The Unobvious Ones is a monthly look at movers and shakers who fly below the radar in the Canadian auto industry.
AN ABILITY TO SEE OPPORTUNITY AND A PASSION FOR AFTERSALES
Parts and service can make or break customer relationships, and the Policaro Group understands this. Across its seven dealerships in or near the Greater Toronto Area, April O’Regan, director of aftersales, constantly searches for improvement.
“Three to four days a week, I’ll drive to a store and spend time. I’ll sit with the service manager, look in the [parts] inventory to make sure we’re prepared. I’ll see the processes in the drive-thru and look for opportunities where we can make a difference.
For instance, Policaro is implementing walk-around videos. When customers bring in their vehicles for service, a video is taken of any damage “to ensure we’re protecting [the customer] and us.”
O’Regan, 43, worked in dealerships straight out of school, detailing cars and booking appointments. In 2007, she was recruited by dealership software company Reynolds and Reynolds as a trainer and then spent five years in national sales.
“I travelled to 800 dealerships, all run differently,” she said. “It built my knowledge of how to run a successful service and parts department.”
Policaro was a client, “and I tried to be noticed, because they were family-run and always good tomewhenIwas working with their teams. In 2014, they offered me a home.”
She became director of aftersales and then the fixed operations manager at the Toyota dealership the group owned at the time. She achieved Toyota’s Platinum Certification in service management, which was a first for the store.
Preferring her previous companywide role, she returned to aftersales in 2019. She also runs the wholesale-parts division.
“I’m part of the corporate team of leaders, and in any room I can see an opportunity for change and growth. Experience matters. If someone questions me, I can say, ‘I lead by example; I did the job, too.’”
THE CONTINUOUS QUEST TO IMPROVE COMMUNICATIONS
When customers call an automaker with questions or concerns, the right answers need to be at hand. Subaru Canada depends on Christina Morris, manager of customer operations and communications, to make that happen.
Based in the company’s head office in Mississauga, Ont., Morris manages a communication department of 10 staff and a call centre run by a partner vendor.
“Customers come through our website, our 1-800 number, email and social media, and our role is to give them information,” she said.
“Then there’s the internal infrastructure, making sure the interface is quick and the systems are up to date. We’re seeing if [web-based chat] compatibility can be put into our system in the future.” When customers call, they connect with the external centre, or for more complicated issues such as warranty support, the internal agents.
“We want to answer anything at first contact as much as possible. It takes a lot of back-end information. If [customers are] calling about winter tires, for example, there might be a pop-up [for the agent] so they’re not scrambling to find the information.”
Morris, 43, grew up in Montreal and went to school for interior design but graduated in a recession when clients were cutting back. She worked at a Money Mart store and then in 2013 contacted an employment agency for bilingual workers. She was matched with Subaru.
She began in customer care, then moved into positions in aftersales, parts tracking and product training. She began her current role in 2021.
Each new position was challenging, “but when you’re not familiar with the processes and you’re learning, you can objectively look for opportunities to do it better and new technologies to make it more efficient.”
Morris also co-founded Accelerate Auto, a nonprofit that provides industry opportunities and awareness for Black students.