The Unobvious Ones is a monthly look at movers and shakers who fly below the radar in the Canadian auto industry.
SUPPORT FOR THOSE WHO SUPPORT CUSTOMERS
Whether it’s roadside assistance or vehicle information, customers need immediate attention and accurate answers. At Mercedes-Benz Canada’s head office in Mississauga, Ont., Vendor and Operations Manager Catherine Lavergne ensures that happens.
“I’m the liaison between our vendors and our customers and dealer network,” she said. That includes third-party roadside and customer assistance centres, and support vendors for connected services.
Lavergne, who manages four team leaders who oversee the customer agents, monitors call volume and quality. She also ensures dealers get training for vehicle connectivity, and resolution for related technical issues.
She works closely with Mercedes-Benz’s global customer assistance centre in the Netherlands on procedures and services.
“I need to plan for what’s new, because we might need to involve other departments, such as our marketing teams with proper communication to our customers and dealers.”
Lavergne, 39, studied fashion design, “but it wasn’t for me.” Instead, she worked for National Defence in Ottawa, maintaining inventory in stores on military bases. She then worked in health and safety at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Medicine.
After 10 years, she decided to try something new, so she moved to Toronto and joined Mercedes-Benz in 2012 as a bilingual customer service agent. She then moved into public relations as an events planner. When the automaker began moving toward vehicle connectivity in 2017, “I decided to give [that department] a shot. I knew nothing [about it] at the time, but in a couple of years I was almost an expert.” She moved into her current position two years ago.
“Things are always evolving, so I do my best to offer the best experience to our dealers and customers and the teams. If our vendors aren’t happy, it won’t go well, so we communicate and work together.”
ENSURING ALL LEVELS OF TECHNICIAN TRAINING
Properly trained technicians are vital for customer service, and Toyota Canada ensures they gain the necessary skills through a department called Toyota University. That’s Aaron Bronee’s specialty as technical training consultant based at the automaker’s head office in Toronto.
“I deal primarily with [dealership] technicians and service staff,” he said. “We have seven trainers across five offices in Canada, and I train primarily in Toronto, Halifax and Vancouver.”
Toyota University also provides courses in product training, sales and dealership management.
Dealership technicians are the priority, but Bronee also occasionally trains first responders and the repair staff at Toyota’s production facilities.
The COVID-19 pandemic put the brakes on in-person training, and at one point there were 600 technicians in need of the basic level.
“We moved that course to virtual and got through the backlog in about a year, and that was a huge accomplishment during COVID,” he said.
The 37-year-old studied engineering and his first job was designing safety equipment. He moved into the military vehicle industry, drafting maintenance procedures and designing parts. He had enjoyed mentoring high school students at robotics competitions and returned to university to become a teacher. He wanted to teach auto shop, but opportunities were limited.
He got a contract with Toyota to host “lunch-and-learn” sessions with employees on vehicle basics. He became a management trainer in 2015, then moved to product training and then into his current position.
“With any presentation, I tell myself it’s the most exciting thing in the world and I try to project that,” Bronee said. “I listen to my students, figure out their obstacles and what they need to be successful. If you support the students, success will follow for the customers.”