Consistent and professional service for its 22 million annual customers is attributed to Jiffy Lube's award-winning and accredited training courses.

For more than 30 years, the name Jiffy Lube has been synonymous with a quick oil change done right. The company's service excellence is well supported by Jiffy Lube University (JLU), a program for service center employees. JLU combines state-of-the-art computer-based instruction, supervised on-the-job training, and proficiency testing to help ensure Jiffy Lube technicians are equipped with the skills to provide quality service to customers and their vehicles. In the ASTD BEST Award competition for 2011, Jiffy Lube International was the first-place winner.

Virtually every Jiffy Lube service center employee receives training—a notable accomplishment for a system comprised of independent franchisees. Most Jiffy Lube courses are accredited by the American Council on Education. Only two other service companies share that distinction: Starbucks and McDonald's.

Stu Crum has been president of Jiffy Lube International, a $1.4 billion business owned by Shell Oil Corporation, since 2011 and is an unabashed champion of learning, which he credits with helping Jiffy Lube increase market share and customer satisfaction. We talked with him at the Jiffy Lube headquarters in Houston.

In 2011, 20,000 Jiffy Lube service center employees took more than 1.3 million hours of training at Jiffy Lube University. Why are Jiffy Lube and its franchisees willing to invest in that much training?

Jiffy Lube International makes the investment in developing training because of the value we see in it. And the franchisees agree that by training a large and diverse population of employees to perform a wide variety of services consistently and professionally, we help create a positive experience for about 22 million Jiffy Lube customers every year.

Second, we think that one of the keys to any business is to keep employee turnover to a minimum. Well-trained employees tend to turn over less.

How do you know the training investment is working?

We feel that JLU has contributed to a number of positive business metrics. We have seen customer service scores from our mystery shop program go up for seven consecutive years, and our average ticket is 18 percent above the industry average. The focus on customer service and the introduction of new services, all supported by training, has helped to contribute to these positive metrics.

We also know that our franchisees value JLU, as reflected by a 90 percent approval rating for training in the 2011 franchisee survey. We know that dealing with well-trained technicians is one of the most important factors for our customers. Mention of our well-trained technicians is part of a new national advertising campaign that kicked off in June this year.

When looking at some of the most important initiatives at Jiffy Lube, where do you see learning's involvement and contribution?

It has been exciting to see JLU becoming more closely aligned and supportive of business initiatives. For example, when we prepared to launch a new customer value proposition, one of the first steps was to use "JLU Tube" as a way to communicate the message, in video format, to our technicians. JLU Tube is also used to share best practices and programs. Prior to JLU Tube we had no means of getting the same message to franchisees and 20,000 store employees at once. Now we do. It's working, and it has tremendous potential for the future.

Another way I see the close relationship between learning and key business initiatives is the use of training as a first step in the deployment of new initiatives. Whether it is a new service, new product, or new campaign, the deployment usually includes a computer-based training course, sometimes a train-the-trainer program, and training job aids to help make sure the deployment is thorough and well executed. In short, the learning function is a fundamental part of what we do as a company and as a franchise system.

The 2,000 Jiffy Lube service centers are 100 percent owned and operated by 185 independent franchisees. What are some of the challenges for training and for leadership development in this type of environment—and how are you addressing those challenges?

Obviously in a system this large it is a challenge to gain commitment and high levels of participation and compliance. Training has been a key to helping us accomplish this. For years there has been a training committee made up of franchisees, members of the learning team, and staff of Jiffy Lube International (JLI) who work together to develop new training courses. The shared responsibility has resulted in a high degree of trust, appreciation, and acceptance by our franchisees. Rather than pushback, there has been strong acceptance of new training with steady requests for more.

Another factor is the learner portal in JLU, which allows people to track their progress and take control of their development. The Certification % Dashboard Report provides a common frame of reference for both JLI and franchisees to measure the training progress of stores and individual employees. Having everyone focused on the same report with the same standards has resulted in steady improvement in certification training over the past three years. It helps new franchisees' employees become productive much faster, and [they] are qualified to perform more services and work more positions than ever before. This helps to equate to dollars to the bottom line for our franchisees.

During the recession, did you reduce your investment or your focus on training in any way?

