Boosting efficiency is easier than you think. Just train all service personnel to hear, and then respond, to the question that was actually asked.
This is the opposite of responding to the question they thought they were asked.
Regular Tire Business readers know that I'm an avid observer of the human condition-especially where it concerns professional automotive service personnel at all levels of the business. It continually maddens me to watch technicians and/or service salespeople waste everyone's time simply because they can't or don't listen, let alone listen carefully.
You don't think this occurs often? You don't think these mistakes amount to anything? Then I invite tire dealers and service shop operators to be a proverbial fly on the wall. Grab a notepad and stopwatch; evaluate and observe the common exchanges between your staff and customers. Then check out the exchanges among your own staff.
The process is simple. Listen to the question asked and then gauge the accuracy of the answer. How many minutes does it actually take the listener to respond to the actual question? That is, answer what was truly asked vs. the question the listener thought he or she heard?
Or, as some managers have commented to me, ``Does this worker have a clue as to what I really said?'' (Are some managers out there reading this column doubled over with laughter? You don't have inattentive workers, do you?)
Now, I present full disclosure. Both my sales training and journalism studies emphasized developing good listening skills. Begin by maintaining eye contact with the speaker and then zone out other potential distractions as much as possible. Don't put words in anyone's mouth. Don't assume that the person has to say this or say that. Just absorb what the person actually tells you, then react accordingly.
I lapse out of this often enough myself and have to remind myself to focus better and concentrate more. (Just ask my wife about my listening skills. And I never question her judgment; just look whom she married.)
Anyway, listening effectively and responding correctly amounts to taking the shortest distance between two points. Ultimately, taking the longer path is wasteful. If you disagree, please tally the minutes of wasted time you observed. Multiply that time by the worker's hourly wage and let me know what that totals in a year. Scary, isn't it?
Now factor in the productivity lost to tension, aggravation and arguments over misunderstandings rooted in poor listening skills throughout your dealership or service shop. Next, calculate the cost to the business' bottom line when you fail to meet customers' expectations because your staff doesn't really listen very well. Experience shows that people skills, such as good body language (discussed in my last column) and effective listening, are the cornerstones of solid customer relations. In short, these skills help build customer loyalty.
Remember that listening carefully and effectively is one of the greatest signs of respect you can show to any customer or co-worker. Based on my travels and interactions with service personnel, good listeners are often in short supply. That means that the people who really do listen well can exceed customer expectations more easily than they realize. Imagine the word-of-mouth advertising you create when motorists tell family, friends and co-workers that the fellow at the tire dealership actually listened!
Politely but firmly encourage listening skills at your team meetings and emphasize that it will be part of every worker's performance evaluation. Bolster the example by practicing it yourself.
What's more, I welcome reader feedback on any tips and techniques they have used successfully to groom better listening skills. I don't claim to have any quick, surefire solutions to this dilemma.