Article

The Other End of the Spectrum: Is It Really a Lack of Opportunity?

April 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Mauricio Espinosa - Also by this author

Over the last several months, we have been covering the CSI Pyramid and how it can be used to attract and retain the Hispanic market. As I was wrapping up this series, it just so happened that I had an experience at the other end of the spectrum. I encountered a dealership in a league of its own, a dealership where customer satisfaction and retention did not exist. Compare our CSI Pyramid discussions with this experience and decide which end of the spectrum you want your business to be on.

As they say in the movies, this is a true story, and only the names have been changed. My brother-in-law had an EC Motors MM-77 lease about to reach its end-of-term. This lease was his fifth leased purchase of an EC Motors vehicle. For 15 years, EC Motors had retained this customer. My brother-in-law would say that there was customer satisfaction and loyalty with this brand.

After the final lease payment had been made and the vehicle inspector had checked the vehicle, my brother-in-law telephoned EC Motors Leasing to inquire if they had a preference as to where he returned the vehicle, as the originating dealership had since closed. He was informed to simply return the vehicle to the most convenient EC Motors dealership. 

He decided to make the return Friday after work and I was to meet him there. The two of us arrived at the EC Motors dealership, parked our cars and looked for the showroom door. Surprisingly, there was no one outside for a meet and greet, and after walking into the showroom, we spotted two salesmen apparently having a casual chat.

As we approached them, one of them addressed us, and my brother-in-law stated that he was there to return his end-of-lease vehicle. As the words left his lips, we saw a change in the expression and body language of the salesman. An obviously qualified and satisfied customer of the EC Motors brand was standing in front of the salesman and the salesman suddenly lost all interest in him. There was no introduction or business card presented, not even a handshake. His only response was, “Go over there and see the sales manager,” as he pointed his finger.

Walking along the row of glass-front offices, we spotted the one with the sign displaying the two words we needed, “Sales Manager.” We found a man leaning back in his big leather chair with his hands clasped behind his head. With the two of us standing in his doorway, his hands never moved; the only movement at all was in his lips. When we stepped into the doorway of his office, my brother-in-law stated, “Hi, I was told I needed to see you for returning my lease.”

The sales manager’s response was, “You need to go next door to the XYZ dealership and find the business manager; he’ll take care of it.” As we walked away, my mind was reeling. I was thinking to myself, “You’re the sales manager and you can’t be bothered to get up off your ass to shake a customer’s hand?”

We walked across the lot to the neighboring dealership and stepped into that showroom looking for the business manager. At this point, I knew my brother-in-law was frustrated. Who wouldn’t be? He quickly asked the first person he laid his eyes on where we could find the Business Manager.

When we found him, he was seated at his desk, and my brother-in-law was once again the first to speak, informing the business manager that he had a MM-77 parked next door to return. Once more, there was no expressed interest whatsoever. The business manager responded, “Uh, ok. Did you lease that vehicle from us?”

My brother-in-law answered, “No,” and went on to tell him that he’d contacted EC Motors Leasing and received the approval to return the vehicle to this dealership.

“Um, that might be a problem. Let me see if I can do something for you,” replied the business manager, as my brother-in-law and I proceeded to take a seat in his office.

As we sat down, my mind was a beehive of activity, as I was taking down mental notes of the tragic state of this business. I know the business manager “can do something.” The fact of the matter is that I know this individual is ruining an opportunity to do business.

I felt that I was allowed to be sarcastic in thinking to myself that these guys must have been meeting and exceeding every goal and their sales must have really been phenomenal last year. Let’s review. We went from a new car salesman to the sales manager to the business manager. Each one of them had knowledge that we are there to return a lease vehicle. Each one of them had been presented with an opportunity to service a qualified buyer.

The attitude of the business manager was unjustifiable, as it takes less than five minutes for him to enter the VIN number into his computer and my brother-in-law to sign a couple of papers and hand over the keys.

After those small tasks were accomplished, the business manager simply said, “That’s it, you can go now.” So we did. What would you have done? As we walked back across the lot, my brother-in-law told me that the worst part of all that had just transpired was that the business manager didn’t even thank him for having leased an EC Motors product.

When I am presenting my training, consulting a dealership or coaching a manager, I constantly and consistently hear the same question: “Where can we find more opportunities?”

It would seem that those three individuals, two of whom should have known better, representing the two neighboring dealerships were suffering from a lethal case of “tunnel-vision.” Once their ears heard “lease return,” that was all their minds could process. The opportunity staring back at them was simply outside their vision and narrow mindset.

If the only way you can identify opportunities is if the customer walks up to you and says, “Hey I want to buy a car today,” there is a lot of change that needs to take place within your dealership.

What were you thinking as you read my story? If a customer is dropping off a lease vehicle, isn’t that customer going to buy or lease another one in the very near future, or do you assume that customer will be walking from now on? The business manager could have easily looked up my brother-in-law’s payment; shouldn’t he have offered something or let him know there were some great deals going on? Shouldn’t that sales manager have been all over my brother-in-law, rather than ass-glued to his reclining chair?

I have no doubt that everyone in those two dealerships most likely complains about the lack of opportunities to sell a car. At least one of them should have asked my brother-in-law what he was going to drive now.

I have to tell you, I’ve never met a guy that talked so positively about his vehicle as my brother-in-law. Remember it was his fifth EC Motors vehicle, and in fact his second MM-77. He was considering the purchase of another EC Motors vehicle, the sporty, more expensive one that’s a step up from the MM-77.

How did the story end? He is now a very proud owner of a very slick, very sporty, very expensive vehicle that not only didn’t come from the family of dealerships we visited that fateful Friday afternoon; it’s also not an EC Motors product.

Apply to my story what you’ve learned about the CSI Pyramid, and one thing should be obvious to you. If there is no satisfaction, there is nothing at all.

What we can take away from the story is that, evidently, those employees don’t care about their business. They weren’t alert and it was difficult for them to satisfy a customer. I hope you know that sometimes satisfaction comes from the details, even the smallest of details, and when you see a manager that cannot get their body off their chair to welcome a customer, there is something seriously wrong with that picture.

I cannot stress enough that satisfaction is only a beginning. It’s the foundation, the base, of the pyramid. In order to climb that pyramid and reach for loyalty and fidelity, the base (i.e. the satisfaction) must be strong and stable.

Gracias y hasta la vista.

Vol 5, Issue 2

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