Mr. Lube Canada | BCBusiness
At Mr. Lube customer satisfaction is as important as technical expertise.
The value of constructive criticism in a customer-centric business.
In the world of retail the customer is king, but his or her experience is not the only one that matters. When it comes to building a healthy work environment that attracts and retains the necessary talent, the companies that top this year’s Best Companies list know frontline workers need to feel supported on the job.
At La-Z-Boy Canada’s regional office in Vancouver, that starts with clear communication between sales staff, warehouse workers and management to ensure workers at all levels feel heard and valued. They know from experience their feedback is incorporated when possible. Adjustments to benefit packages, staff hours and scheduling have all been made on the basis of staff recommendations, says Gerald Miller, president of the chain’s Lower Mainland operations. He revamped the company’s communication system about three years ago, removing any barriers between front-end staff and all levels of management, up to and including him. “I just said, ‘You know what? I’m here, give me the feedback: good, bad, whatever it is,’” he says.
2. Flight Centre Canada
3. Tom Harris Cellular Ltd.
4. La-Z-Boy Vancouver
5. Mr. Lube Canada Inc.
Training management in communication skills such as giving constructive criticism and accepting suggestions has created a culture of back-and-forth dialogue on the retail floor and helped to avoid defensive reactions. It has also built a sense of trust and teamwork among employees, who know they can go directly to their managers with comments and concerns. The move was a conscious shift away from the days when managers roamed the retail floor like overlords and unilaterally called the shots from backroom offices, says Miller, and it’s a significant departure from the way the sector has traditionally operated. “We’re finding we have to unlearn a lot of what we’d learned – a lot of us cut our teeth at a time when employee engagement in retail wasn’t at the fore.”
Away from the job, cohesion is bolstered by social activities, including Christmas parties, movie nights and barbecues. The result is a united staff that takes ownership of the company and works together toward a goal far greater than an individual paycheque, says Miller.
The retail sector requires workers to keep unconventional hours and stay current on consumer trends, so there’s no room for an “us versus them” division between managers and those doing the active selling to customers, especially in an unsteady economy. “I don’t think there’s a person working who doesn’t wonder, ‘Am I going to have a job tomorrow?’” Miller suggests. “When leadership is out there on the floor, it takes away a lot of that uncertainty.”
Clear channels of communication and clear outlines of employees’ roles, responsibilities and opportunities for advancement can help retail outlets avoid the common pitfall of high turnover, says Diane Campbell, director of human resources at Mr. Lube Canada.
Her company overhauled its retail operations in 2008 to eliminate confusion in its stores. “There was very much the mentality of it still being an automotive shop, not so much on the retail focus,” she says.
Mr. Lube created position profiles that clearly separated the roles of technicians and customer service representatives in its stores nationwide. Giving frontline employees a better sense of their objectives has increased on-the-job confidence and allowed staff to specialize and develop their interests, says Campbell. It’s paying off for the company at a corporate level, too. Mr. Lube now emphasizes that entry-level positions are only a first step in a long-term career for willing workers, with training and mentorship available for entrepreneurial employees who aspire to become franchisees or move into the corporate side.
Keeping knowledgeable frontline staff in the Mr. Lube family as they advance professionally is key to the company’s future plans to remain nimble and responsive to consumer needs, even as the operation grows, says Campbell. “We have one guy in Richmond who started as a technician and now owns 15 stores,” she says. “Those people are very valuable to our system.”