precise. That’s four distinctly different sets of personality profiles/skill sets.
To stretch from one profile to the next takes great effort for most — if it’s even possible — and it often isn’t very sustainable. And we ask all of that for an income barely worthy of the median these days. So what gives? Well, we run lean — often super-lean, merging one set of roles and responsibilities into another. (That’s assuming you have your roles and responsibilities defined at all.)
Our approach to professional development and defining our businesses by the development we professionally procure is, at best, lackluster.
My perspective — with over 300 rooftops as part of my 20 Group — all of which are outperforming the industry average and whose owners believe that professional development is largely a serious topic — is that we, as an industry, have a long way to go when it comes to professionally developing our teams.
Training technicians, for those who invest in it, has a clear path by way of ASE certification. Training customer service/ management has no such standard. The standards are whatever we determine them to be. You, your teams and your customers deserve a more professionally developed experience.
It’s up to each of us to professionalize our industry so that heart rates walking through our doors aren’t quite so extreme.