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I am blessed to call Bruce Kirkland, Dealer Principal at Lexus of Edmonton a friend. I am in awe of his community support and how he continually instils excellence in his team, by delivering Remarkable Service to Lexus of Edmonton’s valued customers (aka Guests). During an interview with X5 Management, Bruce shared his perspective on Customer Service excellence and it was just too great to not be captured in this post.

Are there one or two things that are extremely important in maintaining a high level of customer service?

Bruce Kirkland, Lexus of Edmonton“I really think that there are not just one or two things, because I really believe it’s a puzzle, and you have to put the puzzle together; to make it go correctly. I would say a couple things; One is to hire correctly. Lexus of Edmonton has this amazing culture of customer service and relationships. We hire very carefully to protect our culture and I’m not afraid to hire people that have no car experience, in fact I’d rather hire people without any car experience. If someone has been in the customer service business somewhere else, those skills are transferable. A lot of people are afraid to do that. Secondly, you have to make sure the people you hire have pride in what you do. We make sure that everyone in our dealership knows what’s expected of him or her. So we have to communicate with them clearly. You have to make sure that they’re involved in the process of why we’re doing what we’re doing, not just telling them just be nice. It’s a long process but hire correctly. Make sure they are trained correctly. We make sure they all go through culture training, and that training is run by myself and Matt Miller, our GM.”

How do you get that team of people involved and maintain your focus on customer service?

“A couple of things have to happen: It can’t be top down. If it’s top down, it’s not going to work. We do many things at Lexus of Edmonton. One of the things that I am particularly proud of is called Opportunities and Challenges. Every year the management team gets together and looks at all opportunities and challenges. Every year we ask each department to do the same thing, so these people come up with opportunities and challenges and they become engaged in that process. They come up with a lot of opportunities and challenges and I think that’s really important that it’s grass roots up and our people are really happy to be involved. Top down doesn’t work with any organization, so make sure they’re engaged. Make sure you train them. A lot of times in our industry (or any industry) we tell people to do their job, but we don’t train them….Just go do this! We believe in internal training and we believe in external training. Training is key to our success! Our sales team has training either Thursday or Friday morning for 30 minutes every week. We plan on expanding that to our whole team.

We call people guests. We don’t call them customers because the way we treat people, they are in our house. At Lexus of Edmonton we call them guests because of how would you like to be treated in our house. Little things like opening the door for them and walking them to the door. Greet them! It’s the little things that make the biggest difference for sure. Every touch point is critical for success of customer service. It’s not just selling the car, that’s easy part. It’s how they are greeted when they come in to the business. How does reception treat them? The two most important people in my dealership are reception and detailing. Some people come in here and say the car is great, but it’s dirty so every touch point is absolutely critical and I think sometimes that in our business we forget about that. I always say here, under promise and over deliver and if we can under promise and over deliver, and wow them, then it’s way better than overpromising and not delivering. I think every touch point in your business is critical and so don’t forget about the people who you don’t think need training. The whole staff needs training, not just management needs training. It’s great that managers are trained, but I think the entire team needs training. If you do that they’re going to be engaged.

Spend money on training!! It makes your staff better and you are investing in them, and they feel you are investing in them.

They’re going to want to do it. They’re going to take pride in working here and making sure that they could do that.

You have to empower them. A lot of companies don’t empower people. I empower my staff to make decisions. They don’t have to run to me to make a decision, so make a decision. If that decision is the best for the customer; then let’s make that decision; let’s not wait around and have to go through three layers to make a decision.”

How do you actively manage the customer experience?

“It’s a little more difficult to manage it all but if your teams trained right then you will be fine. We do all sorts of different things here because we really believe that it’s the whole experience in any company. I tell my team, don’t worry about the car…the car will take care of itself. Let’s worry about the people in front of us. It’s what we call the whole Lexus experience. It’s the little things that we do. We have many events for our guests; anything from wine tasting events for all guests or we’ll have a ladies night at a great restaurant, where we buy them dinner. We do these things to keep them engaged and to experience WOW!

