Is your store managing the small stuff? It might be time to check.
A few weeks ago I made phone calls to two Honda dealerships. One is a large dealership in the Northeast (which I won't name); the other was Santan Honda in Arizona.
My phone call — actually there were multiple calls — to the first store was a disaster. The receptionist answered the phone saying, abruptly, “Please Hold.” I then was left on hold for several minutes. I finally hung up.
This happened three times. The fourth time, I tried to stop her but she never waited for a response. Needless to say, I didn't get through that day.
If I'm a customer, that only happens once, maybe twice, before I move on to another store. That dealership was telling me it didn't want my business. Later I learned its sales are down this year as is showroom traffic. Is there a correlation?
I understand there are times when the receptionist probably is harried and trying to answer multiple calls. But this happened throughout the course of a few hours. It might be time to add someone, even if it only part time.
My phone call to Santan Honda was a completely opposite experience. The receptionist was professional and pleasant and seemed genuinely happy to handle my call. Monte Yocum, the general manager, got on the phone immediately.
He did not take the call because I am with Ward's — I didn't tell the receptionist who I am. She merely transferred the call.
That's how Santan Honda handles their customers. I'll bet this store thrives this year, despite the downturn in sales. (Yes, it also helps being a Honda dealership.)
Dale Pollack, CEO of VAuto, wrote recently on his blog, Velocity, about taking his son car shopping and visiting six dealerships. Not one recorded their names, phone numbers or email addresses.
How many other customers have the same experience? Are your employees turning away would-be customers because they aren't practicing Sales 101?
I realize dealers have bigger concerns today than how a receptionist answers the phone. Generating traffic; inventory management; floor plan funding; finding banks and financial institutions that will fund loans for customers are probably areas of business that keep you up at night.
But the small stuff, such as how your receptionist handles phone calls or whether the sales staff consistently requests name and contact information of walk-in customers, may be the very things that determine your survival as a dealer.
It's easy to let bad habits take hold when times are good. Traffic is steady, cars are flying off the lot — who's got time to worry about the little things?
But auto sales are going to be anemic through 2009, and many of you are fighting just to sell enough vehicles to stay in business. So it's time sweat the small stuff. That means making sure your employees understand the sense of urgency and act accordingly.