Auto Glass Week 2012 in Louisville, Ky., provided attendees with an array of educational opportunities and concrete tips on running their businesses more effectively. The event was held September 20 and was cosponsored by the Auto Glass Safety Council (AGSC).
Among these educational sessions, Chris Umble, vice president of strategic initiatives for LYNX Services, rolled out a number of strategies for addressing the common business of customer service during a session titled “Meeting the Expectations of Insurance Customers and Consumers.”
“Customer service, at the end of the day, is the thing we all have in common as we go about our duties in the auto glass ecosystem,” Umble said. What’s more, he added, “At the end of the day, customer service says everything about the business.”
He defined “excellent” customer service as “the ability of an organization to constantly and consistently exceed the customer’s expectations.”
As Umble elaborated, “You can only meet expectations if you give the customer what they ask for. You can only exceed expectations if you give them something more …If you wait until they ask you for the ‘next generation’ [product], where did they get that idea? Maybe from your competitors.”
Attorney Chuck Lloyd and Debra Nelson of Livgard & Lloyd provided an hour’s worth of business and legal tips sure to help auto glass businesses protect themselves.
- Putting financial controls in place no matter how trustworthy you think your employees are,” Nelson said. Even the best of employees sometimes make bad decisions, she said;
- Exploring Google, from free listings on Google Places to Google Plus business pages, to Google scholar’s option for searching patents and legal documents. “It’s amazing what’s out there for free,” Lloyd pointed out; and
- Collecting what you are owed, Lloyd stressed. “If you have a short-pay problem, you have to first admit that you have a problem,” he said.
Lloyd asked the audience how many times they’ve been told the customer has full glass coverage, only to find out that’s not true. You need to document your calls in some way because it’s the person who made the mistake – not you – who bears the responsibility, he advised.
Nelson suggested partnering with local police or fire department for a day of carseat safety, advertising that service and also getting out your name and positioning yourself as a community leader. “You want to make time for marketing, every single day,” Nelson said, adding, “It can be so much simpler than we think.” She suggested finding ways to make business and life intersect, like sponsoring a local baseball team or donating to a yearbook. On top of that, you want to be creative in your marketing to stay memorable.
“Make sure you have a written warranty for your work,” Lloyd said. “I’m saying ‘stand behind your work but make sure you have a written warranty that says exactly what that means.’”
Lessons for Leadership
Keynote speaker Captain Richard Phillips shared his remarkable story and lessons for strong leadership as the keynote speaker. In April 2009, the world watched and wondered at the ship captain who offered himself as a hostage to Somali pirates in order to protect the lives of his 20 crewmembers.
He began by highlighting to his rapt audience three key points he’d learned over the course of 33 years sailing, 23 years as a captain:
• You are much stronger than even you know;
• The only time that all is lost is when you chose to give up; and
• A dedicated professional team can overcome any obstacle.
He began with a lesson to which any auto glass business owner could relate, the importance of the adage: “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.”
Phillips said he always told his crew he expected it would at some point be attacked by pirates, but felt they could handle it if they were prepared. To improve that preparation, he went over the required quarterly security reports, springing a surprise drill on that voyage’s crew. They found problems that they discussed, and then generated new safety ideas as well. “There was some grumbling about the drill … but a few days later the crew was very glad we took some time to prepare for the worst,” he recalled.
That was when, on calm seas, a small ship with four armed pirates caught up to the ship, despite evasive maneuvers, and boarded Phillips’ ship.
At that moment, he and the crew knew they were responsible for getting themselves safely out of this situation. “At sea, you don’t get to pass the buck,” Phillips said. “At sea, you get to learn firsthand how strong you are.”
From the start, he guessed that the pirates weren’t as practiced in their task as his crew because his crew performed their safety procedures nearly flawlessly while the pirates lost their ladder and sank their boat in boarding.
That practice also meant that the crew stayed in the safe room when the captain was ordered to call them to the deck, because they didn’t hear the safe word.
Ultimately, Phillips said, he knew the “best way to protect my crew, my ship and my cargo – and myself – was to get the pirates off my ship.”
Phillips recounted the harrowing account of being held as hostage on a lifeboat with the four pirates, not expecting rescue but staying focused on keeping hope, and remaining the pirates’ “adversary rather than a passenger,” never becoming simply a hostage. As the pirates played mind games and withheld water, he remembered, “I don’t think anyone solved their crises at sea by being panicked.”
After four days as a hostage, Phillips was rescued by U. S. Navy SEALs, whom he called the real heroes of the story.
He summarized his tale by sharing with his audience, “The one simple reason I’m here today … a dedicated team of professionals who did what it took.”
The Real Truth
Garrison Wynn, author of The Real Truth About Success, also spoke and provided suggestions for how different generations can work better together.
Wynn, who at age 27 was the youngest department head in a Fortune 500 company, knows just how challenging it can be for people of different generations to communicate their ideas and values productively to one another.
Wynn explained that top-performing CEOs don’t say “wrong,” they say “I don’t agree with you but I’m willing to listen.” A request for information can be the start of trust building, a key for effective leadership.
As Wynn explained, employees under 30 have been made to feel “heard” their entire lives—by schools, parents and friends—making it more important for this generation over others to feel that their ideas are being received.
“The pure power of making people feel heard,” Wynn said, is part of why some employees will stay with the same company, the same products, the same industry, despite tangible results.
Wynn also touched on some of the skills that employees under 30 bring to the table. “People under 30 have a gift for reading your sincerity extremely well,” he said, making it very important to communicated honestly to these employees. In addition, they believe that are multiple solutions for a single problem. The minute these youths hear “there’s just one way” everybody under 30 stops listening. Finally, there is a desire for prestige. “Can you make your young people who work for you look good in front of a customer, in front of each other? Can you explain something so clear and easy they can turn around and explain that to a customer?” Wynn asked.
Next year’s Auto Glass Week is scheduled for September 18-20 in Tampa, Fla.