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Jim Bell

Jim Bell Performance Manager

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Starbucks and the Car Business

I am currently reading the book Onward by Howard Schultz. It is about the trials that Starbucks has faced over the years and how they handled those trials and grew through them. There are a lot of great leadership values in this book that can be applied in the automotive business and wanted to share a few with the Driving Sales community.

Part of the book talks about the experience that a customer has when they come into a Starbucks. "We succeed by creating an experience that comes to life, in large part, because of how we treat our people, how we treat our farmers, our customers, and how we give back to our communities." When a customer comes into your showroom, are you giving them the experience that you want them to have? The car buying experience needs to be a good one or the customer will tell all of their friends about it, good or bad. We all have heard that a dissatisfied customer is 9 times more likely to express their experience to a friend than a satisfied customer. We must be passionate about our jobs and what we do. When we are passionate, we will be successful in giving that customer an experience like none other.

There was another quote that he made in the book that he went into one of the stores and the barista didn't know who he was. He thought to himself that barista "this wasn't his job, it's his passion" by the way that he was treated.  When we have a passion for our job, we will make the customer happy by listening to them and helping them find the right vehicle for them. "It's a combination of intent, process, and heart, a trio that must constantly be fine-tuned."  Several years ago, Starbucks closed all of their stores for one day for training.  I know that isn't really feasible in the car business, but the whole point was to train all of their 130,000 baristas from treating customers to making a cup of coffee.  They caught a lot of flack for doing this and lost a lot of money just in that one day, but in the long run, it helped them grow just on the customer service end of things. 

Another part of the book talks about leadership. "It is the responsibility of the leadership team to keep our culture alive, growing, and thriving." This is so true when it comes to our management teams within the dealership. Sales managers are responsible for growing sales, service manager do the same through growing service and retaining that customer with the experience they have in the service drive and parts managers do the same thing and retaining that customer for life.  When the customer has a great experience in service, we hope that they will keep coming back not only for their service work, bu also to buy their next vehicle from us. 

The last part that I wanted to touch on is being an icon in the business. "Icon make sense of the tension of the times, offering hope and even mending a culture in turmoil." This is where management comes in. In the tough times, they will make the cream rise to the top. We are on the way out of a recession, and some analysts say that we may be double dip recession and on our way down again. There a lot of dealers that didn't make it in the last few years, and if you did, congratulations. Some grew, some stayed flat and some did not and just stayed in business. It all comes back to how your teams came through and built their sales force up and got them through.

"Icons assert a 'cultural authority,' helping to frame the way people view the times they live in." When we were in the recession, where your salespeople down and out and asking 'how am I going to make any money?' I know that there were some people out there asking that. I know I was unsure of my future when we lost our GM franchise in the mist of the recession. I was scared to death, but I made it through and still have a job thanks to my employer. Some jobs were created within the dealership and I came out as others did also.

"Icons don't confuse history with heritage, and always protect and project their values.". I work of a dealership that has been here for over 40 years. A lot of it comes back to our values and how we have treated our customers. We have come through the recession growing year over year through our great values and you can also.  Keep treating your customers the best you can and you will continue to rise to the top. 

Lindsey Auguste
Jim, your posts just keep getting better and better. I always enjoy reading them and look forward to the next. It's amazing how these simple principles can so easily transcend industries. Love it. Thanks for sharing.
Jim Bell
Thanks Lindsey!
Bryan Armstrong
Jim, I love that you take things from other industries. The reality is if we are to change our paradigm we must look outside our status quo. "It is the responsibility of the leadership team to keep our culture alive, growing, and thriving." I like how this says "Leadership Team", enroll your top performers, they are the leaders. A Title doesn't make a leader though there is confusion around this concept. I believe by empowering all the staff and recognizing the fact that the lot tech or Janitor probably has a more direct contribution to our customer's perception of us than the G.M. does we can inspire the passion of which you speak. Great post.
Jim Bell
There is a lot to learn from other businesses and other industries that can be applied to our business. That is what I love about books like that. Take ideas and apply them to us.

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