Motto: n. 1. A sentence, phrase or word inscribed on something, as a coat of arms, to express its purpose or character. 2. A brief expression of a guiding principle.
When I think of mottos, the first one that comes to mind is the Girl Scout motto: On my honor, I will try: To serve God and my country, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout Law.
The Girl Scout Law continues in a similar vein: I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout.
You’re probably wondering why I’ve brought Girl Scouts into TechShop. Because they’ve inspired me! A few years back, mission statements became a popular business standard. Everyone in the world had to have a mission statement, from manufacturers to cab drivers. But a mission statement always seemed more like an assignment to me. A motto is a brief expression of a guiding principle and are words to live by. So, here’s my proposal for the Universal Independent Shop Owner and Professional Technician Motto:
“I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a support to every technician I meet.”
On the surface, this motto sounds very unsophisticated and almost simplistic. It definitely has a feel of a simpler time, one where we weren’t all going a thousand miles an hour each day, trying to get things done. But if you look at the heart of the motto, isn’t this what every business owner strives to provide in his or her work environment? To me, this is the basic behavior your customers expect when they walk into a repair shop. Yet sometimes, we forget basic as the day’s problems grow.
What got me thinking about a motto for a repair shop is a recent symposium I attended for the automotive aftermarket in Chicago. One of the speakers was Nancy Fein, vice president of customer service for Lexus. Lexus is synonymous with top-quality customer service. Fein said that at Lexus, they have three driving principles: Have the best product, the best dealers and the best customer service. I would hope those are three principles that drive the success behind your shop as well (but swap out dealers with technicians). Principles, mottos, mission statements … they all blend together after a while.
Fein made several interesting points about customer service at Lexus and how their efforts tie very closely to the needs of the current generation (the baby boomers) and the next couple of generations of car buyers. The baby boomers have driven the automotive aftermarket for the past 30 years. These current car buyers were “wowed” when they bought their first Lexus and found out that roadside assistance came with the purchase. They were “wowed” when they picked up their vehicle after service and it had been washed and vacuumed and the tank was filled with gas. They were “wowed” when they received a thank-you note for coming to the Lexus dealership for their service. Fein’s point was, the first generation was “wowed.” The second generation expects this type of service at a minimum from Lexus. The “wow” factor is gone for the Gen Xers and Gen Yers, and as aftermarket people, we better know what is going to bring them into our shops, and keep them coming back.
Lexus boasts of a customer loyalty rate of 53%, higher than Cadillac’s. This means more than one-half of their customers return to the Lexus dealership, for cars and for service and repairs. What can you do, as an independent shop, to lure this customer from Lexus, from Honda, from BMW?
Fein shared some great success stories. One technique she mentioned that helped improve customer loyalty was to engage Lexus employees in problem solving. For example, probably two of the busiest times in a shop are early in the morning and right around 5 p.m. What does Lexus do to get through these periods efficiently? They engage their employees in a “Crunch Team.” This Crunch Team consists of technicians, service writers and others. They stop doing their “normal” jobs, and everyone pitches in to get things done during a high-volume time. Simple idea. Very effective. Drives teamwork, drives employees and helped create customer loyalty, which in turn, helped increase profitability. Customers want to be loyal to a service provider. It is in your best interest to increase customer loyalty. A loyal, and fully engaged customer will brag about your shop to everyone he or she knows because you have added to their life somehow. The best thing about creating customer loyalty is that often, it is simple, it is inexpensive and it can be done immediately.
A thought and some questions to leave you with: Think about that Crunch Team in the morning rush. Perhaps you can’t have everyone writing up orders. But what if one of your Crunch Team members simply offered to fill customers’ coffee mugs or take the basic name/address/vehicle model information, all while they wait in line? Wouldn’t it make your customer a little happier? Honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring. Isn’t that something we all could use a little more of in the business world? What’s your motto?