Jan Kidacki, general manager of strategy and planning at Lexus GB, explains
how the company took an integrated approach to developing the behaviours which
personify the retail brand
Training to Deliver a Brand
In 1983, the Toyota Motor Corporation took the decision to create a luxury
car brand to challenge the very best. The first Lexus went on sale in the US in
1989. By 1991, it was the number one imported luxury car in the US – selling
The success of the brand has been mirrored in the UK. In 2001, Lexus
finished in first place in the JD Power and Associates Customer Satisfaction
Survey, with Lexus vehicles taking three of the top five rankings for
individual models. This was followed by another excellent performance in 2002.
To build on this success, Lexus GB is now working to differentiate itself even
further by re-defining the way that luxury cars are sold and serviced – by
changing the rules in order to deliver the best possible ownership experience
in terms of both product and service satisfaction.
Over the last three years, Lexus GB has re-developed the network of Lexus
Centres in the UK to offer an enhanced and consistent experience to all
customers. Lexus GB has re-designed showroom facilities to create an
environment where customers feel at home to browse and enjoy themselves – not
feelings traditionally associated with car buying.
In parallel with these changes, Lexus GB has devised and executed a
programme of activity aimed at developing and embedding the individual skills
and behaviours that personify the Lexus brand.
This is a potentially complex task as all Lexus Centre staff are employed by
individual retailers across the UK. Many of these retailers are themselves
large plcs, operating several brands, each with a different employment ethos.
The challenge was to provide a simple, flexible set of standards and tools,
which will develop important brand behaviours across the Lexus network by:
– Providing a clear requirement for each role
– Helping individuals understand their own development needs
– Providing an integrated set of tools that managers can use to select and
manage staff to deliver important brand behaviours
– Focusing training and development activity on the behaviours that will
take the business forward
We selected CDA, a specialist consultancy focused on organisation
development and retail brand delivery, to help us devise and deliver these
changes. CDA has worked with a number of retailers and service providers to
help them define and deliver real sustainable change to their customer service
experience. Working from a base in Leeds, it offers a full range of consultancy
support from agreeing strategy, developing HR tools and processes, designing
communication and training programmes and change management.
As a first step, working from business strategy and brand values, we
crystallised a set of Lexus Employee Values. These were defined as five
statements, each supported by a series of detailed examples.
The Lexus Employee Values were communicated directly to every member of the
Lexus network during a series of briefings during 2002. These sessions were led
by Lexus directors and senior managers and aimed to not only tell people about
the values, but also get them to identify what these five statements mean in
practice for their own centre.
Following these briefings, the values are being reinforced in many ways –
for example, we have just introduced an employee recognition scheme, which is
based around the five values. This will build a series of ‘service legends’ –
real-life stories from the network of the Lexus brand in action, which will be
used to communicate and reinforce the values to everyone involved in the Lexus
The next step was to extend the employee values into a competency model,
which identified the most important skills, knowledge, and attitudes required
by each member of the Lexus Centre team. The challenge was to develop this in a
way that was very clear, focused and which could be used across a wide variety
of jobs and business environments.
We used the competency model to develop a tailored competency profile for
every Lexus Centre role, which provides a clear statement of the requirements
of the role and the resulting behaviours.
To make the competency model and competency profiles as accessible and
flexible as possible, we developed the Lexus training support system. This
allows each centre to access a full range of competency-based materials via PC.
– Tailored self-assessment guidelines – providing a guided self-assessment
against a specific competency profile, and/or the full competency model
– Tailored interview templates – providing a full set of competency-based
questions against the exact requirements of the job
– A competency-based personal review process that can be used to agree and review
personal objectives and a development plan
All these materials can be tailored to reflect job responsibilities in each
There is also a strong emphasis on individual ownership of training and
development. Every staff member can use the self-assessment tools to understand
their own training needs, and save this data on the training support system in
a confidential format.
In parallel to the development of the Lexus Centre competency model, we
reviewed and improved the range of training and development that is provided to
the network. This review resulted in several significant changes to the overall
training and development provision, linking it more closely to the Lexus brand.
Specifically, we identified a need to make a stronger link to the values and
competencies during every training and development activity. As a result of
this review, we will also be providing more training in key interpersonal
skills and focusing on alternative training media – such as CD and web-based
learning. These improvements are now being delivered to the network via a new
purpose-built training centre, which opened in Nottingham this year.
We also decided to put together a series of directed learning paths, with
accreditation at key points, for roles in a Lexus Centre. Achievement of
accreditation is linked to a range of benefits, including access to a
subsidised-financed Lexus car.
The competency model and the training support system were communicated to Lexus
Centres during a series of roadshows during the summer of 2002. These sessions
focused on communicating the way the competency model, training support system
and new training programme work together to deliver our brand and building
understanding and skills with the new tools.
By starting from our business strategy and our brand, we have been able to
focus our employee values and training and development on the behaviours that
will deliver our brand to our customers. An important factor in the success of
the programme has been the flexibility and user-friendliness of the web-based
training support system that gives Lexus Centres access to the competency model
and training programme.
The training support system also allows us to track progress. Lexus GB’s
strategy and planning team gets regular updates detailing the way in which the
various competency-based tools are being used by each centre, and the
development and training each centre staff member has planned to attend, and
has subsequently completed. This information forms an important part of the
ongoing assessment and management of the business performance of each centre.
Plans for the future
In less than two years, we have moved a long way. We have built on the
excellence of our products and our growing reputation in the marketplace to
build the infrastructure that will take our service experience to the next
level. We have done this by investing in our retail environment and the brand
behaviours that differentiate us from the competition.
We have identified the behaviours that truly make the difference and set
about systematically building them through the way that we recruit, manage and
develop our people. At the same time, we have provided a clear message to staff
about what’s important and what we expect from them.
We don’t plan to stop here and we recognise that the next 12 months must be
focused on embedding the various ideas and tools that we have launched during
We are already planning our next steps to achieve this goal.
Whenever you are faced with a choice
of actions in the course of your work, ask yourself which action would support
the Lexus values:
– Open and straightforward
– Proud to be different
– Consistently meeting customers’ needs
– Warm and welcoming
– Working together as a team
How the Lexus centre competency
1. Working the Lexus Way
2. Understanding the Lexus customer
3. Building rapport and empathy
4. Understanding Lexus products and services
5. Selling the Lexus Way
6. Building effective teams
7. Applying operational expertise
8. Achieving business objectives
Making a difference for our customers
The programme worked for us because
we focused on the behaviours that really make the difference for our customers
and used technology to make the tools we provided as flexible and user friendly
Value for money *
* * *
Quality of experience *
* * *
Effectiveness * * * *
Change management * *
* = Disappointing * * * * * = Excellent