The NACE | CARS 2014 Conference wasn’t just about the next great tool or the latest technical information, it was also about running a better shop. Key to running a better shop is improving customer service and employing a motivated, professional team. These issues were the focus of Kim Trochlil, national account manager for Leadership 3p, during her Wednesday presentation on strategic leadership.
What is situational leadership? According to Trochlil, it all comes down to understanding others and adapting both service levels and management styles to accommodate each individual personality. This is certainly no small task, but Trochlil provided a framework to consider.
For improving customer service
First, remember that customers usually dread buying vehicle repair services and walk in ready to receive no gratification, which already puts your shop at a disadvantage service-wise.
Trochlil said to start by moving away from the concept of customer satisfaction and toward the concept of loyalty. Satisfaction implies that a customer got what it paid for — no more, no less. Will this customer return or refer your shop to someone else? Maybe. But a customer who makes a positive emotional connection you’re your shop is more likely to be loyal, return for service and consistently refer your shop.
“What you do and sell is not rare; it’s everywhere, and I can go to anyone at any time. Why would I go to any of you?” Trochlil asked. “The world is built on trying to grab your attention, the only way to fight that is with loyalty.”
As a shorthand, Trochlil divided people into four basic, broad categories: directors, relaters, thinkers and socializers. After a customer walks in your door, successfully grouping him or her into one of these categories, and then matching your approach to their expectations, could mean the difference between a loyal customer, a merely satisfied customer or, potentially, a dissatisfied customer.
Directors are open and direct. They are strong-willed, practical and efficient. They prefer control and would like choices. Deal in facts, be clear and get to the point.
Relaters are open and indirect. For them, it’s about trust and care. Be casual and slower with a relater. Interact with their kids, be sincere and don’t rush them.
Thinkers are private and indirect. Thinkers are about the process. They’d like to analyze and see the facts. Stick to business and provide evidence. Best to avoid being too casual.
Socializers are open and direct. This is the person that tells you their life story within five minutes. Ask their opinions, get to know them and quickly make it fun. Don’t get too technical and cold.
Trochlil said each of these four categories are an equal, one-fourth of the population. Keep this in mind when mapping out best practices for your service approach.
For improving managerial skills
Trochlil summed up situational leadership like this: “Understand the situation you want to influence, adapt your behavior to meet the needs of the situation, and communicate in a way people will understand and accept.”
Again, Trochlil sees situational leadership in four quadrants: telling, selling, participating and delegating.
Telling is a high-task, low-relationship approach, often the approach you’d have with brand new employees. Here’s how this is done, here’s where this is, etc.
Selling is a high-task, high-relationship approach. The employee understands the process, but now you’ve added more conversation.
Participating is a high-relationship, low-task approach. Hopefully the employee has progressed to the point where you mostly check in on the work while having more conversations about life and interests.
Delegating is low-relationship and low-task. You can basically golf everyday and know everything will be fine.
“Just because you are a manager doesn’t mean you are a leader,” Trochlil said. Management is a title, focused on goals and forecasts, something Trochlil called position power. This person is just a boss. She encouraged moving the line more to personal power when possible, where trust develops between the boss and the employee.
Each of these approaches depends on where that employee is. Are they an enthusiastic beginner? A developing learner? A challenging performer? Trochlil noted that situational leadership means you might need to move back from a participator to a seller if there is a new process, or if that employee has started slipping.
“To do all of this you need leadership — moving away from command and control to a developmental approach,” Trochlil said. “How can I help you today? What’s the challenge today, and I’ll find a way to make it right.”