My journey in the company started out on April 25, 2012.
I was working my first job as a Research Assistant in a branding and design agency when I received a phone call from the Administration Head of Auto2000 HR Muhammad (HRM), telling me that I was accepted and inviting me to come to the office to fill up the paper works for new employee.
I came over the office as invited, met the Administration Head who called me, took care of the paper work, and then I met the then Branch Manager for a short interview and a bit of “welcome speech”.
The title was Customer Relations Coordinator.
People often mistake the title of Customer Relations Coordinator with Customer Service. While on the surface the title seems similar, it isn’t. Yes, as a Customer Relations I do the basics that a Customer Service does: I meet customers and receive their inquiries and/or complains. What people don’t know that in this company a CR does beyond that, de facto and de jure but we’ll get deeper on the job description later.
I was going to be stationed in Auto2000’s new branch in West Surabaya named Auto2000 Wiyung. The branch was going to be the 9th branch in Surabaya, and the 2nd branch in West Surabaya.
The first west branch was Auto2000 HRM. Auto2000 HRM was the parent branch of Auto2000 Wiyung. As a parent branch, they prepared and overviewed the development of Auto2000 Wiyung’s physical building as well as the business side until the entire management team of Auto2000 Wiyung branch had been fully assembled, ready for the grand opening plan and to operate as a fully functioning branch. That was why I got accepted in Auto2000 HRM and started my journey as a CR there.
I came in when the CR of HRM was still in maternity leave. After the office orientation, I was trained for the basic skills and knowledge there by the then CR Area coordinator. Afterwards, I spent 2 weeks in Auto2000 Basuki Rachmat (the oldest branch in Surabaya, right in the city center) and a week in Auto2000 Kertajaya to have an on-site training. The normal period for an on-site training was around 1-3 months, but since the opening of my branch was delayed for about a year (haha!) off course the on-site training was lengthen up to my advantages.
After the on-site trainings in both branches, I came back to the HRM branch. The CR there has came back from her maternity leave and I was there shadowing her for about a month. At that time, there were several CR who were going to have their maternity leaves simultaneously. The first one was from Basuki Rachmat (BR), afterwards the Kenjeran (KJR) branch, and the last one was supposed to be from Ahmad Yani (AYN) branch. The CR from BR asked me whether I wanted to replace her when she was having her maternity leave. Well, being a shadow was a tad boring for me, and thinking about the opportunity to act in a branch on my own intrigued me, therefore I said yes to her offer. The arrangement was made between the branch managers and I came to Basuki Rachmat.
Experience in BR Branch
I was there for 3 months and it was a nice experience. I still can recall the feelings of excitement I had to dip my toe in the profession. I made new acquaintances: the sales, service and administration team from the branch. Basuki Rachmat was the oldest Auto2000 branch in Surabaya. Most of the employees there were seniors, therefore they had plentiful of experiences about the work, the customers, and things related to them which I gained insights of.
There were several highlights of my experience in the branch. It was the first time I handled a serious-complain customer, which involved the then Branch Manager and Service Head. After several meetings and negotiations eventually the complain was resolved.
During the period there I also got an opportunity to be involved in planning a CSR program for the branch. Auto2000 is one of the companies under Astra Group. Each year Astra Group has a centralized-theme CSR program that must be executed by their companies. It was called “Berbagi Bersama Bangsa”. That year in BR under the program they created three different activities targeted for high school students in Surabaya. The programs were: photography competition, a green environment talkshow and tree-planting.
Coincidentally I happened to know someone who had the right connection to provide access to mentors and information regarding with the planned program. She was Mrs. Pinky Saptandari, lecturer of Airlangga University, activist and then Staff Khusus Kementerian Pemberdayaan Perempuan who happened to be a family friend. I contacted her and arranged a time to meet up with her together with the then PGA of the branch. She provided us with the overview of what we can explore regarding the planned CSR programs as well as introduced us to the right speakers for the talkshow. Off course I scored a remark by being a new kid on the block with the right resource at the right timing. :p
An annual company outing was also planned during my time in BR. Every year there was this employee gathering event called Family Day where employees and their families went on to a 2D1N trip. I also got a chance to help arrange the event. We had talent shows performed by each departments, games and doorprizes for the employees and their families. It was nice seeing the employees in a relaxed setting, laughing and had their time with the families.
The Abrupt Move to AYN Branch
After 3 months in BR branch, I abruptly moved to AYN branch. Acted as a stand-in in the AYN branch was not planned, but due to a sudden circumstance, I had to be there for a while before I continued to KJR branch.
I spent only 2 weeks in the branch. Well, what happened there? A couple of showroom events and customer gathering.. or a launch event? Whoops sorry my memories were blurred! …but it was a nice short experience in the AYN branch. The AYN branch had a relatively more relaxed atmosphere than BR. It was one of the old branch in the city but somewhat had a balanced composition of senior and young employees. Plus, the Branch Manager was a laid back easy going person.
I met one of my current Supervisor in AYN actually. Back then he was still a salesman and one day he was assigned to be the PIC of a showroom event and a community gathering. Both event were scheduled the same day, in the morning and evening respectively. At the same time, there was a new bakery store opening nearby. The bakery had a promotional program, something about discounted price or that you could buy more products with half price but each customer was only allowed to get 2 boxes of cakes… therefor he took the branch’s operator, several other salespersons and I to go there and basically to get as many cakes as we could. That was hilarious and I bet he’d scold me if he knew I wrote about this. LOL.
