Success in today’s world of collision repair is highly dependent on how well owners and managers understand the differing attitudes and preferences in play between today’s four distinct generations, according to Cam Marston, author and authority on multi-generational communications, who spoke at the recent PPG MVP Business Solutions Conference at San Diego’s Paradise Point Hotel.
The sold-out conference, themed “Beyond Tomorrow,” drew more than 320 PPG-affiliated collision center professionals, making it the most highly attended MVP conference ever, PPG says.
In his address, Marston noted that preparing for the future includes bringing out the best from employees. With four generations known as Matures, Boomers, Xers and Millenials now working side by side, part of that challenge is communicating and managing effectively across generational lines by treating employees as individuals.
Marston defined the generations by age: Matures 65 and older, Baby Boomers 46 to 64, Gen Xers 31 to 45, and Millennials 30 and younger. He went through each generation’s characteristics, their expectations and how those qualities affect their work.
According to Marston, understanding generational differences can ease workplace frustration while increasing teamwork and productivity. For example, most Matures and Boomers put a lot of stock in their work ethic and job commitment, while for Gen Xers and Millennials, their primary identity is outside the workplace. That doesn’t mean one generation is more productive than another, it simply means each typically has its own way of doing things. Tailoring communications to reflect these distinctions is the key to success, Marston said.
“I was very impressed,” said Sharon Wells, general manager of Collision Clinic, St. John’s, NL, Canada. “We’re so busy just getting the job done, we sometimes don’t think about our workforce as individuals. His information was of paramount importance. I was with two others from my shop we represented three different generations and we now understand each other better.”
Another significant difference between generations, Marston said, is the greater use of social media by Gen Xers and Millennials than by Matures and Boomers. His statistics show 77 percent of Millennials and 61 percent of Gen Xers maintain an online social media website profile compared to 36 percent for Matures and 46 percent for Boomers.
Projections indicate these percentages will grow. This also ties in to the younger generations’ thirst for information.
“In terms of pure numbers, social media plays a big role in how we need to communicate in the future,” said Norm Angrove, senior manager, PPG Value Added Programs, who facilitated a discussion group on the topic. “There are 900 million visitors to social media sites every day. And 74 percent of that is in the United States. Twitter is growing at a 3,000-percent pace. Marketing today involves the five ‘Cs’ of social media content, community, conversation, collaboration and connection. We can’t ignore that. Collision shops have to put their message out there using this new media.”
Selling to Multi-Generational Customers
Marston pointed out that shop owners must recognize generational differences when selling their collision repair services: what is learned about communicating inside the collision center applies to cross-generational customers as well, especially now with social media marketing flourishing.
“Social media is already a big part of our marketing mix. It is an essential tool that will help us stay ahead,” said Sal Contreras, marketing director for Mike Rose’s Auto Body in Concord, Calif. “I heard a lot of great ideas at the conference, so we plan to use the information significantly more in the future to connect with customers, insurance agents and the insurers.”
Additional speakers, seminars and breakout discussion sessions focused on providing attendees with assistance and tools for improving their business model and preparing their center and employees for success “beyond tomorrow.”
For more information about PPG MVP Business Solutions, contact your PPG territory manager, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.ppgmvp.com