It’s well documented that women are still being treated differently in business, particularly when it comes to customer-facing roles. Tina Drayson, Operations Manager at CCM, gives voice to the frustrations felt by the women working front of house.
Customers are often blissfully unaware of the way they interact with the female professionals working for a garage business. Here, I have highlighted just a handful of instances that I have come across that I think need to be addressed in order to ensure a comfortable working environment for all.
1. When a customer walks into a clean, welcoming reception and sees a smart woman with a welcoming smile, they begin to tell her their story. The story outlines how they were driving home from work and suddenly noticed a strange sound coming from the rear of the car. Soon, they are in full flow to the woman behind the counter, who is listening (as this is her job) to their woes, when suddenly one of the gents from the workshop walks in.
At this point, without breaking from the story, their eye contact has now moved from the woman who has given the customer her full attention, to the gent who has just walked in from the workshop. Five minutes later, after they come to the end of their tale, it becomes apparent that they need to book their car in for some investigation work. The woman, who by now has been forgotten, continues with some other work, as the customer has clearly dismissed her when the gent appeared. She now must stop what she is doing, because the gent who the customer has spent the last five minutes talking to, cannot book the vehicle into the diary as that is not in his job role. So, the customer tells the same story again to the person they so rudely dismissed five minutes earlier. She has a full understanding of what the customer was talking about and politely assists them in making the booking.
2. A customer calls and asks to speak to the gent who normally sits behind the front desk. Unfortunately, he is busy with another customer. When the woman asks if she can help, the customer replies, “I don’t think you can. However, I would like to talk to the gent. Can I hold?” The customer is put on hold for five minutes and then, when they get to talk to the gent, they make some comment about the fact that they have been on hold. The gent politely tells the customer that his colleague could have helped them with this matter and it was not necessary for them to wait for him.
3. A customer’s vehicle fails its MOT. The woman who emailed them the estimate for the repair work puts this together herself (yes herself, she did not need anyone else to do it for her). She has also now made the call to talk to the customer and explain the work that is needed for their vehicle to pass its MOT. They politely ask to talk to the tester or the technician who will be carrying out the repair work. That technician is pulled off a job to answer the customer’s questions. He did not put the estimate together, so he must liaise with the woman who did, just to appease the customer’s sensibilities.
4. The customer rings for a quote on a service. The woman who has taken the call explains the options available and the difference between the Bronze, Silver and Gold service. The customer asks for a call back, as they need the woman to confirm whether that includes a brake fluid change or not. She can answer that question for them, and the one about the AC service, the tyre prices, the four-wheel alignment and all those other queries the customer has. There was no need to call back.
Lessons to be learnt
It is important to remember that women bring a unique experience to the garage. There are some highly qualified female technicians out there who are just as competent as the men, but the rest of the female population that choose to work in the garage industry should also not be dismissed.
We have done hours of training so that we can provide customers with the best service possible. The gent who sits alongside us behind the front counter has had no more training than us, has no more experience in the industry than us, has no more knowledge than us, and we are just as capable of providing the high quality service that is required. Like anyone, we know when we are out of our depth. We are not afraid to say, ‘That’s a bit technical for me, but I’ll find someone who can help’.
For me, I have worked in the industry for over 20 years and I still get comments from suppliers and customers who want to talk to the manager and then stutter and mumble when they realise that they are already talking to her. All too often, customers simply assume that I don’t know what I’m talking about, simple because I am not a man!
Like any other accomplished automotive professional, I know the components of a vehicle, the tools of the trade, the software that gets used and I am still learning and growing. Women are a very important part of any company, and we all have our own areas of expertise. So, next time a customer visits your garage make sure the women that work there are paid the respect that they are due.