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A few years ago, car dealers across the nation were caught in the net of a struggling economy. Fewer sales compounded by budget conscious customers caused many car dealerships to restructure their corporate operations, reduce staff and tighten their wallets. Many dealership owners, along with their manufacturers, were faced with downsizing or total elimination. In the midst of the economic turmoil and uncertainty, customers were left wondering – What happens to me? Will the dealership close? Will I have to find a new dealer to service my vehicle? Will I lose my favorite dealership employees? Do they even care about me anymore, or is it every man for himself?


The truth is that in the “what have you done for me lately?” mentality of the car business, the only thing that is relatively stable is a dealership’s loyal customer base. Whether the consumer needs service or are in the market for a vehicle, dealers can count on a certain percentage of past customers returning, so long as they are cared for and treated as more than a nameless person with a wallet.


Today’s economy is certainly stronger and many customers aren’t afraid to purchase a vehicle with pricey add-ons, or spend money on suggested services. However, each employee in your dealership would be wise to remember that every customer is valuable, for today and for many tomorrows. Building lasting relationships does not happen overnight. And think about it -- it only takes one employee to destroy an optimal customer experience -- and potentially the entire relationship. Every employee needs to have a genuine care and concern for the customer.


Ultimately, building a “customer-first” culture begins with dealership owners, executives and key management. Starting with a strong and positive approach is crucial.  Positive attitudes from the leaders will trickle down to all associates.  Even in the face of adversity, owners and managers must remain confident in front of employees. This attitude will curtail negative actions by the employees who interact with customers and the relationship can continue to grow.  Without a positive stance, it’s not possible to truly care about the customer and fellow employees. 


Your dealership employees, operating as a team, show that you care. Bringing outside problems and distractions into the dealership will affect the employee’s attitude and ultimately the customer, even when it doesn’t involve the customer at all. Imagine a scenario where your CRM is down and you can’t input customer data. Or a form in your finance office refuses to print. If you let the customer “see you sweat” then you’re already losing the battle. 


Dealership employees don’t usually see customers more than a few times per year. Unless you have some very personable staff and an amiable customer, there’s a pretty good chance that very little is ever known about the customer outside of their immediate needs and concerns.  These interactions offer employees a perfect opportunity to display genuine interest in the customer. An employee’s “I’m happy to see you,” mentality can place the customer in a better state. They’ll know you care.


Don’t leave a customer to wonder who cares. Show them you care and then prove it. Make sure your customers know what you’ve done for them lately!

Views: 228

Tags: automotive, culture, customer, dealership, employees, experience, friendly, loyalty, management, teamwork


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Comment by Brian Bennington on November 6, 2014 at 4:53pm

Good afternoon Richard. Nice post, but I need some clarification. Was this post suppose to be directed exclusively at dealership management? From a rep's point of view, I'd recommend most everything you propose, but do it for yourself. Most dealerships have enough disfunction, when you consider the favoritism, nepotism, job loss fear, etc. that plague them, that if your individual customer relationships are strong enough, your customers will see you even if it's at another dealership. And, in most cases, your previous dealership will never be alert enough, or care enough, to know what happened to them. Yes, your strong customer relationships are good for your dealership, but more importantly if their properly maintained, they're great for you. Really, it's the closest thing to "dealership equity" that most reps can achieve.

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