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TOYOTA dealership service staff from around Australia have emerged as 2018 National Skills Champions across technical, sales and customer service categories assessed in the market-leading Japanese brand’s long-running annual competition.

Held over the past 34 years and staged in Melbourne for the first time this year, the program brought 30 finalists to Toyota Australia’s Port Melbourne headquarters recently, with five competitors in each of the six categories – diagnosis technician, technician, service adviser, guest experience manager, parts sales and walkaround.

Among the technicians, Neil Hansen from Bridge Toyota in Darwin emerged as the winner in diagnosis, while Juncel Tatel from Horsham Toyota in Victoria took out the technician category.

Reihaneh Ayatollahi from Downtown Toyota in Brisbane was named service adviser champion, while fellow Queenslander, Emma Terry from Ian Weigh Toyota in Rockhampton, was decreed the best guest experience manager this year.

Best of the best: Neil Hansen from Bridge Toyota in Darwin in competition at the skills event, which saw him crowned 2018 National Skills Champion (Diagnosis Technician).

The parts sales category was won by Ashley Thompson from Mandurah Toyota in Western Australia, while the sales walkaround final saw Aza Martin Ramirez from Terry Shields Toyota in Paramatta, New South Wales, finish on top.

Toyota Australia’s annual skills competition is part of an international program that runs over a nine-month period and involves online quizzes and regional finals before culminating in the national final, which includes a series of real-life scenarios assessed by a judging panel.

As with other similar programs run by various car companies, the program acts as an incentive for dealership staff and provides the company with an insight into the effectiveness of its training across its retail network.

The final was attended by Toyota Motor Corporation department general manager (technical service division) Yoshitaka Nakamura and Toyota Australia president and CEO Matthew Callachor.

“At Toyota, we believe in recognising and rewarding those who are the best in their fields,” Mr Callachor said.

“Throughout my years at Toyota, I have watched the National Skills program grow into a valuable training program for Toyota dealership staff. Developing people is a deep part of Toyota’s DNA and culture, and the National Skills program is the pinnacle of this.

“We all talk about a disrupted market and disrupted future in which there will be many new business models and different competitors, and it’s always hypothesised: what role will these skills play?

“The answer is, putting the guest at the forefront of everything we do. And what that means is that if you have a strong bond and connection with the guest, you will ride out the turbulence and disruption.”

Category winners will be inducted into TMC’s International Assembly of Customer Service Champions in Japan.

By Terry Martin

National Skills Service Advisor Champion Reihaneh Ayatollahi from Downtown Toyota

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