Running a Shop

Attention All Managers

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Attention all managers: Please, read this article for your own good — and mine.

Seventy five percent of all customers at oil and lube shops return for the service. That number has not changed in the years I’ve been reading related articles in NOLN. I don’t believe that percentage will ever change radically— up or down. I also believe that percentage feels right to me in my years of experience managing an oil and lube shop and is probably accurate for many businesses in America. Customers return to places they like. They return to shops they have a good feeling about. They return to shops that are managed well.

Don’t Try To Do Everything

Managers: Don’t try to do everything! I’m asking for special attention here from the ADHD type, worrywart or perfectionist. Take a break when needed. Stress is part of the job. Learn to let a few customers and a few choice words roll off your sleeves. Roll them up for the rest of your customers who are paying for a job well done and excellent service.

To start, a good manager makes good decisions; not hasty ones. A manager is a quarterback. He or she relays specific jobs to the correct employees while keeping track of customer service, customer requests, sales, inventory, shop status, cash register, fleet accounts, time clocks, etc. Now some assistant managers, owners or employees might share in these responsibilities. But the point is, a good manager delegates. So, take your time with decision making, if time is available, and delegate work to appropriate employees. The quarterback doesn’t have to make every play — delegate. You might even feel bad about all this delegating, so make sure you are treating your employees with respect.

Take Care of Your Employees

Employees are part of your shop’s service. They are being paid to do a job, just like you. Most employees appreciate fairness accompanied by good decision making from a manager. For example, Larry and Fred (employee A and employee B) are arguing in the shop over who gets to leave early this Saturday if business is slow. Larry almost always leaves early and complains the most about everything — the schedule or whatever. Fred almost never leaves early, especially on Saturday when shops are busy. Fred wants to catch his daughter’s soccer game on a Saturday coming up, and Larry is making rude comments. What should you do?

I believe you should practice fairness as a manager. Fred rarely asks to leave early so tell him, “No problem.” Fred is a good employee, and it costs nothing here to make him happy. Use the word team when speaking to more then one employee. That’s what a good crew of workers is — a team. Employees communicate and work together better when they think of themselves as part of a team. I might also reiterate that Saturdays are our busiest workdays, and plenty of notice is needed to take a Saturday off — looking at Larry. It’s also a good idea to end small disputes on a positive note. Mention to your team that you want to be a fair manager — and everyone needs a day off now and again, so don’t hesitate to ask. I’d also speak to Larry privately and mention he’s been asking off a lot lately, and if he has complaints, he can always come to you as manager. Try to find out why Larry isn’t happy or why he is always trying to leave early despite his agreed upon schedule. You might have to start looking for a “new” Larry.

Be a Good Role Model and a Shadow

Any healthy business needs dependable and honest employees. They must know their manager is beyond reproach when it comes to trust and dependability. You should be the first one to initiate cleaning the shop when business is slow. A good manager should not be doing his/her employee’s jobs daily. A good manager should be a shadow when it comes to double-checking measurements, gaskets, filters, oil level, shop safety and any other checks you can think of. Shadowing and checking should be part of your daily routine.

A good manager speaks up. Speak up when discovering anything from a nail in your customer’s tire, to an employee skipping part of your designated safety routine. You should be the first to show employees by example how to speak to customers. For example, use a timely and positive greeting such as, “Welcome! How may we help you, ma’am or sir.” That’s a good start. You can begin to gather information on the vehicle and what services you provide. Now, if you would like to “up your game,” here is how.

Up Your Game

Customers are not stupid — despite what they say on occasion. They pick up on employees’ and managers’ reactions, behavior and attitude while you’re working. Management and employees must be trained and re-trained, or you shouldn’t expect much in the way of tact or sales while they speak to your customers. For starters, no cursing. You can’t tell which customers are offended, so don’t curse. A manager, or designated sales representative, should be talking to all customers. For example, the grill man at Burger King doesn’t come chat with customers at the register. Why? The grill man is grilling burgers — and needs to continue while burgers are being ordered. He is already performing one job and might not be the best choice to deal with customer complaints, sales or speak of services offered.

So, how should a manager interact with customers and lead by example. Lets go back to the start when a car pulls in. You really only have a few seconds before your customer begins to feel ignored. Be timely. Don’t let a customer wait outside or pull into a bay without a nice greeting.

A good manager should be dressed properly. His or her shirt should be tucked in, and he or she should look as clean in appearance as possible. Be ready with a clipboard. You have no idea what services a customer requires, so be prepared to write it all down.

Always ask about high-mileage oil or synthetic oil. This will help with sales, as well as make sure you don’t surprise your customer with price. The main goal here is to make sure the customer gets what he or she wants. The customer should verify the correct brand, weight and viscosity of oil. Some customers may have more specific needs, such as the use of additives. Listen to your customer, and don’t interrupt. You have a clipboard ready, so write it down and follow through.

Customers are Not Always Right

No one is always right. I hear customers daily use their uncle or neighbor’s opinion as a professional opinion. It is your responsibility as manager to inform these customers what your professional opinion is. You should mention the manufacturer’s recommendation is your recommendation, and note this on the customer’s invoice. Liability is a different subject, but it comes into play in this example. Always record any problems you or your employees find on the vehicle on the customer’s invoice. You’ll have a record, just in case.

Don’t shy away from bad news. It’s no fun to give, but your customers will appreciate you in the long run, plus it helps earn trust. Don’t be pushy. Customers are not stupid. They know if a manager or employee is only trying to up-sell them. Use your own style when speaking with customers, especially when sales are involved. Customers buy from people they like. If you are funny or a little goofy, go with it. If you are more of a tech guy or gal, go with that — at least it’s you being yourself, honestly.

Finish the Job

Go over the invoice with customers after cashing them out — especially new customers. This gives you a chance to show your team’s value. Going through the invoice also gives you a chance to mention concerns or services you want them to know about. Again, try not to get bogged down with too much technical talk. Point out the positives, while informing the customer of any problems your team has noticed while servicing their vehicle. As time permits, try to talk to as many customers as possible. If your customers seem open to it, educate them about their specific vehicle. Make them feel the value of your team and shop, and they will come back for more. Make them feel welcome to return.

Parting Thoughts

One final thought I’d like every manager to remember is, what you do is important. Whether it is oil and lube service, brake service or simply airing up a tire. Doing a good job is important. None of us can fathom the impact we have on the vehicles we touch. Making everyone safer while driving shared roads in every community should be our team goal as managers.

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