Confidence. It comes from knowing our subject, not faltering in our ideologies, and standing our ground when confronted with a situation that questions our values. It seems like such a simple trait to have when it involves what is at stake—a successful business.
But in an environment where we’re trying to maintain being profitable, which means “getting the sale,” other traits may trump our ideologies. What does that do to our confidence long term? It causes second thoughts, changes in how we approach repeated situations, and ultimately if confidence is not restored to where our mindset should be, a reversal of our profitable business combined with other detrimental repercussions.
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Challenges to Confidence
In our industry, a combination of automotive repair complemented with a retail environment, there are challenges o’ plenty. We know before we unlock the doors in the morning what the budget for the day is, what profits we need to hold on to, the positive feedback we want from our customers, and the satisfaction of happy employees that allows them to grow. There is help in achieving this nirvana from personal and professional relationships, processes we have put in place, even tools that make the job easier. Sometimes all that can change, and not necessarily for the better, after we unlock the doors.
Internal and external customers can bring up scenarios and challenges that corner us into making on-the-fly and sometimes tough decisions. The key is not to falter and stray away from those same processes and ideologies that keep us on the straight and narrow. It defeats the purpose of having SOPs, mission and vision statements, employee handbooks, training procedures, and many more well-thought-out practices if we allow the scenario in front of us to bend the rules when it isn’t necessary to do so.
Internal customers aren’t always operating with their best foot forward when they’re comfortable in the environment they work in two years into their tenure versus when they were a new employee and trying to impress everyone. Now we may be confronted with poor punctuality and attendance, numerous breaks, the all-too-common excessive cell phone usage, and not wanting to contribute to the team beyond what specifically pays them. This is sometimes accompanied by the great phrase “that’s not my job.” On top of all the stresses this puts in our lap when we try to offset these negatives, the rest of the team feels it, and they’re looking at us for a solution.
Stay the Course
The key is to have a concise and comprehensive conversation with the problematic employee in which these issues are tackled. The goal is to define a resolution with a time frame attached—immediate or otherwise. What will that conversation require on our behalf? Confidence. We have to be prepared with factual examples, written reprimands if necessary, and why this issue has to be resolved. Great preparation would also mean having a plan before holding this one-on-one if the outcome doesn’t meet the desired results within the timeframe set. Attending to issues that negatively impact everyone will be translated by your team as effective leadership.
The internal pressure we feel from needing sales day-in-day-out can sometimes cause us to negotiate our value propositions. What does that mean? A great automotive facility practice is not allowing customer-supplied parts into our repairs. However, if sales have been hurting as of late, and you promise not to make it a habit, we may allow those parts to creep in. The downside? No amount of notes, customer signatures, or verbal explanations would get us out of hot water and wasted time if those parts were incorrect, faulty, or of poor quality.
How do we not allow our internal salesman to get the better of us? Confidence. Explaining we can warranty both parts and labor if we provide the parts to complete the repair holds a high value in our customer’s minds.
What else requires confidence when dealing with customers? The ability to move a customer into an appointment three days from now if their problem isn’t an all-out emergency. At the same time, taking in that one extra vehicle at the wrong moment would put our already stressed-out technicians into a higher state of frenzy.
Be True to Who You Are
There are many more examples than these of when we may stray from our values to satisfy a customer or avoid having an uncomfortable conversation with an internal customer. The fault in this poor decision-making is that we now created a larger problem. Training our service advisors and shop staff alike on how to handle these prospective problems is a way to keep everyone is on the same page and avoid unnecessary issues.
So before we unlock that door tomorrow morning, we must know what we stand for, how we will get there, and bite the small bullets to avoid the grenades.
Non-ATI Members: For more tips on how to effectively lead a productive, profitable shop, check out our shop owner events at www.atievent.com.