The Japanese obsession with perfect execution – My journey with a Toyota Dealership

The Japanese obsession with perfect execution – My journey with a Toyota Dealership

Sundar Visvanathan

Coach, Mentor & Management Consultant

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It was my first day at the Toyota Dealership, one of the largest dealerships in India. I was taking over the leadership position from an Australian CEO. When I reported at the allotted time, I found that my induction schedule was ready! I was off in about 30 minutes to a dealership unit located 145 kilometres away, along with the then CEO ; my on-boarding had started. In the two and half hours road trip, I was taken through a Power Point presentation about the Dealership, the key performance metrics and their status. By the time I reached the Dealership Outlet, I had a very good understanding of the whole system and I was in position to ask the right questions at the Outlet.

There are business organisations in all parts of the world; and there are management systems and processes, that are well understood as standard behaviour in good organisations. However, the difference between good and great managements can be seen in the seriousness and enthusiasm with which every aspect is looked at by Japanese organisations.

Toyota is one great example of this passion for diligent execution. Their key to continuing success in business lies in the quality of processes and the rigorous execution of each process, each and every time.

The following narration explains how focus is maintained by them on all aspects of management.

  1. Planning and Time Management: The above narration of my first day at the Toyota dealership is a great example of how Planning and Time Management work at a Toyota franchise. The ten days’ induction I got, covered physical visits to all locations where action takes place – sales, services, value-added services and then the support functions. I had a walk around with the then CEO at all the outlets and I was part of all the key discussions. When I finally took over in ten days, I was ready to function as a full-fledged leader of the dealership.

 

  1. Standard Operating Procedures and KPIs – Processes drive the Toyota dealerships with all the required customer sensitivity. There are SOPs for all operational areas – sales, marketing, service, spares, customer relations, retail finance, insurance, accessories and pre-owned cars. Support functions such as finance & accounts, HR, IT, centralised contact centre, business expansion and administration also get adequate importance to excel in their respective areas. Key internal controls are identified and the KPIs are constantly monitored for betterment. In all the areas, the sustenance of the processes is given high importance. Quality – and hence reliability – is default in each and every aspect.

 

  1. Training: There is full-fledged training for all incumbents in their respective areas. These are meticulously planned and executed. There are in-house certified trainers for all key areas. I also was part of the training given by the Toyota OEM for Dealership Heads, which included a visit to the manufacturing plant. “Why you are doing what you are doing” is explained well in every training.

 

  1. Benchmarks for Excellence: Two guides are published by Toyota every year which outline the revised metrics applicable in each of the operational areas for that year. The criteria for excellence and the awards there on are very clearly articulated in these guides. So, one can start working towards excellence from Day One and also aim for the coveted Awards that are given at the Annual Business Conference.

 

  1. Innovation in every Sphere: Toyota drives innovation at the Dealerships and these are recognised appropriately. Such key innovations are presented at the Annual Business Conference in front of all the Dealer Principals and all the Heads of Toyota. We won the privilege of presenting our innovative best practices on value chain businesses (this includes retail finance, insurance, accessories and pre-owned cars) in the Annual Business Conference in 2013.

 

  1. Technology Adoption: Appropriate technology adoption for business enhancement is a key focus area and is constantly monitored. We rolled out the centralised Contact Centre facility and started using the iPads for creating the initial customer experiences in the show room. We also started on customers giving instant feedback on their experiences in an iPad – from initial contact to their taking delivery – once they take delivery of the car. Toyota also started using cloud based applications for feeding  on-site observations with respect to projects – which also included uploading pictures of the project status. Dealership Heads also had access to such instant project status updates.

 

  1. Continuous Improvement Programs: The dealership pursues lots of continuous improvement programmes (Kaizen), best practices sharing and SGAs (Small Group Activities). The enthusiasm with which the employees participate in the improvement programmes is phenomenal and the dealership can participate in the annual competition to present their improvement programmes to win awards.

 

  1. Periodic Reviews: The monthly reviews by the Toyota Representatives of various business operations are regular and one can know where one stands with respect to other Dealers in your State, in your Region and in the Country as a whole. Areas for improvements are discussed, documented and followed up meticulously for course corrections / improvements.

 

  1. Employee Focus: All stake holders are given due importance – periodical feedback is taken from the employees to assess Employee Satisfaction Index (ESI). Due focus is given to Human Resources Function addressing policies, procedures, grievances handling, performance appraisal, training & development and all other HR issues.

 

  1. Customer Satisfaction: Periodical feedback is taken from the Customers to compute the Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI). Customer Relationship & Happiness is a major focus area and importance is given to ensure all customer touch points are well addressed in the dealership. Continuous feedbacks are taken and analysed to arrive at what else can be improved and how. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) is of major importance and this reflects on the A to Z of carrying out the sales process.

 

  1. Rewards & Recognitions: Dealerships vie with each other for the coveted “Triple Crown Award” from Toyota every year. In 2012, we won the Triple Crown Award for all our 3S (3S means Sales, Service and Spare parts) Dealerships and it was an unforgettable moment. We also won the Award for “best customer relations development” in the large outlet category in the year 2013. We were the first to roll out a Dealership under the “Go Rural” project in the entire country.

 

It was an awesome journey for me at the Toyota dealership. My work today is greatly impacted by the experience and learning I got there!

 

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