55885589 | Arne9001 | Dreamstime.com
667b36b10842fba4d98ef3ed Dreamstime Xxl 55885589

How to use shop policies to bolster shop culture

June 26, 2024
Including concrete policies to build a positive working environment, or shop culture, means covering all your expectations when working with both your customers and your employees.

Work culture can sometimes feel like a nebulous term, especially when shops are busy with concrete, real-world issues to deal with like customer downtime and equipment inventory. But in at its most basic terms, work culture is simply the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that all create a particular atmosphere in a workplace, according to career site Indeed. And when a shop’s overall atmosphere can be the difference between which technicians want to work for a shop and which customers want to return, suddenly shop culture becomes very tangible.

The benefits that play into a positive shop culture and convince technicians to stay with a shop have been well documented. According to WrenchWay’s 2023 Voice of Technician Survey, some of the most important parts of a shop’s culture for technician retention is offering paid vacation, paid training, and proper equipment, with 96%, 92%, and 99% of diesel techs respectively reporting these as benefits they look for when applying for jobs.

But there’s more to positive culture than individual benefits. A shop’s policies and workplace management are just as critical, according to Jim Saeli, workshop instructor and shop inspector manager for repair consultant company DRIVE. on Fleet Maintenance sister site Ratchet + Wrench. Saeli is a workshop instructor and shop inspector manager for repair consultant company DRIVE.

“The implementation of well-defined policies and procedures significantly impacts the culture of a repair shop,” Saeli explained in in a recent column for Ratchet + Wrench, a Fleet Maintenance affiliate. “These elements create a structured and professional environment that fosters trust and reliability.”

And in turn, a shop’s playbook of policies and procedures need to reflect a shop’s culture, all of which are reflected in a shop’s customer satisfaction, employee morale, and overall success, he noted.

Stacy Conner, president and founder of Equipment Experts, Inc., claimed that her company’s prioritization of honesty, reliability, customer satisfaction, trust, and dependability in their culture has led to smoother hiring practices, where their employees help bring in new talent.

“We’ve got several pairs of wives and husbands that work here, and we had two sets of brothers and several partners that work together,” Conner stated. “They liked the environment so much they brought people on.”

To expand upon how shops can establish policies, or a shop ‘playbook’ that reinforces their culture, Saeli emphasized the need to standardize customer service processes, employee policies, operational policies, and procedure and workflow systems.

Making a shop policy playbook

Customer service policies

One of the first policies Saeli recommends codifying to create a positive workplace atmosphere is for customer service, as little sours the mood in the shop faster than an angry customer. He recommends that shops highlight transparency in their customer relations, and back it up with clarity on repair costs, timelines, and procedures with customers.

“This involves providing detailed estimates before beginning any work and updating customers regularly on progress,” Saeli said.

Read more: Shops must develop strong culture, mentorships to get techs, Fullbay and WrenchyWay advise

Shops should also be sure to promote the warranties they offer on parts and labor, both to show that they stand behind their work and to promote customer confidence, Saeli explained. A robust feedback system, whether that’s through follow-up calls, surveys, or an online comment section, is also helpful to fine-tune your shop’s operations. And, of course, with a system for feedback must come an understanding on how to handle customer feedback, both positive and negative, sometimes in a public forum.

Employee policies 

As WrenchWay’s Voice of Technician survey noted, 92% of diesel technicians look for paid training at a shop. This makes incorporating training and development your shop expectations a critical investment, from continuous repair, safety, and technology training for techs to customer service training for your front-desk employees, not to mention management training for shop owners and managers, too. Saeli also emphasized the importance of codifying employee expectations, so that everyone knows what’s expected of them every day.

“Establish a code of conduct that outlines expectations for professionalism, punctuality, and workplace behavior,” he said. “This promotes a respectful and productive work environment.”

Operational procedures and workflow

Finally, ensuring your shop’s reputation for quality is in your playbook will help your employees uphold your standards while streamlining their workflow. Quality control options, whether that’s required inspections before returning a vehicle to a customer or repair and estimate reviews, are always a good way to do this, as well as having established daily workflows, tasks, and inspection checklists. Saeli also recommended having an organized inventory to make sure your techs have the tools they need to meet your shop’s standards.

On the client side, walking your customer through your repairs and process both before and after a job both ensures your standards and adds to your customer’s confidence, and thus your reputation.

“Clearly outline to your customer the steps involved in the repair process, including any necessary diagnostics, part replacements, and testing,” Saeli explained. “This needs to be communicated in a way that anyone can understand. Transparency is key here.”

By including these baseline expectations in your shop policies, your culture will benefit from having clear expectations and knowing the proper people and channels to use when challenges arise. These positive effects will ripple outward from your employees to your customers.

“By focusing on customer service, employee welfare, and operational efficiency, repair shops can create a positive environment that benefits both customers and employees,” Saeli concluded. “Ultimately, a well-managed repair shop that adheres to strong policies and procedures is well-positioned for sustained success and growth in the community.”

About the Author

Alex Keenan

Alex Keenan is an Associate Editor for Fleet Maintenance magazine. She has written on a variety of topics for the past several years and recently joined the transportation industry, reviewing content covering technician challenges and breaking industry news. She holds a bachelor's degree in English from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. 

Sponsored Recommendations

Protect Your Drivers Against Heat-Related Injuries & Stress

Industry research reports an average of 2,700 annual heat-related incidents that resulted in days away from work. Ensuring driver performance and safety against heat stress starts...

Going Mobile: Guide To Starting A Heavy-Duty Repair Shop

Discover if starting a heavy-duty mobile repair business is right for you. Learn the ins and outs of licensing, building, and marketing your mobile repair shop.

10 Steps Every Tech Should Follow Before Clearing Fault Codes

Are you tired of recurring fault codes? Clear them with confidence today! View the 10 steps that every technician should follow before attempting to clear faults.

Repair, Replace or Retire - Grab Your Calculator

Don't make the mistake of ignoring fleet maintenance. Learn how to be proactive instead of reactive and reduce up to 70% of breakdowns.