Creating Perfect Harmony
Richard Fish, owner of eight Fix Auto Collision Centers in California, has always prioritized team building.
“It’s a priority for any shop that wants to be good at what they do,” he says.
To Fish, the best way to do that has been to keep his employees informed. Meetings are common across Fish’s locations. An informed staff will lead to more understanding and, in turn, more cohesiveness. He’s also a big believer in competition leading to a connected group, as everyone needs to work together to reach a common goal.
In any business, employees are bound to butt heads. One of the most common ways that is actualized in the auto industry is through conflict between the front of the shop and the back. With two significantly different roles, service advisors and technicians often don’t see eye to eye. Advisors don’t think the techs appreciate the role they play with the customer, and techs don’t think advisors understand the complexities and struggles that come with repair, Fish says. It’s something he’s seen in his shop and tried to address.
The problem then becomes, how can shops address it and keep these two groups together, and what strategies can be implemented that boost productivity, continue to prioritize the customer while also fostering cohesiveness amongst the staff.
One of the biggest causes of internal dispute among Fish’s shops surrounds technicians not thinking of the customer. They often never interact with customers and so naturally they aren’t continually thinking about the customer and how to make their experience the best. Meanwhile the employees at the front of the shop do, and are the face that customers want answers from.
So Fish works to make the shop as transparent as possible for all employees. They have monthly meetings in which they break down all the key performance indicators (KPIs) and talk about what went well and didn’t. Not enough shops do that, Fish says.
“Shops think ‘oh that’s more than they need to know’ or ‘they’re not educated to understand it.’ I reject all of that,” he says.
Fish also shares eight monthly reports with his employees, relating to the performance of the business. This allows all employees to understand what each other do, hopefully leading to a greater respect for everyone’s role in the business. Fish calls it “pulling from the same side of the rope.” Many conflicts arise simply out of misunderstanding of someone else’s job expectations, with everyone on the same page, conflicts can be avoided.
Fostering cohesiveness through competition.
Fish has also found a way to incentivize cohesiveness and productivity. Around 10 years ago he became frustrated with his technicians not having a sense of the business and not appreciating the customer. So he started a competition centered around customer satisfaction scores.
Each month, technicians would be graded based on questions answered by the customer, who ever received the highest score, or customer satisfaction index (CSI), would receive a $100 bill.
“You would’ve thought I was giving cars away,” Fish says.
Soon it became an every month ordeal and it has stuck ever since. Fish has even introduced a yearly CSI contest with larger cash winnings.
But instead of employees becoming competitive with each other to the point of dysfunction, it has created more camaraderie.
“The only way to get all those numbers is to work together. There’s no other choice,” he says.
Technicians need writers to do their job well to ensure they get a score, and vice versa. Everyone is motivated by the contest, which inherently forces them to work together. That allows them to fully understand and appreciate one another, Fish says.
After Fish implemented the competition, he saw a two percent escalation in the overall corporate CSI. The contest was first presented as a one-off to get technicians to become more aware of how their actions affect a customer’s satisfaction. It worked so well that it has been continued and expanded.
All eight of Fish’s shops run the program and it has been an easy way to keep everyone engaged and pulling from the same side of the rope.
Conflicts arise when employees don’t understand each other and the business. Their own priorities get in the way, and without a greater knowledge and sensibility of why they’re working things fall apart.
“We serve one master and that master is the customer and we all serve that together,” Fish says.
So through transparency of the business and a little competition that fosters teamwork, while also putting the customer first, cohesiveness follows.