Service Manager going full throttle

AFTER almost two decades with Dirk Ellis Volkswagen in Jeffreys Bay – and plenty of key accomplishments along the way – Sonnette Liebenberg (36) turned in her keys as the company’s long-time, well-known Service Manager.

When she first started working at Dirk Ellis in November 1999, she knew nothing about the engine of a motor vehicle: fuel injection system, distributor, spark plug, crankshaft, piston and connecting rod were all foreign concepts to her.

That, however, did not deter her from rising through the ranks, and within years she became the first female Service Manager at Dirk Ellis - supervising a service team of 10 members. Liebenberg brought a unique skill set to the service department - empathy, strong communication skills for relationship building and the ability to connect with customers and meet their needs. Under her guidance and strict processes, the service department wrote an average of 250 job cards a month.

Motoring on

Former Nico Malan High School learner, Liebenberg first embarked on her successful career at Dirk Ellis to earn extra money during school holidays.

She laughs, “Especially to buy all the Cosmopolitan magazines my mom did not want to buy.”

She was tasked with filing work, and some administrative chores.

Liebenberg did such an outstanding job, that Dirk Ellis Senior offered her a permanent administrative job after she finished Grade 12. She furthermore assisted the sales team with their paperwork and helped out at the switchboard.

Then came the opportunity to work side-by-side with former Service Advisor Rika Botha in the workshop. “I made it my business to learn the technical aspects that came with the territory,” says Liebenberg.

After a short stint in the financial department, she returned to the workshop, and was promoted to Service Manager - a huge feat in a predominantly man’s world.

Liebenberg played a vital role during the acquisition of Dirk Ellis Motors Knysna in 2005 - assisting the former all-on-paper company to go digital and ensuring that all the Volkswagen approved processes were in place and up-and-running.

She was furthermore instrumental in the relocation of Dirk Ellis from Humansdorp to Jeffreys Bay in 2013.

Liebenberg says, “Sometimes customers did not take me seriously, especially men, but only until I had proven myself.” And this is precisely the part of her work she loves most: working with clients. Even the more difficult ones.

According to her, a Service Manager must have strong administration skills and be strict - strict to earn the respect of the team and to ensure that all the processes are in place and adhered to.

Best in South Africa

Liebenberg took pole position at the 2013 and 2014 Volkswagen Grand Prix Awards held in Johannesburg - winning the Customer Service Index (CSI) Award in their category, Category C. The others years she missed it by a fraction of a percentage.

“We are currently number one in South Africa,” says a proud Liebenberg.

“I am confident that my dedicated team and the new Service Manager will do a sterling job - ensuring that we bring home the CSI Award once again.”

Shifting gears

Liebenberg will now join her husband of five years in Graaff-Reinet, where she will further her career in the automotive industry.