A Totally Different Experience
I hopped to KJR branch as originally planned 2 weeks later. At that time KJR was the youngest branch in Surabaya area (well, until my branch’s opening anyway!) but the branch provided me with equally interesting experiences there.
KJR was a VSP & BP branch. VSP & BP was an abbreviation for Vehicle, Sales, Part & Body Paint. So it was a branch that provided vehicle sales, general repair service, spare parts sales as well as body and paint service. Site wise, KJR was a big branch. It has two buildings. The front building was the showroom and general repair workshop area (VSP) while the rear building was the body and paint workshop area (BP). Each workshop was led by different Service Head, but managed under the same Branch Manager. The KJR Branch Manager was a woman, and it was said that she was one of the only 3 women branch manager in the country. She later moved to Jakarta and replaced by a man who became my Branch Manager. See, everything came full circle!
Since KJR was the youngest branch, off course most of the employees were millenials just like me. Of all the 4 branch I had gone to, this was the one that felt like school all over again. The branch manager was very chill, a total opposite of the lady boss stereotype and one to admire too. It was fun there because we were in the same age thus we had the similar topic for conversations and jokes.
While I was there off course I ran the usual CR daily activities, same as what I did in both BR and AYN. The interesting part was the BP area. The BP workshop operated just like the regular general repair workshop. Customers came by with their cars, greeted and consulted by the Service Advisors about the problems of their cars, what actions needed to be done, as well as the price and lead time estimates.
The difference was, every vehicle that came to the BP workshop were off course fresh off accidents. There were cars that needed repaint because they accidentally bumped on to something or other vehicles on the road, also cars that were totally wrecked in shape. Ergo, the customers who came over to drop their cars were in distress and emotionally sensitive. Also, there was only one Auto2000 body and paint workshop in Surabaya which meant the BP workshop catered to all Toyota customers in Surabaya. The way we handle such customers were different than the regular customers at general repair workshop. We had to be more patient but still articulate in explaining the service procedures. I had a bit of a shock there too due to several heavily complaining customers in the BP area, but it was part of the learning process off course.
I spent about 4 months–a little more than I should–at KJR since the CR there had to take longer maternity leave due to health reason. Afterwards I went back to HRM branch because I had to begin the preparation for my branch’s opening.
Being the Only Girl Among the Guys… on Top of a Mountain!
One thing I almost forgot to mention! During my one year training, there were also four other boys from the head office who were having their on the job training for a year in Surabaya. They were stationed in four different branches: G was in KTJ branch, J was in BR branch, R was in HRM and E was in AYN. So, I got one for each branch!…wait no I was just kidding.
We made friends, albeit the short stint they had in Surabaya.
To me, being a new girl without a branch (my actual branch was still under construction, remember) was exciting but sometimes uncomfortable. I was plucked directly into fully functioning branches, where the people already had their histories and bonds with each other. There were times when I felt a little bit out of place because I did not really get their jokes or understand what they were talking about.
Luckily, I met these four boys! In a way I sensed that they were also kinda out of place. I mean, they were strangers put into an already established branches full of seniors with years of field experiences. So… yeah, we made friends.
There were times when I was in BR when J and I would run and hid in Dyandra to escape the dreaded weekly employee aerobic class and one time the boys met up in BR and we all would go in motor bike to the mall and watch movie after work.
Also, one time the five of us had a one night trip to Bromo. R rent an Avanza, they all picked me up at 7 p.m. on a Saturday night and we went on a road trip to Bromo. No, we didn’t bring any clothes for change, just jackets, water and snacks for the trip.
We stopped by to a small restaurant for dinner. You know what they serve in those area right… Sate Kambing! I felt gross because I didn’t really like the taste but it was okay, dinner was part of the adventure anyway! Afterwards, we continued our trip to Bromo. We arrived around midnight but we were not allowed to go further because it was not yet the time for the hike to see the sunrise. We practically passed the time by hanging, chatting and sleeping in the car until about 2 or 3 a.m. when it was time for the hike.
When we arrived at the top, there were people also watching the stars and the night sky while waiting for the sunrise. Let me tell you, it was the first time in my life I saw a beautiful night sky. We saw the top of the mountain, the dark sky filled with stars and the cloud underneath. It was surreal. And it was more magical when the sun started rising up from where she hid, and we saw the golden light beaming all over the sky… Beautiful.
When the sun had fully risen, we went down and stopped by for a quick fill in our stomach (Indomie kuah with sunny side egg, people!). Oh the weather up there was cold and windy but it was so much fun. After the short stop for breakfast we rode a Jeep to the padang pasir and then we walked all the way to cross the field, walk the hundreds of steps to see the crater. We took pictures, went back to our parking lot, cleaned ourselves with wipes, and then head home… tired but happy!
So yeah, that was my one year-training experience. The total time I was “training” as a CR was around a year. Like I said before, I was supposed to train for 3 months before stationed in my own branch, but due to several technical circumstances, the branch’s opening was rescheduled until a year later. Coincidentally, the CRs from several branches were having simultaneous maternity leave, therefor opened an opportunity for me to “train” in their respective branches by acted as a stand in for them.
My take from this experience is: never regret or complain about the circumstances you were in. Things might be unpredictable or seemed dull initially, but as we dug deeper, there would always be a silver lining around the cloud.
And mine was an indelible one… I met lots of new people and off course the most important thing: I found insights within the experience.