You might think it fairly odd that an organization as large as Bridgestone Retail Operations (BSRO) would put “Bosses” at the center of their business, but it makes sense. The entire Bridgestone organization refers to its customers as “The Boss.”
Just recently, I went on a media tour to visit Bridgestone’s Firestone Complete Auto Care Innovation Lab and Distribution Center in Illinois. It was a peek into their Vision 2020 strategic plan focused on moving toward CX (Customer Experience) transformation. It was an insightful journey.
Bridgestone Retail Operations has 2200 stores and almost 23,000 employees. There are an additional 6000 stores that fly the Firestone flag but are independent dealers.
What Is Bridgestone’s Why?
Stu Crum, BSRO’s President, referred to an article comparing going to the dentist with servicing your vehicle. Americans dread having to do both. Mr. Crum and his entire leadership team want to change this.
To be ranked among the most admired customer service companies by the end of the decade. Bridgestone Retail Operations Marketing Collateral
BSRO doesn’t see itself as competing against Jiffy Lube, but organizations that are known, first, for excellent service. As Mr. Crum said, “We are in the people business.” He believes that they are competing against brands such as Chic-Fila and Nordstrom.
“We must be trusted,” said Mr. Crum.
To become the most trusted provider of automotive care in every neighborhood we serve. Everything we do needs to be focused on the Boss. If not, we have to blow it up! Stu Crum
Those are some pretty strong words. In order for all of these great words to mean anything, the strategy and execution have to be aligned.
It All Starts with Strategy and Ends with Execution
A. Teammate Experience
The Bridgestone customer experience transformation strategy starts with the employee experience, or as they refer to them, “teammates.” Leadership made this connection early on in the process. Customers will not remain loyal if the employees do not deliver on the brand promise in every way. As such, the teammate experience is at the top tier of their change initiative.
What are they doing to change the employee experience significantly and retain good talent?
- They are reducing the amount of zones that area leaders must manage, allowing for more time in stores and for coaching teammates.
- They created clearer roles and career paths.
- They provide very generous company-sponsored ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certification for technicians looking to become a master technician.
- The icing on the cake? Teammates who decide to move forward with ASE certification are often given bonuses upon successful completion. Some are even promoted as a result of their success.
One of these committed technicians made a voluntary appearance on his day off with his young child while we were at the Innovation Lab store. It was clear to me that he felt ownership in the success of this store’s new direction.
RELATED: Thou Shall Put Employees First
B. Boss Experience
We work hard to earn trust. That comes from a one-on-one engagement at the store level. Jeffrey Lack, VP of Marketing BSRO
Bridgestone’s research uncovered the two most significant reasons why people most fear going to an auto service shop: (1) It takes too long, and or, (2) The employee will sell me more than I want.
In order to remove that fear and diminish it as a barrier to customer loyalty, BSRO leadership has taken some significant steps:
1. Virtual Vehicle
This is a nifty platform. It illustrates what problem is going on with the vehicle on a display screen, why it is happening and a solution. It is not coming from the technician in the form of a sales pitch or a strong nudge. “It simply lets the vehicle do the talking,” said Mr. Lack.
I saw a demonstration of this, and as a woman who is usually a little uncomfortable going in for auto repairs, I did feel like the experience was more educational than I am used to experiencing.
2. Boss at the Center
For the entire Bridgestone organization, “The Boss (The customer)” is a part of everything they do and every decision they make.
To formalize their commitment to putting the customer at the center of their business, they are creating an in-store experience that includes an area for the Boss to sit right in the center of their stores.
I thought that this was a great way to show customers how important they are and to also remind teammates of their priority.
3. Journey of Listening
In order to drive customer experience transformation, listening to the voices of customers and employees is critical.
The journey started with listening. We turned two ears up and shut our mouths and started listening. We turned our ears to our teammates and partners and asked them what they wanted. We also listened to our global counterparts. Chris Blanchette, Director of Operations (Technical and Innovation), BSRO
Even more important than listening is responding to customer feedback in a timely manner by closing the loop with them. BSRO sends all feedback regarding their stores directly to the store manager for follow up. It would be interesting to see how they track and hold teammates accountable for following up.
According to Mr. Blanchette, BSRO boasts higher than usual response rates on Facebook by responding within 20 minutes of a comment or concern being posted.
The most crucial step here is to keep those response times consistent on all social media sites and over time.
4. Customer Satisfaction Ratings Transparency
BSRO uses a traditional Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) metric. They have built transparency into this data point and given it a boost. Now, store managers can see how their CSAT score compares to other competitors in their area through a new dashboard.
This is so important. Many organizations limit who can see key metrics to just senior leaders. In order to truly impact the in-store experience, the front line must know how their customers are perceiving the service they receive. This gives the entire team a chance to fix any oversights.
RELATED: 4 Ways to Empower Employees to Rock as Customer Experience!
5. More Customer-Focused Support
In a very innovative move, BSRO is piloting a new customer-focused role: The Concierge.
Yes, you read that right. You might see a concierge the next time you visit a Firestone Complete Auto Care near you.
The main purpose of the concierge is to increase communication with the customer, and to make sure they feel comfortable. They check “The Boss” in with a tablet. If the boss has children, it is the responsibility of the concierge to notice when they are getting bored and provide avenues to reduce their boredom. This might include giving them a kid-friendly tablet or even sitting down to play with them.
The Concierge also calls the customer back within 2 days and then an email survey is sent out too.
While I was at the store, I saw a concierge walking a customer out to his car sheltering him from the rain with an umbrella. It was a nice touch!
6. Faster Service, Increased Value
With an industry average of oil change wait times at 45 minutes, Bridgestone Retail Operations’ Innovation Labs have successfully reduced that time to under 11 minutes with two technicians on the job.
They were successful, because they changed the process to start multiple processes at the same time. It is like a tightly choreographed play.
The most impressive part?
They include a pretty robust inspection of each vehicle free of charge. They will even vacuum your vehicle too. No need to buy a thing.
Many organizations talk a lot about being more customer-centric. It takes some serious chops to make it happen. While Bridgestone’s road will not be an easy one, they have many of the right parts for a successful transformation. I would just encourage them to continue to track, measure and innovate on behalf of their customers and employees. Also, don’t lose sight of the role partners and dealers play in customer’s perception of your brand.
Like anything worth having, the fight to keep the “Boss” at the center of any business is one worth doing with great fervor. Keep up the good fight!
Thank you for reading this article. It was a very enlightening tour for me. It would be great to hear about any of your experiences either with successfully embarking on customer experience transformation, or challenges you discovered when attempting it.
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