Showcase: Parts Manager Steve Schmitt
STEVE SCHMITT COMPANY: WILDE TOYOTA LOCATION: WEST ALLIS, WIS. POSITION: PARTS MANAGER YEARS AT COMPANY: 10 YEARS
“We try to make it a fun place to work—we do try to keep it upbeat,” Steve Schmitt, parts manager at Wilde Toyota says of the 21-person parts department.
With demands coming from the service department and wholesale customers, maintaining a positive environment is sometimes easier said than done. Schmitt, however, has picked up some keys to keep the energy and the spirits up in his department.
Grow a thick skin.
A negative attitude is like a sickness that can quickly spread throughout the entire department. That’s why Schmitt always addresses a problem right away and avoids letting his team see him stressed out. When the phones begin ringing off the hook, Schmitt reminds his team that people aren’t calling to check in on them—they’re calling because they need something—so they shouldn’t take it too personally if they’re being addressed in a negative tone.
Remember why you’re there.
When a customer is upset, it’s easy for the mood to change. Schmitt says there are a number of different reasons that a problem could have come up—it could be the manufacturer’s errors, an error in the parts department, or sometimes, the customer just needs to vent.
“I remind people that we’re here to help fix the problem and sometimes people to overreact and it could because of something else that happened in their day,” Schmitt says. “All we can do is try to get them the right part. Right or wrong, the customer is always right.”
Cover one another.
Schmitt runs teams in his department. There are three separate teams: retail, accessories and online inquiries; wholesale; and the tech counter and used cars. Each team specialises in their department, but they’re all cross-trained so if one team is short staffed for whatever reason, someone from another department can cover.
Every Thursday, Schmitt hosts a staff meeting where he shares anything important that they might need to know and they have the opportunity to give feedback and share suggestions.
“It’s a two-way line of communication,” Schmitt says.
Schmitt gets to know what his staff enjoys doing for fun and then discussing those hobbies periodically.
Schmitt, who plays guitar in a band, does woodworking and hunts, says that hobbies are a great stress relieving and way to bond with one another.
“Many of us are into cooking, craft beers, sports… We discuss things daily,” Schmitt says.