Educate and Entertain

Running a successful car-care clinic at a dealership requires three Cs: Commitment, consistency and content. It also requires one F: Fun. You need commitment by staffers to promote it. You also need consistency so that staff and customers alike know that if they miss one they can attend another. As for content, what do we want to share during our special gatherings? Do we just want it to be a parts

Running a successful car-care clinic at a dealership requires three Cs: Commitment, consistency and content. It also requires one F: Fun.

You need commitment by staffers to promote it. You also need consistency so that staff and customers alike know that if they miss one they can attend another.

As for content, what do we want to share during our special gatherings? Do we just want it to be a parts and service gig, like many dealerships have? Or do we want all departments to join in?

Finally, make it fun. After all, it isn't a course in microbiology.

Let's look at how we can get all the departments working together to put on an A-1 “Customer Know-How Night” that both educates and entertains.

In keeping with the multi-level approach of educating our customers, building rapport and having fun, we tried a different approach at two of the dealerships with whom I work.

One dealership we had a 9-hole golf course theme. Different holes represented different departments or stations around the dealership. For example Hole No. 1 was the body shop, No. 2 was the parts department, No. 3 was the leasing department and so on.

This was a big dealership so we needed people to serve as tour guides for our event. We called them “caddies.” They were really sales and leasing associates.

Mixing sales people with customers proved to be a hole in one. It was a great event where people were well fed, entertained and educated about how this dealership is run and how the vehicles it sells operate.

At the other dealership, we had a poker theme as part of its “Know Your Chrysler-Jeep Night.”

We had five different stations that happened to be a nice fit because this particular facility was a “Five Star” dealership. Our stations were parts, service, sales, body shop, and finance and insurance. We limited time at each station to about 15-20 minutes, leaving enough time for prizes and munchies throughout the night.

The body shop manager did a great job by layering a quarter panel and showing the process of prepping, priming, painting, blending and clear coating. It showed that body shop painting is more elaborate than a lot of people think.

Service was full of interesting hands-on displays and informative tips on servicing and maintaining a vehicle.

Even the sales department made it interesting by educating the customers on how to maximize re-sale values, while showing off the new accessories and electronics on many of today's cars.

Although some of the customers attending had vehicles equipped with MP3 player adaptors, video players and navigation systems, many attendees did not. Boy, were their appetites whet after that showing.

The F&I station wasn't as sexy as others, although it was made interesting by a spin-and-win board. Players were given discount coupons for undercoating, fabric-guarding and extended warranties. In fact, two service contracts were sold by the information that was provided at the presentation.

The best part of the evening was the poker games we had at the end. Everyone received a playing card at each station they attended. Using those five cards, there were giveaways based on best hand, worst hand, highest number of fives and so on.

There are lots of ways to create great content at your car clinic. Don't directly sell anything. Just provide a fun, educational and interactive environment, and believe me, they will come back and buy.

Dave Skrobot is vice president of fixed operations training for Automotive Sales College and the author of a book on how to run successful dealership meetings. He is at [email protected].

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