I was recently at a dealership talking to the department managers about what customers are looking for as they decide who they are going to spend their money with. In discussing service, parts and wholegoods, I asked each manager what experience they were trying to create for their customers.
There was a long pause and finally the parts manager said: “I guess the experience of having the part the customer needs when they need it.” I said: “That’s great, so how are you doing in meeting that experience?” After another pause, he told me he thought they were doing okay. I received similar responses from the service and wholegoods managers.
Each department of the dealership needs to understand the importance of the experience they are working to create—and how to deliver it. With manufacturers jamming more and more dealers into a marketplace, your product lines are no longer a unique advantage. To set yourself apart from the dealer down the road, you can no longer rely on your brands. You have to work to create a unique experience that your competitors can’t easily duplicate.
Here are a few ideas that you can use to create a unique customer experience in your store.
1. Understand what makes you different and unique.
People will pay more for what they perceive as different or unique. Why would a vase from the Ming Dynasty of China be more valuable than a vase from a local discount store? There are not many 4,000-year-old vases around and the more unique an item is, the more value we as humans place on it.
What do you want customers to walk away from your parts counter saying? “Their prices are high and they never have the part you need.” How about your service department? “They have great prices, but when you get it back the equipment never works the way it is supposed to.”
Whether you like it or not, you are constantly creating a customer experience. You have to make sure it’s the kind of experience that will drive your customers to talk to others about your business in a positive way.
2. Make sure you are developing your brand.
Your brand is intangible and has nothing at all to do with your location, the lines that you carry or the building you are in. Instead, it refers to the reputation behind your company’s name and logo. To build your brand, you have to be consistent in the image you create in your store, your advertising and your web presence.
I try to get all my dealers to create a “sell line” that communicates what they are about in one sentence. That “sell line” is then used on signage in the store, on business cards, in advertisements and on the website.
Think of something as simple as Campbell’s Soup, “It’s mmm, mmm good!” How about Coke, “It’s the real thing”. I encourage you to take some time and work on a “sell line” that tells customers what you are all about.
3. Reward your people for delivering the experience.
Don’t forget about the importance of customer service and the impact your employees have on the customers’ perception of your brand. Once a customer is ignored at the counter or treated poorly on the phone or sales floor, you’ve lost not only that person but everyone else that hears about the unfortunate experience. Remember that word-of-mouth can help, but it can also hurt. Get rid of employees who won’t cooperate—even if they’re related to you!
It’s important to set goals for your people that focus on delivering the customer experience you are working to create. I do a lot of work in service and parts departments for dealerships, and as I help them define the customer experience they want to be known for, I work hard to make sure that every employee understands what we are striving to accomplish. They need to know they will be rewarded if they help to deliver that experience to the customer.
In a world where everything looks the same, creating a unique experience for your customers will set you apart from the crowd and add valuable dollars to your bottom line.