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By Wendy Lambourne, director, Legitimate Leadership

In an autoglass repair and replacement business, in December 2017, a target was set for the sale of value-added products (wipers and windscreen protection). The actual target, communicated to all service center managers (brand managers) across the particular country in January 2018, was a margin per prime job of X euros. In February 2018 all branches were given stock and trained on the products.

Although performance was good in the peak season it dropped significantly thereafter.

The initial response by the two district managers (North West and South East) was to reemphasize the importance of the target to their regional managers who then passed the message down the line. In some regions the margin per prime job improved – but not across the board. In fact, some branches achieved margins which were not only below target but were unacceptably low.

It was at this point that the district managers decided to shift focus from desired outcome to the contribution required to achieve the result. They put their attention on the process for engaging with a customer from the moment he/she arrived at the service center to when he/she departed. Specifically they focused on the clear requirement to offer the customer a value added product at a certain stage in what is known as the ‘Customer Journey’.

In a meeting with their regional managers the district managers used the Legitimate Leadership Empowerment Framework to confirm that all the Means, Ability and Accountability requisites for meeting the standard to offer value-added products to all customers were in place.

For Means: Was there stock? Were communication leaflets available? Was the standard clear and understood? Was the branch manager’s role clear?

For Ability: Was additional training required? Did the regional managers need coaching on how to analyse deviation-from-standard or how to ensure that the standard was enforced in their branches?

Were the right people being held Accountable? In particular, were the regional managers holding branch managers accountable for enforcing the ‘Customer Journey’ standard in their service centers?

What emerged – surprisingly – was not even that the standard was unclear but that branch managers did not understand their role with respect to the standard. They thought that their job was to personally offer value-added products to the customer, not to enable their technicians to do so. This explained why the margin per prime job dropped dramatically when the branch manager was not in the branch.

Once this was understood and appropriate leadership action was taken, the results were dramatic. In both districts the target was achieved and sustained – in week 37 onwards in the South East, and in week 39 onwards in the North West.

Interestingly at the same time that there was improved performance in the sale of value-added products there was also an improvement in the Opt-in Score (% of customers who agreed to give feedback on their experience as a customer of the service they had received).

Insights from the above are:

The way to achieve a target is not to focus on it. Rather it is to understand and enable the contribution(s) required by who which will produce an on-target or better result.

A key enabler of contribution is clarity of contribution. In this case the clarity was that selling value-added products was the job of everyone in a branch, not just the branch manager.

When a standard is not being met, it is imperative to determine why that is the case rather than to assume a lack of willingness. In this instance, the failure to meet the standard was primarily a Means issue rather than a lack of Ability or Willingness to do so.