Pep Boys works on company culture

For more than 90 years, the Pep Boys business model as a “do-it-yourself” auto parts supplier seemed to stand the test of time. In recent years however, leaders have acknowledged the old model had some serious flaws, and the very future of the company depends on fixing them.

The Old Model

While Pep Boys had made its name catering to mostly men who enjoyed working on their vehicles, it had overlooked the fact that women purchase more than 65 percent of all new cars and spend more than $300 billion a year on repairs.

It’s a new economy—one where the average American keeps a car for more than seven years and increasingly expects someone else to take care of servicing it.

And, to compete with the many chain stores, auto service centers and dealerships all offering that service these days, Pep Boys is undergoing an extensive rebranding initiative.

The New Road Ahead

The new “Road Ahead” starts with a complete redesign of Pep Boys’ stores to make them feel more comfortable and modern. Customers waiting for repairs will be able to watch TV, use WiFi and even enjoy a coffee bar in a large lounge area complete with leather chairs.

Pep Boys is also changing its marketing strategy, dropping Manny, Moe & Jack and the age-old slogan, “Everything for Less” in favor of the more relationship-oriented “Trust the Boys to Get You There.”

But one of the most significant changes may be less obvious to the customer: A retraining program that focuses on teaching employees to be more customer service-oriented.

Establishing Employee Competencies

Pep Boys’ old model of hiring and promoting was largely based on mechanical skill, which is still an important attribute. However, today’s customers increasingly expect a mechanic to be more than just competent. They want someone who is friendly and approachable, someone who will listen to their concerns and offer advice without making them feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable.

To make these lasting cultural changes, Pep Boys is revisiting the fundamentals, right down to the way it hires and promotes employees. That includes establishing a set of key competencies that include customer service skills like communication, empathy and conflict resolution, in addition to mechanical knowledge.

Establishing an employee competency model is a good practice for any company, but it’s especially crucial for companies managing change as significant as this one.

Without a strong competency model, there are no clearly defined characteristics for which to hire and no way to ensure consistency across the company.

If your company has high turnover, frequent employee-related complaints or you are changing your organization’s culture, it might be time to re-evaluate your employee competency model.

Here are some questions to ask:

  • What does it take to succeed in the role or roles in question?
  • What observable behaviors do you look for in job candidates?
  • Are they still in line with what’s expected from customers and what it takes to succeed in that role?
  • Are there gaps in skills or behavioral traits that need to be addressed?

The “Road Ahead” for Pep Boys won’t be easy, but the company has proven its commitment to implementing lasting change, starting with the way it hires, promotes and trains employees. That’s why we named it among the five companies we recently recognized for successful strategy execution in 2014.

To read more about the other companies and what you can learn from them, download our eBook, “5 Companies That Excelled At Executing Strategy in 2014.”

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