How I Work: Janel Garis
Janel Garis spends most of her time in her office, staring at a screen and a stack of papers.
Yet, she remains tirelessly motivated, focused on the next step for both her and her co-workers.
Garis, a customer service representative for Legacy Auto Body Group LLC, which is a franchise partner with CARSTAR in northeast Pennsylvania, says she is able to juggle multiple front office tasks through a refined time-management routine.
“In order for me to do my job the best that I can, I like to concentrate and not have too many interruptions in my day,” she says.
Since starting at the company approximately one year ago, Garis began trying one of her “hats’ at organizing. She brought in colored pens to take notes and switched around a parts filing process when she started.
“Janel is always here, always available, and always looking for the next project or task to do,” says Eric Horvath, co-owner of Legacy Auto Body Group.
Horvath says the body shop is in a time of acquisition mode, in which the leadership team is looking to expand into a sixth location. Garis has been instrumental in the shop during this time.
Garis shares how she stays on top of her ever-changing tasks within the shop.
As told to Melissa Steinken
I’m the first one in the office at 7:15 a.m. I come into my office at our Allentown location and I spend about an hour just setting up the office before anyone else is in. I flip the lights on, make a pot of coffee and organize the front desk area for our main point of customer contact, Lydia.
Then, I retreat to my office and spend time first thing working on the store’s credit card deposits. I do this for three of our locations including the Allentown one, the Kutztown one and the Quakertown location. The shop uses the CCC into QuickBooks program.
If it’s a Monday, then the whole team comes in earlier and we have a morning meeting to discuss which cars are going out that day and which cars will be delivered the following day.
A lot of my time in the mornings is spent on the phone. I spend about 15 to 30 minutes calling the banks, our store vendors and customers. I’ll listen to the voice messages we receive and respond accordingly. I usually call the customer then to give them an update on whether their vehicle is ready to be picked up or when it is scheduled to be done.
Our vendors vary for each of our locations so that takes a bit of extra time. I have to make sure that I reach all of the different ones. Sometimes, I can pay a vendor for all three locations in one phone call but other times, I have to make sure I know which vendor is for which store and pay once.
These aren’t that bad, though, because often I’ll have to just leave a voicemail for a larger vendor like a dealership and that only takes about one minute of my time.
I think being organized is the number one piece of advice I can give. In my type of role, you need to be organized. As I’m getting older, my memory isn’t holding as much and I can be forgetful. I find having more notes on my files and on my desk really helps me retain information.
Our shop isn’t completely paperless yet and I handle all the mail for this location. So, I have to be organizing emails, snail mail and my time for helping customers if I need to step in while someone else is away. Some days are so hectic with customers calling and coming into the shop that I don’t get to do accounting work at all.
I’ve found that keeping bright colored pens on my desk helps me label something so that whoever I pass it on to knows the note needs to be taken care of in a timely manner.
I think it’s important to be aware of time management, as well. Don’t wait until the last minute to start a task and then not finish it. Don’t start a task at the end of the day and then rush through it to get it done because you’re more likely to make a mistake. As a customer service representative, it’s difficult not to get burnt out after looking at a screen all day and dealing with customers.
For me, if it gets to be the end of the day, the clock hits 3:30 p.m. and I still haven’t finished my task, then I will put the paperwork in a stack of manila folders that are in a file rack on my desk. To make sure I know the file isn’t finished, I leave it sticking out of the folder. I can walk in the next day and see right away that I have files to complete when I have a fresh mind in the morning. Then I try to leave the office around 4 p.m. every day.
I absolutely love interacting with customers, but in the long-term I’d like to work more on the back end. I’ve been in the customer service industry since I was 18 years old. I love being able to talk face-to-face with customers and take something off their shoulders. My biggest feeling of achievement comes from helping make something bad into a better experience for the customer.
My boss is slowly introducing me to more of the financial work and the behind-the-scenes work of the business. Eventually, that’s what I’d like to do in my career. I’d like to only handle the office work behind the scenes. Yet, I want to know how to run the front desk if this is the case. I want to be available to help in case someone needs to step away from helping a customer or a teammate calls in sick.