We have often mentioned the ‘service profit chain’ at MTI. The idea that by building fantastic value in the service and products offered that price – although always a deciding factor – becomes less important as a result. You would think that in a downturn, with many businesses competing for a smaller share of potential customers, it would be all about being the cheapest, however we are seeing business models like John Lewis and Waitrose to name a couple being acclaimed for the way they protect their margins by offering such all-round value and service that customers will always use them.
Car dealers today need to look along the same lines and indeed there are signs of this being the case. With many manufacturers consistently bringing new models to market an encouraging their brand partners to invest in upgrading facilities, customers are beginning to experience an environment that is likely to encourage them to actually want to be there.
All too often in the car business we forget how emotional buying a car is, and for all my years selling cars passion was a word uttered on a daily basis. If car dealers can demonstrate that not only do they offer class leading cars but by having passionate people who genuinely want to make the customer experience a memorable one then profit can still be achieved without impacting on margins and market share can be increased.
Interestingly, to make this point, I visited 2 different stores to see if what I believed was actually the reality. First I went to Tesco; it was easy to park, there was loads of choice, I could find what I needed and, according to Tesco, it was cheaper than its competitors (I wasn’t about to check I just took their word for it). So up I went to the till and what suddenly struck me was the staff, this particular till guy had those horrible extended earlobe rings and a couple of juicy neck tats advertising his kids I assume on either side, and although not rude he was about as interested in me as an England player is in keeping hold of a football. Although it was convenient and cheap I couldn’t wait to get out of there.
My second visit was to Waitrose a couple of days later to get a bottle of wine and some cheeses my wife had forgotten to get earlier for our Friday night supper. I came out of there with 3 bottles of wine 2 different cheeses, some lovely chutney and some flowers for my wife (yes I had been successfully upsold without even knowing it). The personnel were so friendly; from the young girl who insisted on taking me to the right aisle rather than just pointing to the checkout girl who, although barely 17, was articulate, communicative and helpful. In short it was a pleasure to spend money and though I could have bought it for probably a 3rd less in Tesco the experience was so positive the money was secondary.
This, of course, may not be everybody’s experience and whilst I do not wish to sound like a cheerleader for Waitrose, customer care is very important to me whether I am buying dinner or a pot of paint and if car dealers could lead their people into believing that they have a stake in their business and create a magic environment for car buyers they will gain not only more customers but also, I believe, better quality ones who will come back again and again not because of price but because of quality.