A customer's first impressions of our stores is an area we can all improve upon and, in most cases, it doesn't cost any money to do that. But the return on investment is huge.
Managing first impressions should be a full-time job for your entire staff. What impression is your dealership selling?
I challenge you to read this column and then walk the store and ask yourself, “Is this the real impression we want to project?”
Better yet, have your managers visit another department and ask the same question. Afterward, have a debrief meeting and discuss the impressions. You may find a gigantic opportunity for improvement.
One dealership that comes to mind is where I get my truck serviced. I have written about this store in the past and could not understand how the sales people could treat customers the way they do.
During my last visit, I had six or seven sales people walk past me. I looked everyone in the eye and waited for some sort of greeting. Nothing. They would not look me in the eye, for that matter they would not even lift their heads.
This store has sales greeters who introduce car shoppers to the sales persons. So, if an unintroduced customer is in the store, apparently sales people view him or her as “just” a service customer.
In the middle of this challenge we are all in, we can't afford for these types of behaviors to enter our business. Here are a few areas to investigate:
If a person comes within 10 feet of any employee, the employee is expected to greet the other person in a professional manner. This needs to be a hard and fast rule that could result in the de-hiring of the employee. Customers should feel welcome in your dealership, regardless of why they have visited. Service customers are not second-class citizens. They are future business for the sales floor.
Service Area Signs:
We are sign fanatics! Too many tell the customer what they can't do. Let's tell them what they can do. Example, a sign saying, “Employees only allowed beyond this point” can be said differently. One client does it this way: “Shop tours available upon request.” He has never had a request, and the customer gets the same message.
Service Lane Signs:
Many service managers believe the key to handling the customer in the write-up area is to post a sign telling them what to do. Some (of the many I have seen) are:
- Pull up to here!
- DO NOT BLOCK THE DRIVE WAY! (This one screams at the customer)
- Leave your keys in the car!
- Please remain with your car!
- Exit only!
Are these really needed? Why not challenge the employees to come up with a workable plan that they author. Pride of authorship can go a long way in establishing workable, sustainable processes.
I have spent a lot of time in the break, lunch and conference rooms of the stores I'm invited into. I'm not a clean freak, but come on. Why can't your people clean up after themselves? If this is a sign of their personal behavior, what are they like working on your customer's cars? Poor quality is a state of mind.
I was in a store where a sign posted on the cashier's window had the dealership's check-acceptance policy in big, bold letters. There were seven points, all starting with “No.” Making the customer feel like it's a privilege to do business with you is not good. Again, why can't we tell them what they can do, not what they can't? While on this subject, get the cashiers to smile once in a while. Some of them could light up the room by leaving it. n
Lee Harkins is a fixed operations consultant and can be reached at: 205-747-8305 or at: [email protected]