Consumer marketing and advertising expenditures are on the rise,
and within the automotive service industry this trend is no exception.
Year after year, millions of dollars are spent urging customers
to experience superior products and services, while significantly
less money is invested in assuring that technicians have the superior
technical knowledge, and exceptional customer service skills necessary
to build a strong, loyal customer base for their employer. In recent
years, employee focused programming has proven to be a profitable
alternative for innovative operators seeking to improve business
through the retention and development of staff; affirmation of corporate
culture; and investing marketing dollars into the company's most
American LubeFast (ALF), the largest independently owned and operated
oil change and preventative maintenance company in America, has
embraced the idea of employee focused programming among its 68 stores.
ALF President, Roger Martin believes, "It is one thing to say
you care, it is another to show that you care. By placing employees
at the top of the value chain, employers benefit from increasing
productivity, positive attitudes spanning the ranks of hierarchy,
and ultimately customer satisfaction."
ALF has adopted a unique dual-program to benefit its employees:
1) Creating the CPO (Chief People Officer) position, and 2) introducing
the Chaplain Program. Designed to develop personnel, personally
and professionally, the respective programs have proven to be significantly
beneficial in increasing productivity while reducing turnover. Both
programs have received immeasurable positive feedback in just six
months from ALF customers.
Chief People Officer (CPO)
An executive level position reporting directly to the President,
the Chief People Officer (CPO) is a testament to corporate commitment
to the communication and relationship building that is often challenging
between executive management and front-line technicians. A CPO ensures
full-time focus on managing the well-being and motivational needs
of all company personnel. As human resource positions become inundated
with paperwork and administrative duties, the CPO accepts the responsibility
of marketing the company to its employees through performance management,
facilitating recruitment and employee relations initiatives, as
well as employee development through the Chaplain Program.
Employee Relations & Retention
As the automotive service industry has long suffered from rapid
turnover, employee relations and retention have become more prominent
issues. Communicating the corporate mission, expectations, and advancement
opportunities to lube technicians and managers alike is essential
to achieving a cohesive staff.
The CPO is responsible for developing new employee orientation
programs and making sure every individual is well aware of the career
opportunities available. Working closely with management to promote
the job as a career, the CPO encourages corporate longevity in identifying
the skills and competency sought to fill senior positions. Developing
voluntary "Getting Ahead" education seminars offer employees
of all levels the opportunity to advance personally and professionally
with topics such as finances, fixing credit, corporate culture,
and relating to the boss. As a result, management can develop a
tangible list of employees who want to work towards establishing
an automotive career and are diligent in developing themselves in
preparation for an open/upcoming promotion within company. In tandem
with comprehensive exit interviews, lube operators can compile valuable
feedback to measure staff skill sets, overall motivation, occupation
loyalty, and how to avoid unnecessary future losses.
Pairing senior and new employees through an established mentoring
program can help to avoid the costly mistakes that may sacrifice
future business. An extension of new hire training, mentoring provides
an open forum for technicians to perfect day-to-day operational
expertise, while developing a level of personal and professional
comfort between otherwise separated employees. The CPO provides
the coaching resources needed to help operators, managers, and technicians
raise the bar in their stores' regarding operational proficiency
and customer service, opening the door for employee recognition.
Whether through award presentations, phone calls, or a simple
note from the CPO, the recognition of hard-work and dedication from
the executive level results in valued employees, improved teamwork,
morale, and elevates overall levels of competency.
Employee Development & Chaplain Program
Every operator is looking for that point of differentiation that
sets them apart from their competitors, but few recognize their
employees as that element. Ensuring employee development and fulfillment
in all aspects of their lives can and will offer customers the value-added
service to keep them coming back to see and feel the difference
in service and interaction. To further achieve this, American LubeFast's
Chief People Officer acts as the company liaison in managing contracted
care-givers to visit stores and make business personal.
Greg Mercer, ALF Chief People Officer states, "What the chaplains
do for the company is beyond measure. Since inception, the program
has received noticeable outpouring of testimonials from customers.
American LubeFast has experienced reduced turnover, and enjoyed
improved business with an inversely proportionate business to marketing
ALF is one of many companies teaming up with Marketplace Ministries,
with whom they have partnered for over a year. Chaplains provide
full-time personal and proactive "Employee Care Programs"
to clients by assigning trained teams to care for employees and
their family members on a more intimate level. Dedicated chaplains,
men and women of all adult ages, ethnicities, and geographical location,
visit shops on a regular basis, offering confidentiality and compassion
to all employees.
While extending their hand and experience to the CPO for seminar
topic ideas and professional improvement, the chaplain program puts
employees and their lives first. Contracted tasks include marriage
counseling, hospital visitations, and other personal commitments
that are often "too close" for management to effectively
deal with, yet cannot be ignored for employee performance and stability.
Chaplain programs reinforce that caring for employees from top to
bottom, will build a greater community and achieve corporate success.
While most companies today spend valuable time and resources on
consumer perception, American LubeFast's CPO and Chaplain program
solidify ALF's commitment to their employees by knowing that when
you put people first, they will absolutely help to improve the bottom
line. ALF is a leading example of how applying new ideas can improve
the fast lube industry.
Editor's Note: Craig Lange is the Market Space Manager for
Fast Lubes for BP Lubricants Americas.