Volume 9, Issue 2 - March/April/May 2007

Customer Service
Your Will to Succeed
by Carl Tompkins

At the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard (AGRSS) Conference last November, Rodger Pickett, vice president, Cindy Rowe Auto Glass, participated in a session that focused on customer service. He discussed the training project his company undertook to advance the selling skills of the customer service representatives while on the phone. 

He said that this project resulted in a 21 percent growth in business within a 90-day period. A gasp was heard from the audience of nearly 100 glass shop owners. People, interested to learn the secret of such success, started raising their hands.

Rodger replied that his company provided a new phone etiquette course and created a training manual for CSR education development that required completion within a 24-month period. He concluded his answer by saying the secret of the success wasn’t the changes that occurred with his team of CSRs, but the change in him. In my opinion, this example provides unequivocal proof that the single most important element of success within your business is how willing you, as manager/owner, are to change how your time is spent in order to succeed at reaching your goals.

Rodger provided great detail of how he came to realize that his CSRs were already in play, fulfilling their daily duties. However, the outcome of such efforts didn’t meet management expectations. This should sound familiar and, even more familiar, is what most companies do in such circumstances: throw more training at the situation and/or hire new people. The outcome is most often no improvement.

Rodger the Role Model
Rodger provides a great role model for us because he was challenged to look at how his time is best spent. This included asking two key questions: If you’re not supporting an outside customer, your job is to be supporting someone who is? Is management providing the best environment in support of employees’ success?

I suggest you start asking instead of assuming; and address each employee’s specific concerns as an individual. You will discover that many common topics of frustration exist. You can change the environment, undertaking the least expensive topics first that will yield the greatest impact of improvement, because environmental changes must occur before employees can be expected to create improved results.

First Question
Is management walking the walk?

While management has a whole different set of job requirements, there is no substitute for setting the example. In Rodger’s case, he took the same training and spends a planned amount of time each week answering the phone just like the CSRs at his multiple locations. His time frame was determined through the questions he asked in assessing the work environment, learning the peak times when phone assistance is needed. Rodger, with other partners, answers phones at this time and, through such an example, few words need to be said on what is expected. This step also helps management witness the needs of employees by becoming engaged at the same level of involvement. 

Second Question
Are managers spending regular planned time with their direct-reporting employees?

I’m sure you’ve read or heard me state the value of a cup of coffee. In fact, I have come to the conclusion that business success revolves around this receptacle of liquid refreshment. I can measure any company’s level of success in reaching new goals on the answer I get back from management when asked, “Tell me when your last cup of coffee occurred and what you learned.” When the response is that the cup of coffee hasn’t occurred, the result is zero improvement. However, when the cup of coffee occurs on a monthly basis, the results are outstanding.

Be reminded of why the cup of coffee is so powerful:
1. It causes management to focus on the direct-reporting employees as individuals.
2. It represents a positive and pleasant experience.
3. It causes management to get away from the office and all related distractions.
4. It re-establishes the social fiber missing in corporate America.
5. It provides the setting for management to get back to the basics of being in the “people business” and prove their intentions of caring for their number one asset.
6. Learning from the employee how things are going allows management to continue to create the necessary changes within the working environment to earn new and more profitable business. The number one question asked by management is, “How can I do a better job in supporting your efforts and our company?”
7. The cup of coffee starts at the top of any organization and, when this occurs, it is a positive infectious habit that filters through the entire rank of employees. 

Get the Power
If you dare to underestimate the power of this monthly moment, I know a number of business owners who claim it is the most significant thing they do in support of their company’s success. One glass company owner in Connecticut claims it saved his business.

Environmental support, walking the walk and the cup of coffee fulfill the individual subjects of attention that yield positive change. Note that these three subjects are controlled and implemented by management. 

Whether you want to focus on CSRs, auto glass technicians, sales people, drivers or warehouse people, they all will improve as long as you, the management, go first. Hence, we come back to the question, “How willing are you to succeed?” The answer lies in how you choose to spend your time. Considering how bad the AGRR industry has become, according to many, I don’t see how increasing your business 21 percent could hurt. 

Carl Tompkins is the Western states area manager for Sika Corp., Madison Heights, Mich. He is based in Spokane, Wash. Mr. Tompkins’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.

© Copyright 2007 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.