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Automotive Service Management Newsletter
Vol 1, No 6, June 2007

Employee Performance
It's All about Confidence and Self-Esteem

I operate under the personal belief that the employees control the success of the company because it is their work as a team, both behind the scenes and face-to-face with customers, that creates the perceptions customers use to decide if your company is a good place to do business. I look at the role of the manager as being to organize the procedures, job descriptions and processes to run the operation with people who are properly trained and supported in how to do their jobs. And that is where the business operation can fall apart - its employees are not properly trained and supported.

Many managers do not have the time or the resources to properly set work expectations and train folks for their jobs. A lot of it has to do with the fact that the manager was never properly trained in how to be an effective manager.

When an employee is properly trained and supported, then the manager has set that person up for success. The employee's confidence and self-esteem run at a high level resulting in excellent customer satisfaction and sales.

When an employee is thrown out in the job to learn that job as it is being done, then that person is set up for failure. For instance, service advisor turnover in the auto industry runs at about 135% yearly due to the new service advisor not receiving the right information and training needed to do the job. It is not unusual after several days of feeling dumb and looking stupid with customers for that new service advisor to go to lunch and never return - taking a permanent lunch break.

People don't like to be managed or treated like a cog in a wheel. They will resist it. With people we have to gain their cooperation to get them to consistently execute their job descriptions and processes, both individually and as a team.

Many managers are not taught how to gain cooperation from employees, instead they use what is called "Position Power" to get them to do their jobs. "Position Power" is also known as the "My Way or the Highway" management style. When people are put in this type of management environment, they are compliant, only doing what is told, they rarely go out of their way to be creative in their jobs because whether they are successful or not they will be criticized by the manager for not following procedures.

I want to recommend two keys for building consistent confidence and self-esteem in an employee by having the manager use what is called "Personal Power." This is created by being an excellent support for the employee.

The first key is a clear job description with attainable goals and detailed team processes. The goals need to be updated monthly and reviewed weekly to help keep the employee on track and focused on consistent performance results. The reviews only need to be a few minutes, usually at the employee's work area.

The team processes have to be reviewed at least once a week in team meetings to deal with problems, challenges or new innovations to the processes discovered by the employees. Team meetings can also be used to recognize outstanding employee results or goal achievements. It also helps to post individual and team goals, keeping them updated every few days through the month. As goals are accomplished and recognized, this encourages the employees to push themselves to new heights of performance.

The second key is feedback on performance. It has been said that "Feedback is the Breakfast of Champions." Any person that is highly successful in any type of work is due to a manager who cared enough to let that person know when they did a good job and when their performance was off track. In other words, a good manager is the employee's best cheerleader and best critic but it has to be done equally.

Most managers only have time to let people know when their performance is off track. Even if I am a good employee but all I hear is criticism about my work, then I will lose my confidence and self-esteem over time. I will not like where I work and I will not work well with the team or take care of my customers.

To Maintain Consistent Behavior - Catch Em in the Act! Tell Em What You Saw with Enthusiasm!

Every employee should receive specific, positive feedback several times a week to maintain a consistent level of performance. Most managers see the good work of their folks but they rarely tell them, but always seem to have time to let their folks know when they have screwed up. When you see their good work, specifically tell them what they did well:
  • I like how you reviewed the customer's repair order over the phone.
  • I want to thank you for quickly installing those windshield wipers for that customer.
  • Nice job in reviewing with the customer how we will handle the customer's special order parts situation.
To Correct Inconsistent Behavior - Catch Em in the Act! Privately Remind Em of the Goal with Caring!

If their performance fails, in a private location, quickly tell them what they did and compare it to the goal of what is needed. Describe the "facts" of their actions, stay away from terms like "good job" or "bad job" and don't compare them to other employees as that can create resentment and arguments. Here are two helpful examples:
  • I have never seen you do this before, but a few minutes ago you let a customer stand at your desk for a couple of minutes without acknowledging her. Be sure to acknowledge the customer in less than a minute.
  • For the last few days, you have not been doing your vehicle walk around inspections consistently. Remember, we want 100% vehicle walk around inspections during write-up.
It takes less than a minute to let employees know how they are doing in their jobs, either on or off target. Those quick hits will result in building great employees and a strong team, but both must be done consistently. One nice side benefit is that as the manager supports the team in this way, the team will support each other in the same manner. Remember, the manager is always leads by example.

A few last notes . . .

The first ground rule for managers is to understand that they don't have to like their employees to get them to do great work. However, the employees have to like them, look up to them and to trust them if they are going to do a great job for their manager.

The manager is responsible for the condition of the work environment where the employees live for 40+ hours a week. They spend almost as many waking hours in this environment as they do at home. If the environment does not satisfy their job and personal needs, then they will just show up and do enough to get by with the least amount of effort.

An effective manage has to realize that people are not their jobs. They are playing a role in your department such as a service advisor, parts advisor or technician. Too often we treat people with a lack of caring because we only see them as the "job" or the "employee." Your people need to know you care about them as a person as well as an employee. The more they know you care, the more they will want to do great work for you.

One last idea is to have fun. Working in the service and parts business is one of the hardest jobs anyone can have because we are dealing with a customer and their car. Anything the manager can do to lighten things up and help create positive attitudes will not only be passed along to the employees, they will also be passing it along to the customers. Customers love coming to places with happy employees. It makes them feel like they are going to get a great service and parts experience so they will want to return again. So employee satisfaction translates into customer satisfaction.

The more time a manager spends supporting the staff in this manner, the less fires and problem customers they will have to handle daily, sales will be strong, people will like their jobs, and the best part is that staff turnover will be at a minimum.

Copyright, 2007, J. Daniel Emmanuel

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