Heather Wagener

POSITION:General service manager, Acura Columbus, Dublin, Ohio
ACHIEVEMENT: Instituted weekly staff meetings, which led to improved service customer satisfaction scores

It didn't take a hammer to knock down walls at Acura Columbus in Dublin, Ohio. Heather Wagener discovered words and food did the job.

Upon taking over as general service manager at the dealership in 2014, Wagener discovered a lack of communication among departments, managers and employees was impacting the store's customer satisfaction scores.

"In fixed ops, there are the techs, the advisers, the warranty, the administration," she said. "Some of those people were not on the same page."

Every Monday, Wagener leads a meeting of department heads and managers. It's a free-for-all, where everyone can speak their mind and address issues affecting their department. The result is stronger camaraderie on Wagener's team.

"Over time, people who didn't necessarily get along, who didn't communicate effectively, well, we've sort of opened that communication up to everybody," she said. "They have gotten used to the weekly routine. It's really helped immensely get everyone on the same page."

Customer satisfaction is constantly on Wagener's mind, and not just at work. When Wagener patronizes businesses, she often observes how employees interact with customers. Her efforts to improve the store's fixed-ops customer satisfaction scores are paying off. In 2015, Acura Columbus had an 83.5 score, as rated by Acura, and this year, it is up nearly 2 points to 85.3.

Some of Wagener's understanding of the issues facing fixed ops comes from her family background. "I grew up in the business," she said. "I started as a cashier in service and answering phones. I worked in the parts department and did work in sales. My mom and stepdad are in the business."

Wagener earned a degree in teaching, but when she couldn't find full-time work in the classroom, she took the job at Acura Columbus. Her goal is to own a dealership. This fall, Wagener will attend the National Automobile Dealers Association's general dealership management academy to broaden her knowledge of managing all aspects of a new-car store.

"My goal is to attain as much knowledge as possible through the academy and apply these new skills and lessons in my everyday work."

In her spare time, Wagener is a volunteer track and field coach at a local high school. And she stays fit by running.

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