I would say just the opposite. Jiffy Lube International has invested more in training every year since 2008, because when you stop investing in your people, you stop investing in your business. Because we are a 100 percent people business, training is an area where we can't afford to spend one dime less.

What's the role of senior leadership in employee development?

Employee development at the store level is the primary responsibility of the franchisee; however, JLU has provided exceptional tools to help them manage and accelerate the process for their employees. We have a number of employee development initiatives in JLI, but one of the most exciting is being launched this year.

We saw the need to train our entire Jiffy Lube International workforce to have a better understanding and appreciation for what goes on in the 2,000 Jiffy Lube stores every day. Everyone in JLI, from myself on down, will be completing about 10 hours of e-learning in JLU and spending at least one day working in a Jiffy Lube store. Everyone will learn how to launch courses in JLU, how to track training progress in JLU, and how to use training tools such as the Daily Training Observation Guide when working in a store. Our field personnel will go even deeper with the in-store training, and for everyone the level of understanding and appreciation will be enhanced. I think that will make us a much better franchisor.

Jiffy Lube University is an award-winning Automotive Service Education certified training provider with offerings that range from protection of the environment to customer service, to management training. How does the opportunity to attend JLU figure into the recruiting of franchisees and the reduction of turnover?

JLU has become one of our key components in recruiting new franchisees. It's a difference-maker. No other quick lube company can compare, and few franchise-based companies of any kind can compare. Through an aggressive effort in recent years, which features the many benefits of a Jiffy Lube franchise including JLU, we have had an incredible increase in leads that are now beginning to generate new franchisees and positive store count growth.

In terms of turnover, we have been able to establish a clear connection between training levels in JLU and tenure at the store level. We have also tracked the turnover rate and know that systemwide the rate went down 29 percent last year and is on track to continue to go down in 2012.

At the same time, training levels in JLU increased last year by 26 percent. As people begin to see their potential for advancement and take control of their growth through training, they tend to be more dedicated to their work, more positive in their attitude, and more committed to a career in the Jiffy Lube franchise system.

Jiffy Lube University courses also have been accredited by the American Council on Education (ACE). How common is that among service companies?

It's very uncommon. We are one of only three service companies to have ACE accreditation. The other two are McDonald's and Starbucks. In 2010, ACE determined that an individual earning all 10 JLU certifications would have the equivalent of seven hours of college credit. They now provide an ACE transcript good at thousands of colleges and universities.

In addition, we have an agreement with the University of Maryland University College to accept the ACE credits and provide a discounted tuition rate for any Jiffy Lube franchise employee and members of the employee's immediate family. This is a tremendous step for the Jiffy Lube system and will give franchisees the ability to attract and retain top talent like never before. To make it even better, Shell and Pennzoil together are offering 50 scholarships each year to support this initiative.

What do you see having the biggest impact on your business in the future?

Jiffy Lube has always been the leader in the quick lube market and I don't see that changing in the future. With the rise in competition, extended intervals between oil changes, and automotive technology advancements, the challenges facing everyone in the automotive service business are changing rapidly. We are positioned to be the leader in this innovation. We have a number of exciting and innovative solutions now being tested that will keep us in the leading position for years to come.

How do you ensure that JLU is aligned with the direction of the organization?

As a leadership team, we appreciate the contribution of JLU to the Jiffy Lube system. We try to show that appreciation by being actively involved in the strategic direction for JLU. Members of my leadership team meet with and reach out to the JLU learning team monthly. Twice each year we have a JLU "state of the university" presentation where we focus on the future needs of JLI and the franchisees and how JLU can help the system reach long-term goals. We consider the strength of JLU as a core competency and the alignment with JLU as a critical factor in our tactical and strategic plans.

More than 95 percent of training at Jiffy Lube is delivered online and on demand through a learning portal. What plans do you have for using other technologies, such as mobile devices, for learning in the future?

We definitely see m-learning in our future. Content in JLU is designed to work on many smart devices, and a strategy for deployment is under review. This year we will equip our field operations personnel with iPads. In the future, this will give them access to JLU reports, courses, and JLU Tube to aid with conversations with franchisees and store personnel. We'd also like to see iPads used for customer service feedback.

The use of virtual instructor-led training is already a part of the offerings at JLU. More and more this helps us further our reach, reduce our costs, and move the training needle at Jiffy Lube.