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Car Dealerships Must Convince a Customer to Return

Car Dealerships Must Convince a Customer to Return


Car Dealerships Must Convince a Customer to Return

There are about 17,500 car dealerships in the United States. Each year they prosper, survive, struggle, or close. Meanwhile, some dealerships are relentlessly successful year after year, often expanding despite the vagaries of the economy, world situation, and other factors.

What elevates some car dealerships above the rest?

Among the premier automobile dealers in the U.S. is Rick Hendrick, 65, of Charlotte, N.C., who launched his first dealership at the age of 23. Though probably better known now for his championship NASCAR teams than the millions of cars he's sold, Hendrick says he applies to racing a few principles he discovered while building 95 Hendrick Automotive Group dealerships from the Carolinas to California.

"Before customer satisfaction, you've got to have employee satisfaction," he says. "If your people don't think you care about them, they ain't going to care about you. That's the motto I live by."

Virtually every auto dealer agrees that the key to success is customer service, and that the roots of it are in a dealership's employees. Passionate, knowledgeable workers may not be easy to find, but they're well worth the pursuit. Research also shows that customer-focused companies are constantly motivating and rewarding those employees devoted to exceptional service.

Colin Shaw is the founder of Beyond Philosophy, a company that helps businesses foster enduring relationships with customers. American Express, FedEx, and IBM are among the many companies he has advised, and Shaw tells them all that management is not the messenger for the "customer experience" he's designed.

"Your team delivers the 'customer experience,'" Shaw says. "Making sure your employees believe in your brand promise, are trained properly on how to deliver it, and are invested in its success enough to do what it takes to achieve it are crucial to having a customer experience that surprises and delights customers."

According to Automotive Training Centers (AATC), the knowledge and enthusiasm of such employees creates a constant flow of opportunities for a car dealership to separate itself from competitors. As an example, each car sold to a new customer will require regular maintenance. The moment one of those cars returns for an oil change, another opportunity to provide exceptional "after sale" service arrives with it.

When the anticipation and appreciation of such opportunities are imbedded in a dealership's sales, service, parts, and repair departments, its dealer-wide face of exceptional service generates customer trust and loyalty in the years to come.

So too does the involvement of car dealerships in local community charities, non-profit fund-raisers, marathon walks, sponsorships, and donations. While most car dealerships are anxious to give back to their communities, they also realize it enhances relationships with current customers and creates new ones.

Reflecting upon 42 years of success in selling automobiles - and an empire of nearly 100 car dealerships - Rick Hendrick has a pretty good idea of its influence on his 30 years of championship auto racing.

He says he knows at least something about all the facets of racing, but isn't "good at anything."

"If there's anything I work on the hardest," he adds, "it is to keep all the people pointed in the right direction. Keep them motivated."

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