Customer and employee surveys help build better relationships and work environments.
By Cassie Paton and Domenic Olmeda
If your shop received a report card, what grade would your workers and the people you service give you? The only way to find out is to ask, which is why performing surveys is so important.
Acquiring feedback from patrons and personnel helps diagnose problems that plague facilities. In fact, Nancy Knight believes her crowd-sourced research has significantly changed her Ledgewood, New Jersey-based operation for the better. “We tend to see things that we like or think are correct. [Collecting input] gives you the reality of what the general public wants,” says the co-owner of Knight’s Automotive Repair. “They can find the points of your business you don’t always grasp because you’re too far into the forest to see the trees.”
Steve Ek agrees. “You want to know what your customers are thinking and customize anything to fit,” says the owner of Ek Automotive in Chicago, who also teaches the Advanced Marketing Program for repair shop owners and service advisors at Management Success in Glendale, California. “You have to take that information and administer it to your facility accordingly.”
The same strategy extends to your crew. “If I survey my techs and find out what motivates them is time off, I’m not going to go, ‘Okay, good, I’ll give them more money,’ because that would be foolish,” Ek says. “It’s not what the answers to the questionnaire dictated. So, take the responses and apply them to any changes you’re going to implement, and they will make everyone happy.”
Sample Survey Satisfaction Templates
With 28 years of shop management experience under his belt, you could say Dan Klepper knows a thing or two about working with people. To better understand his guests and crew, the co-owner of Sawaya Fleet Services in Denver covers the following areas of interest when soliciting feedback:
Survey topics rated from totally satisfied, mostly satisfied, satisfied, mostly dissatisfied and totally dissatisfied:
- Sawaya Fleet Services is a company I can trust.
- Sawaya Fleet Services meets my overall expectations.
- Sawaya Fleet Services shows a sincere interest in solving my problems.
- Sawaya Fleet Services shows a sincere interest in keeping my costs to a minimum.
- Sawaya Fleet Services keeps me informed on a timely basis on the progress of my vehicle.
- Sawaya Fleet Services demonstrates flexibility in the fulfillment of my requirements and time schedules.
- Sawaya Fleet Services responds in a timely and professional manner if I have any issues.
Exit interview questions for departing team members:
- How did you feel about your recruitment/ interview process?
- How did you feel about your job, working conditions and location?
- Did you receive adequate training for your job responsibilities?
- What did you like most and least about your position?
- Did you receive adequate guidance and feedback from your supervisor? If not, please explain.
- How did you feel about your supervisor’s communication? Please explain.
- Did you feel you were treated fairly by Sawaya Fleet Services?
Seventy percent of buying experiences are based on how people feel they’re being treated, according to a McKinsey report. At Knight’s facility, many of her shop’s accommodations were inspired by collected feedback. “We added laptop tables because our guests wanted to do their work [while their cars were being fixed], and they love it,” she says. “Sometimes we have people sit here all day.” In addition, Knight incorporated courtesies such as free coffee, cookies and water, as well as Wi-Fi for her buyers to enjoy.
Reaching out to your community can also give you a leg up on other locations in your area. “If you’re acquiring information about your target audience that your competitor isn’t taking the time to gather, you’ll be able to better communicate with that group,” says Knight, who used input from the public to design the images included in her promotional pieces. “With marketing campaigns we developed based on those surveys, we received a much higher response rate than we have in the past.” [For more tips on tapping into buyers’ needs, read 4 Auto Repair Shop Equipment Investments That Pay Off.]
For customer feedback, Quality Truck & Tire Service performs call backs each Friday. When the location follows up with those who brought in their vehicles from the previous week, it compiles comments on satisfaction, complaints and/or recommendations. “If you discover someone is still having an issue or is upset, you get the chance to correct it,” says Jon Schuberg, service advisor at the Clare, Michigan-based facility. “If something hasn’t gone well, I want to find out why right away.”
For first-timers, Schuberg’s team surveys their initial impressions and whether they would recommend the facility to a friend. This way, it can uncover any potential problems that might be preventing repeat visits.
Similarly, Dan Klepper, the co-owner of Sawaya Fleet Services in Denver, follows up with people each month after their repairs have been completed. He asks essential questions, such as “Do you feel you received good service from the company?” and “Did you have a positive experience?” during each session. “We try to find out what [individuals] do and don’t like, seeing if they’ll give us some comments about our business,” he says.
While he’s pleased to receive favorable reviews, Klepper warns that surveys won’t always clue you in on how people view your operation. “Generally, the good customers say nice things, and the ones who aren’t happy usually won’t provide negative feedback. Typically, no return visit is their response.”
In that situation, Klepper recommends searching for the cause of the issue. “At that point, you need to get someone involved, either a salesperson, service advisor or yourself to understand what the problem is and fix it,” he says.
Companies with engaged personnel outperform the competition by more than 200 percent, according to a Dale Carnegie report. So, when Nicole Ledford, co-owner of Aaron’s Semi Repair in Rock Springs, Wyoming, surveys her team, she asks questions, such as “If you could change one aspect about your job, what would it be?” or “What’s one thing we could do to improve our shop immediately?”
Ledford allows her staff members a week to respond anonymously — and therefore honestly. “By giving questionnaires to them in advance, they start paying attention to things and thinking about what could be better,” she says. “I definitely feel it empowers them and [shows] you a different perspective of what’s going on in your facility.”
Shawn Fitzjarrald regularly surveys his crew to promote communication and commitment. “We ask questions, such as ‘Where do you see the business and yourself in five years?’ Because I want them to look down the road. I need long-term employees, not short-term ones,” says the co-owner of Reliable Professional Maintenance in Effingham and Palestine, Illinois. “We also want to know things, like ‘Is anyone holding you back from doing your job?’ and ‘Is there something we can do to make your position better?’”
Fitzjarrald conducts these interviews once each year, first in writing and then in person. He believes meeting with each member face-to-face improves relations between management and staff. “It gives workers a sense that we care and are worried about their input, thoughts and opinions,” he says. “If they don’t feel like they’re part of the team…then they’re just uninvested at that point.”
Plus, Fitzjarrald’s employee questionnaires assist with addressing weaknesses in his operation’s workflow. “Usually, you find out there’s a misstep somewhere in the process,” he says. “For example, ‘The parts guy isn’t getting me all the [components]’ or ‘He’s not putting them on my shelf, so I have to go look for them.’”
Once the issues are resolved, “Everything smooths out, and the shop numbers increase a little bit more,” Fitzjarrald adds.
A fresh perspective can also help you create effective action plans — especially when putting together the pieces of the productivity puzzle. “Workers say things, like ‘Maybe we can move this here’ and ‘Perhaps that will make this quicker,’” Knight says. “Sometimes, if you’re not doing that job, you’re not seeing the most efficient ways [of performing it].”
And, surveys don’t need to stop when employees give notice. Performing exit interviews with your staff allows you to fine-tune your managerial know-how. Klepper poses questions, such as “How did you feel about your supervisor’s communication?” and “Do you think you were treated fairly by the company?” to address any shortcomings on the individual’s or management’s part.
In addition to asking about work conditions and interaction between colleagues, Klepper enquires if an outgoing member’s instruction was up to par. “You must make sure you’re doing everything possible from a manager’s point of view to guarantee that your crew is trained properly,” he says. “If [he or she was], you know the operation has done its job to provide that person with the tools to succeed.”
Klepper notes that conducting surveys often leads to discovering the type of team you’re ultimately looking to create and “pinpoints areas you may have overlooked on previous hires.” This paves the way for your business to recruit better candidates in the future, he adds.