Generational Training

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After several requests for more training advice, I have recently included some bite-sized suggestions that I hope you have found helpful in your monthly shop meetings. In the May column, the topics of honesty and clear communication were discussed. In the June issue of National Oil and Lube News, I was probably too blunt when I suggested, “it is the customer, stupid.”

Recently, I was in the great state of New Jersey when I watched the interaction between a technician and a customer that proved the importance of being honest, having clear and concise communication and never forgetting that we are in business because of the customers who come to us. We have all seen customers who are adamant that they “only want to change the oil.” Nothing else — “just change the oil.”

This particular customer was so insistent on just changing the oil that when he came into the waiting room, he went straight to the cashier and demanded to be cashed out, even before a ticket had been generated on the service bay. Fortunately, the cashier was well-seasoned in our industry and quickly told the customer what the amount would be and then added the comment that a ticket had not been generated. As soon as she received the ticket, she would print out his invoice and bring it to him.

Within a few minutes, the technician came into the waiting room and was a perfect example of being honest and clear in his communication. As the technician walked toward the customer, the customer folded his arms across his chest, sat up in his chair and looked with disgust over his glasses, waiting to pounce on the technician. The technician’s opening line went like this: “Mr. Torres, we have finished changing the oil on your car, and I see Amber has already cashed you out, so you are about ready to go.” The customer immediately lost his disgruntled look and even relaxed his crossed arms. After stumbling over his words, he said, “Well, thank you.” The technician then said, “As you know, we always inspect your vehicle for any safety concerns, OEM recommendations and any possible services that will help your vehicle run more efficiently.” The customer sat back and re-crossed his arms. Then the technician said, “The only thing you need to be aware of is the wiper blade on the passenger side is torn and the back right tire only has 2/32 tire depth, which is considered as being bald.” The customer dropped his arms again and said, “Can you show me?” To which the technician said, “Of course. I would be glad to do so.”

I watched as the technician took the customer to his vehicle and showed him the concerns. The customer came back into the waiting room, but this time he went over to the coffee bar, poured a cup of coffee and sat down to read the newspaper. Soon, the technician moved the vehicle over to another bay and started to remove all four tires and replace the wiper blades — both the front blades and the one in the back. Furthermore, the customer said to the technician, “Since I am here, can you also do a fuel injection cleaner?”

Being honest and clear in your communication is the most important service you will perform. As hard as it may be, even a surly, mean customer expects honesty and to be told of any issues with their vehicle. Even a grouchy customer is a customer who needs to be treated as your best customer.

I found out later that during a past service, a technician had recommended a fuel injection cleaner. When the technician took him out to the car this time, the customer inquired about it and then asked for the service. Amber, the cashier, never acted as if anything was different or unique when it came time to cash out the customer. She simply said, “OK, Mr. Torres, is there anything else we can do for you?” to which Mr. Grump customer said, “No, isn’t that enough?” After he left and while discussing this with the crew, I noticed on his invoice under the history section that he had been a loyal customer for at least three years. Obviously, they were doing something right.

Generational Training

The other day I saw this on LinkedIn. It reminded me of a portion of my training that I did a few years ago, but it is worth going back to visit again.

For a number of reasons, the marketplace is a very diverse place. Never before have we had five different generations actively involved in the market. Understanding the different generations and knowing the events and circumstances that have molded their culture will help you perform at a higher level.

Several research firms and think-tanks have delved into the different generations to understand what makes each generation unique. In addition to the three generations this picture highlights, they have also studied the newest generation — Generation Z, those born after 1995. For our industry, this new generation is also important because those babies born in 1995 are driving, needing to service their vehicles or are coming in to apply for jobs in our shops.

The last generation studied is the Greatest Generation, which includes those born prior to 1945.  Although dwindling in numbers, this generation remains a driving force in our economy, and it would be to your advantage to understand their needs and desires.

Back when I included the generational spiel in my training events, I would ask the members in the audience to stand as I discussed each generation. I asked them to stand for two reasons. The first reason was so the rest of the people in the room could have a visual object lesson. The real reason I had them stand was to demonstrate in today’s marketplace, all of these generations are participating in the market, and our success as a shop depends on how well we understand how each generation expects to be treated while in our shops.

For owners and managers who are dealing with employee issues, understanding how each generation is wired will help you be a better owner or manager.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to work with each of these generations, and I can tell you each generation has much to offer. I have experienced hard-working, intelligent, motivated people from each generation. So the myths about “these kids these days” or “these old timers blah, blah, blah” are just that — myths. I have also had some unpleasant experiences with people from each generation.

The point is, people are people, and in some cases, the experience doesn’t have anything to do with their generation — it is the person.

However, it is interesting, when considering the generation, to think about how it will affect the outcome of the service. For instance, when speaking to a boomer, phrases like “yes, sir” or “no, sir” will make a difference. Although it is always good manners to say “yes,” “no,” “please” and “thank you,” the millennial generation would like to participate in the service. Easy tweaks, like allowing customers to stay in the car or stand in the bay with the technician and let them be involved with the service will earn their confidence.

An interesting idea that has been tested before is something as simple as asking a Generation X about their family and asking a millennial about their friends. Like most things in our world, there is a science behind what makes some experiences more successful then others. In this case, adjusting your approach based on generation has proven to be effective.

This month, consider adding generational training to your training schedule.  

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