At special occasions and holidays we make sure they have a little gift on the car seat when they come in. Little things make a big difference. You don’t think they’re big because it’s this beautiful car but it’s the little things that they’re just wowed by. I think that’s one of the things we forget is it doesn’t have to be big sometimes; it just is a little thing that really makes your guests, very very happy.

Your staff has to be engaged. We have great pride here.

Lexus has a competition, and every month we review that with our staff. It’s called The Pursuit of Excellence. It’s a competition among all the dealers in Canada. Every month at the start of the month we have a kick-off meeting and explain where we are at and what we need to work on. We’re fortunate that we have an amazing team and have won this nine years in a row. We always have a BIG celebration!

I think also that you just have to look after people. We reward people when they do a good job. We have an internal reward system and when someone does something well, we recognize and reward him or her.

I get way too much credit: My staff does all the work but you know that they buy into what we do.

We’re very proud and the Pursuit of Excellence is an amazing thing, but you have to communicate with your staff. When you’re in a leadership position if you don’t communicate with your staff and talk to them, you’re not going to be successful. I have to make sure that I do what I expect them to do and it starts at the top.

We do the little things really really well. We have a newsletter called “The Little Things” that goes out each month, because it’s the little things that are going to make the big difference. We do the big things really well. Most companies do the big things well. It’s the little things that they miss.

We are really blessed at Lexus of Edmonton. I am very proud of the team and the job they do. It separates us—we’re different!!”

A BIG THANKS to Bruce Kirkland for taking the time to share these valuable insights with us.

X5 Management specializes in Improving Sales & Service for business. We offer comprehensive Business Consulting Services, Coaching Services and we have an extensive list of Training and Professional Development courses/workshops specific to supporting businesses with Improving Sales & Service. For more information, visit us at x5management.com or contact us at info@x5management.com

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A Time for Thanksgiving

by mikemack on October 10, 2013

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Happy Thanksgiving to my friends, family and business connections in Canada!

As I get older, and wiser, I appreciate Thanksgiving more and more.

It allows me….and hopefully you, to stop and reflect on the many things that we are thankful for.

I am thankful for many things, including family, friends, colleagues, business connections, etc. and fortunately I figured out along time ago to be thankful and grateful for them everyday, not just this time of year. 🙂

I want to share a great story that unfolded this week. Be patient, as some explanation is required, but it is well worth it.

Our company X5 Management launched an audio cd a week ago and one of the tracks on the cd was an interview that my colleague Dennis Bridges conducted with a great friend and business connection of X5, Bruce Kirkland, General Manager, Lexus of Edmonton. (pic) The focus of the interview was on Customer Service Excellence at Lexus. (Top Lexus dealership in Canada for Customer Service, for 7 years in a row)

This is where the story unfolds.  We shared the cd with many of our customers and business connections over the past week.  One person who received a copy of the cd shared a wonderful story with us after listening to the cd. When he heard the track featuring Bruce Kirkland, he was blown away with past memories of Bruce.  He shared with us that Bruce was his coach in High School and had a significant impact on his life over 20 years ago. As we found out, Bruce played a major part in this young man staying in school, as he went  through some very challenging times. He stated, “Bruce was truly a great man!”

In light of this wonderful story, I called Bruce and shared this with him, and he indeed remembered the young man.  As Bruce stated to me, “sometimes you do small things that you don’t realize at the time that they were thankful for.”

A time for thanksgiving isn’t a date on the calendar, but rather ongoing goodwill and acknowledgement.
The above story is great for a few reasons. The young man acknowledged his thanks and gratitude. Bruce was able to receive the thanks and gratitude.

The take away for me is twofold:

Don’t stop doing good deeds for others, even though you may not hear the thanks and be acknowledged.

When someone has impacted your world, either BIG or small, take the time to acknowledge and thank them for their contribution to you.

I welcome your comments on this blog.

Did someone impact your world today, last week, or last year?

“Connecting the Dots of Life’s Journey”

Mike Mack

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