As the Thanksgiving season draws near, my thoughts center around things for which I am grateful — family, loyal friends, my work family and our clients and business partners. I’m especially grateful for the opportunity to share my knowledge and expertise with the automotive community and dealerships.
Time is a valuable commodity, so for a dealer to share their time with me – I truly appreciate and respect it. Whether it is time spent to see me speak at a convention or to simply send me an email, I always try to give value to them. One such email caught my eye last month. After reading through the entire email, the quote in the signature stuck with me: “Matt LaFontaine, ‘Make It Great — Make It Matter.’”
A 25-year veteran of the automotive retail industry, LaFontaine recently ventured out on his own to purchase a Chevrolet dealership — Matt LaFontaine Automotive — two hours north of Detroit. Matt shared with me that the mantra was created as a reminder to him and his staff to reinforce a culture of building long-term customer relations. Whether you are there to buy a car, get a $16-dollar oil change, or have extensive repairs to a vehicle the owner just isn’t ready to part with yet, Matt and his team believe every prospect and customer should know their time and interaction, no matter how limited, is appreciated and honored.
“‘Make It Great — Make It Matter’” is about showing our gratitude to anyone who made the conscious decision to walk through our showroom doors, or pull up in our service lane,” said LaFontaine, whose family has been in the automobile industry for almost four decades. “We want you to buy a car; we want to make it a great experience for you. We’re going to give you more than you expect, but more importantly, you’ll leave understanding that your business, your time, your presence, matters to us.”
And LaFontaine’s customers appreciate it. “A 20-year customer recently told me they don’t know what it is, but they come here now and feel a difference. It’s the same group of people working at the dealership, but they see a difference in the smiles, the attitude and the gratitude the team is showing customers, just for coming into the [store],” LaFontaine said. “We’re going to show you that we appreciate you just for allowing us the opportunity to be a part of your day. It’s all about building trust for us. Earning your trust matters to us.”
What are a couple of takeaways from this mindset?
- “Thank you” matters. While the glitz and giveaways of a “Customer Appreciation Day” may provide a temporary increase in foot traffic, consider the customer experience you are providing all the other business days of the year. Have you, as a manager, created an environment that insists employees put their best selves on display for anyone walking through the door, calling to ask a quick question or even complaining about a repair? Every chance to say a “thank you” matters — whether it’s a prospect, new customer or 20-year customer.
- Be memorable for the right reasons. Negative experiences resonate more vividly than positive day-to-day exchanges, especially when a customer feels a loss of control in the car buying process. Couple that lack of transparency with a negative attitude from your team and you are setting your dealership up for a “one-and-done” experience. Not only do you lose the possibility of a sale or service, but think about the loss of service revenue, as well as referrals and positive reviews.
When the end of the month rolls around, quantifying success is about the black-and-white numbers, and assessing the quality of customer interactions may take a back seat. Create a culture that constantly reminds your team to express appreciation for every interaction with a prospect or a customer every time, no matter when in the month or season it may fall, no matter how slight the interaction may be. Saying “thank you” should be a habit, not an afterthought, and certainly not dependent on the tangible outcome for the dealership. The road to customer loyalty begins with the simple action of a “thank you,” no matter where a person falls in the sales or service process. Buy or no buy, thank everyone. All the time. Every time.