Attitude Is Everything
A positive attitude is critical to running a successful business. Customers, vendors and insurers do business with people they like. So maintaining a professional attitude in the workplace is essential to develop long-term, healthy relationships with them.
Coming to work daily with a positive attitude isn’t something that comes naturally to everyone. Frustrating situations will always happen at the shop, and the way your employees deal with those scenarios will make or break their performance. A bit of training on how to stay positive throughout the workday goes a long way in improving your business.
Texas-based Service King Collision Repair Centers implemented a training process called Integrity Service roughly 10 years ago to deal with the issue. The training, offered by Nashville, Tenn.-–based Integrity Services, is an eight-week onsite program designed to improve employee attitudes and behaviors at work. The program’s methods can be implemented at any shop, regardless of size and income, to help employees maintain positive attitudes.
The training was designed to improve employee abilities to understand different personality styles, work through problems and communicate without getting frustrated or emotional, says Scott Belshe, director of training and development for Service King. The skills improve relations with everyone shop employees interact with—external customers and vendors, and internal colleagues.
—Scott Belshe, director of training and development, Service King
One positive by-product of Service King’s training is improved customer service index (CSI) scores. Belshe says the company’s CSI results spike every time the training is conducted. And that has improved relations with both vendors and insurers, and generated additional job referrals for the company overall.
A Better Image
Belshe says he’s in the process of creating a career development track for each of the company’s employees. All current employees have taken the Integrity Service training, and the program is at the top of the list for all new hires—a $300 investment per person. Specifically, it’s a company requirement for all customer service representatives (CSRs), estimators, service advisors, office coordinators, receptionists, managers, parts personnel and production managers.
All of those people have contact with customers, Belshe says, and play a role in developing an overall image of the organization. He says technicians don’t take the training because they mainly work on the shop floor, and don’t have regular contact with other people.
“The training teaches our employees to have a better attitude, outlook and understanding of people to improve communications,” Belshe says. “It helps them represent our company in a more professional manner.”
In addition, Belshe says the attitude-focused training has also improved the indoctrination of new hires down the road. It’s allowed him to develop a standard operating procedure (SOP) for company communication standards. The SOP ensures employees will follow proper protocols for projecting positive attitudes in all situations.
But how exactly? Belshe highlights three key elements that are important for all shops to implement to improve customer communications:
#1 Identify personality traits. Belshe says all people can be categorized into one of four different personality styles, and each style has a slightly different way of communicating. It’s important to understand how to interact with each personality type in order for employees to portray a positive attitude during conversations with different people. It’s sometimes necessary to alter the way you communicate in order to be perceived in a positive light.
For example, some customers might want you to spend a lot of time with them. If you don’t recognize that, and hurry through your interactions, the customer might perceive that as a poor attitude and feel put-off.
Check out FenderBender’s April 2011 article “Feedback Session” for information on the four personality styles, and the typical characteristics of each one.
#2 Understand communication tactics. Belshe says employee attitudes are displayed in more ways than just in-person conversations. Attitudes are projected in emails, text messages and phone calls, too.
Regardless of the communication methods used, Belshe says employees should adhere to the following practices to convey a positive attitude toward customers:
Greet people. Start every interaction by thanking people for contacting you.
Value people. There are three phrases that employees should think about during conversations: “You’re the customer; you pay my salary,” “There’s something about you that I like,” and “You make my job possible.”
Those ideas will help employees understand the significance of showing appreciation for everyone they interact with, and cause them to portray a higher sense of happiness during
Ask how to help people. Find out how you can best assist with people’s needs by first asking why they contacted you. Then, ask open-ended questions to further understand their needs. Doing so will help employees effectively satisfy people’s needs, and offer additional value above and beyond what they were initially looking for.
Listen to people. Of course, you want to listen to what people say to you. But don’t just focus on their words. Be mindful of their tone of voice and body language to gain a deeper understanding of what they want.
Invite people back. Always thank people for contacting you, and ask them to get back in touch soon. Make sure the communication ends on a high note so people have a desire to come back.
Speak with a smile. Even if you’re not interacting with someone face-to-face, pretend that you are. Envision the person you’re communicating with, and have a smile on your face to help project a more positive tone of voice.
Stay to the point. Try not to overbear people with too much information all at one time. Keep messages short and polite.
#3 Resolve conflicts effectively. “A large part of our customer management has to do with conflict management and resolution,” Belshe says. “A lot of people we deal with are unhappy about things that happened long before we even meet them.”
He says there is a four-step problem-solving formula that employees use to resolve conflicts effectively, without portraying negativity:
Understand the problem. Whenever employees are dealing with a conflict, such as a customer who claims the shop overlooked a certain step of the repair, start by gathering all of the facts. Listen non-defensively, and repeat the problem back so it’s clear that you understood what was said.
Identify the cause. Employees should ask enough questions to find out exactly what happened. Then they can explain to people what should have happened, and what specifically went wrong in the process that caused the issue.
Discuss possible solutions. Employees should first ask for their counterpart’s ideas for resolution, and then suggest a few of their own options. From there, work with the person to identify the best course of action for everybody involved.
Solve the problem. Once you’ve identified the best way to resolve a problem, take corrective action immediately. Make sure to follow up with the individual to make sure they’re satisfied with the result.
Stephen Hayes, location manager at Service King’s Grand Prairie, Texas, facility, says the practices used to portray positive attitudes toward customers can be used during interactions with your business partners as well, such as insurers.
Putting those skills into action will improve your shop’s relations with them, he says. It makes your shop easier and more pleasant to work with when employees are able to negotiate and resolve issues positively.
Hayes adds that’s even true for parts personnel when dealing with vendors. For example, delivery delays on parts will happen now and then. It’s important to handle those situations productively without becoming frustrated. That helps maintain good-standing relationships to get better discounts or service in the future, which improves profitability.
Positivity in the workplace doesn’t only improve external relations. You’ll notice an improvement in your shop’s culture as well—most notably with teamwork among employees.
Employees understand they are different, and know they need to adapt their communication styles when speaking with certain colleagues, Hayes says. They feel much more comfortable and open to work with one another on a daily basis.
“We have a happier, more successful feel at the end of the day,” Belshe says. “We’ve improved the overall attitude of the company because we’ve learned to hold ourselves to a higher standard.”