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From: Jared Hamilton
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Dennis Galbraith

Dennis Galbraith Chief Marketing Officer

Exclusive Blog Posts

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You Might Not Be Customer Centric

There are a number of practices still common across automotive retailers which are not customer centric. That doesn’t necessarily mean dealers using these tactics need to change, but it does mean they shouldn’t be kidding themselves about being customer centric in their approach. It means they shouldn’t mislead themselves about offering superior customer service as their why-buy-from-me message.

If your prices are negotiable, yet your customer cannot speak directly with the only person who has pricing authority, then you might not be customer centric.

If your team is still answering questions on the phone with “come on in and we’ll have that answer for you,” then you might not be customer centric.

If your sales team does not give too hoots about the customer’s needs for accessories or service, then you might not be customer centric.

If you are not fully utilizing your CRM system to maximize customer satisfaction as well as leads, then you might not be customer centric.

Not every business needs to be customer centric, but those who are not need to stop kidding themselves about who they are. Those who are trying to be customer centric must realize the reason to focus on the customer is to maximize profits. This does not mean just short-term profits but total profitability over the life of the customer relationship and spilling over into that customer’s network of friends and family. Managing toward that may require lots of changes, maybe even changes in compensation, but a change in attitude is the most important of all.

In my grandfather’s day, no one needed to tell this to a small town dealer. It was obvious. You lived or died by your reputation. It seemed everyone talked to everyone, and no one got away with faking it for very long. Social media is bringing our industry back around to the days of the small-town dealer and away from the fifty-year era of most customer relationships starting at the curb and ending as the customer drives off it.

Every dealer will choose their own focus, and many variations can be profitable when executed properly. The most important thing is recognizing what the focus of your store really is.

Mat Koenig
Dennis I think this is a great article. It's common sense but as Joe Verde said years ago, "Common sense isn't that common." Online reviews and video reviews are everywhere and folks who aren't making this a priority are foolish. Just like in your grandfather's day, we still live and die by our reputation - only today the reputation spreads a lot further :) I think many dealers in our industry get confused with the phrase 'customer centric' because some idiot consultant years ago told them that being customer centric means selling vehicles for low profit because the only way to make a customer happy is to give your cars away. WRONG! If the experience is great and the value is good, the price doesn't have to be a giveaway. I remember selling a Nissan Frontier Pickup for $600 more than the Nissan Dealer that my consumer spoke to that was 70 miles away. She had the info from the other dealer who was barely an hour away but they were willing to pay more because they wanted to do business with us at Cole Nissan. She enjoyed the experience and I made sure to introduce her to her service writer who would be taking care of her needs going forward. I explained how our customers, who purchased from us would ALWAYS get priority in service over those who bought elsewhere - it was a priority service for customers who did business with us. The benefits of buying from us were worth the extra $600 to her. In my opinion, being customer centric means working to serve the consumer's wants, needs and desires better than anyone else so that if they leave and shop elsewhere, they'll appreciate the experience enough to come back and do business. I said to my customers before, as I still say today: "I'm not the cheapest person to work with but I can tell you that I'll work harder for you and do it better than anyone else." Keep up the great content DG.
Dennis Galbraith
Thanks Mat, you hit it right on the head. It seems to me it would be tough to maximize profits from a kissing booth by focusing on the price while you're doing the kissing. Is your focus the negotiating process over price or is it getting the customer into the right vehicle, listening and meeting their needs, and confirming beyond a doubt you're the preferred place to do business? Being customer centric is not about cutting the price; it's about elevating the relationship beyond the price. That said, there is room for all kinds of dealership, provide they can be true to what they set out to be.
Sheila York
I have seen the transformation work. Give 110%, follow the sales process, ask for the money, be professional, and they had the highest grosses in the zone and unbelievable CSI. #1 in the country in 5 areas. No customer could even take a demo without a full vehicle explanation. That was a customer centric approach that really worked. Thanks for being customer centric yourself!
Jeff Scherer
Good subject Dennis. I am not sure that many orgs really know what "Customer Centric" really means. IMHO, I think it means having tools and processes that suit the buyer best. I have worked with orgs that made decisions largely from an ivory tower- instilling changes they felt were beneficial to the customer, but without really asking customers if that was the right move. Sure everybody does CSI surveys post-sale, but wouldn't it also make sense to gather some pre-sale information? The car business is still largely price-driven, I believe in large part due to the reasons you cite above. If you dance around answering the price question over the phone, you will have a tough time holding credibility and trust. A lot of buyers may already be distrustful of car salespeople even before they pick up the phone. The buyer may think their biggest fear is that they may get ripped off, but I think it really is the fear of making a "wrong decision." If a salesperson tells me that based on my needs (which hopefully they asked me about), that vehicle B may be a better fit for me than vehicle A, I think I have someone that is more concerned about helping me than getting me over the curb. If an organization truly wants to be customer centric, they should take the time to study what happens in the customer's journey. Take a lesson from Jon Taffer (Bar Rescue) and have your cousin do some mystery shopping on the phone and in person. That will provide better feedback than any CSI survey.
David Ruggles
If you're making gross profit, then you might not be customer centric. If you aren't completely transparent, down to disclosing your bare costs and negotiating the margin, you might not be customer centric.

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