Women at the Wheel: Jennifer Chan
Written by: Russell Purcell (Driving.ca – September 24, 2015)
Part-time gig turned into an automotive passion for one Toyota employee.
OpenRoad Toyota’s Jennifer Chan began her automotive career at the age of 19 when she accepted a part-time job at OpenRoad’s Lexus dealer in Richmond, B.C.
“I was attending the University of British Columbia [and] studying sociology at the time,” said Chan. “I was looking for a part-time job to help make ends meet.
“I began working in the evenings at Richmond Lexus doing sales reception. After I had completed my studies I transitioned to full-time, albeit at the company’s Toyota store, as there just so happened to be an opening there.”
Still unsure if a career in the auto industry was part of her ultimate plan, the ambitious young woman pursued coursework at the British Columbia Institute of Technology with hopes of getting into the field of event planning. This led to a two-year period where she dabbled as a wedding planner while still working at OpenRoad.
“At some point, I came to the realization that I really enjoyed working for the company and saw that there was a lot of opportunity here.
“This is a tremendous place to work. Some of my co-workers have been here for 20 and 25 years. In fact, many have spent their entire careers at the dealership. That says a lot about the environment and the community that OpenRoad has managed to build into each of their 14 stores.”
Initially, Chan worked in service reception, but this was followed with stints as an appointment co-ordinator, warranty representative and service adviser. These positions introduced her to the hustle and bustle of the service department, which is often the heart of a dealership, and with her strong organizational and communication skills she seemed well suited for any task.
The 30-year-old customer service dynamo is now the assistant service manager, a position that complements her hard-working nature.
“I manage the service department along with the service manager. Together, we arrange the various schedules, manage the technicians, and handle customer issues and complaints. We also ensure that the service is completed properly and on time.
“The goal is customer satisfaction so maintaining CSI (Customer Satisfaction Index) targets is very important in our department. Basically, the core of my job is to manage staff and time resources as efficiently as possible so that everything runs smoothly.”
Chan was born in Hong Kong, but grew up in Richmond after her family immigrated to Canada when she was nine-years-old.
“I can’t say that I had any real interest in cars when I was growing up, but after I got that first part-time job at Lexus I quickly developed an interest in cars just from being around them all the time. I believe that if you are going to do something it is important to take the time and effort to learn all about it so that you will be better able to do your job,” she said. “I will admit that I have now developed a real interest in automobiles as armed with this knowledge I perform better at work. And I am the type of person who always strives to do my best, no matter the task.
“To be good at my job I have to be focused on providing excellent customer service, as I want every visitor to our dealership to feel like a guest and for them to have an exceptional, and positive, customer experience. That way they will come back.”
Due to the size and geographical location of the dealership, Chan and her team work in a very busy shop.
“We tend to handle over 100 appointments every day,” says Chan, “so efficiency is key for us to be successful … luckily our staff are very good at what they do and have the experience and training that will see them able to handle almost any problem or technical issue that may pop up. This keeps us from having too many hiccups that can throw a wrench into our schedule.
Chan says the part of her job she enjoys the most is seeing how well everyone gets along.
“The reality is that success in our business requires that every individual is doing their job and performing their role in the process that is automotive service. When this happens we are very effective and very efficient,” Chan said. “But to see our staff interact so well and get along despite the incredible pressure that comes with this kind of work volume and stress is really incredible. It is also a testament to the quality of the people who work for the OpenRoad Group.”
She also enjoys getting to know many of the customers and gets a real sense of satisfaction when she sees them coming back to the dealership year after year.
“Many of our customers have been coming to us to buy and service their cars for decades. Customer retention is the key in this industry, more so than ever before, so it is nice to see these people returning over and over again.
“We always send a survey to our customers after they get their vehicles serviced, and it is so rewarding for me to see that the majority of the feedback we get is so positive. Many of these survey responses even mention service personnel by name. I guess we are doing something right.”
Chan recognizes the fact that Toyota is a brand with a solid reputation for reliability and good value also plays a role in customer retention, but she is also aware that it is important to try to improve and be a step ahead of the competition.
“Luckily we deal with a brand that makes a very reliable and quality product. A lot of people buy Toyota products over and over, or have multiple models at the same time. We get lots of referrals due to the fact that we strive to satisfy the wants and demands of our customers.”
The OpenRoad Auto Group is recognized by many in the industry for being a very progressive company. One example of this is the fact that it has established an innovative loyalty program that allows their customers to collect reward points for getting service work done on their vehicles.
“Club OpenRoad has been received very well by our customers,” said Chan. “Customers can use the points they collect to get discounts on future vehicle purchases at any of our company stores, and the vehicles can be new or used. The program is our way to show them that we appreciate their business and we want to reward them for that patronage.”
It is programs like this, as well as the availability of many in-house training and mentoring programs that attract dynamic young professionals like Chan to the company, and help it continue to innovate and expand.
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