By Joe Rector

I’ve become a millennial! It happened without my knowing what was happening. My reason for saying this is that I’m changing part time jobs again. After almost a year at Toyota of Knoxville, my body is aching from the walking on concrete all day long. If I could survive that one thing, no change would be necessary. My time at the place has certainly showed me that the service department employees work hard to please.

Nothing is any better than getting reacquainted with a best friend. Billy Hayes is the Director of Service at Toyota of Knoxville, and as I’ve discussed many times before, we coached our sons in baseball for years and developed a strong friendship through it. The best part of my job there was spending time with him as we laughed, fussed, and sometimes cussed.

I knew Billy was a good body shop business man. What I witnessed firsthand is that he simply has exceptional skills that make him one of the strongest business leaders around. He works to keep employees happy. He is a member of management, but Billy is never afraid to jump in to help porters, service advisers, or body shop technicians. On more than one occasion, he’s rolled up his white shirt sleeves and fixed a vehicle problem.

I also learned that the folks who work in the service center are some of the hardest working individuals in any business. Service advisers spend much of their time writing up orders and answering customers’ questions and complaints. Oil techs and mechanics work tirelessly to provide services that please customers and to diagnose and fix problems with vehicles. The mechanics attend classes to earn certification in multiple areas. A car owner can feel a bit more at ease that his or her car is under the care of someone who has the experience and skills to solve problems.

I worked as a porter, a fancy name for a car mover. My buddies and I began work around 7 a.m. and worked long hours. The job doesn’t sound that difficult, does it? You’re right…to a degree. However, porters move cars to different areas of the property for work, then they move them to the car wash, and then they bring them out for waiting customers. By the end of the day, a porter who works hard can walk as much as twelve miles without ever leaving the Toyota lot.

Another surprise concerned customers. Many are kind folks who are patient with the staff and find ways to occupy themselves as services are being completed. An astonishing number of customers arrive at the center in a bad mood, and that negative attitude grows while they wait. I’ve watched too many people verbally attack employees over prolonged waiting time, even though the vast majority of complainers didn’t have appointments. Some irate individuals accuse workers of stealing possessions in their cars and maintain those accusatory tones even after video proof contradicts their statements.

Dealerships are driven by surveys. Called CSI’s (customer service index), these surveys are sent to folks who have visited the dealership for service. The kicker with these tools is that they aren’t fair at all. If a person finishes his visit at the center, thinks he’s received average service, and gives a score in the 70’s or 80’s, he has unwittingly assigned a failing score. Anything below a 90 is a terrible grade, and most of the time, an acceptable CSI score to management in the company is 100. Try to remember that the next time you grade a dealership’s service department.

I know that mistakes happen when car services are provided. That comes when humans are working. However, a customer who loses his temper is making a bad situation worse. A better approach would be to talk with the service department manager and to come to some kind of understanding. Maybe a better solution would be for the customer to go to a different dealer.

All in all, I’ve gained a healthy respect for the folks who take care of cars. They work hard and try to provide excellent service. From now on, I’ll be much more patient and understanding of what is going on at the places where I shop. As for the workers in the Toyota of Knoxville service center, I salute them and the work they do and say thanks for your kindness to me. I’ll miss you guys.