McLuskey Chevrolet is one of the top Chevy stores in the country. Located in the Kings Auto Mall in Cincinnati, OH, the store with just under 300 employees is on track to sell nearly 7,000 new and used vehicles in 2016.
Its owner, Keith McCluskey is a second generation dealer, taking over the store his father started in 1973.
Over the last few years, McCluskey oversaw a nearly $7 million renovation of the dealership while implementing a Guest Relations Center overhauling the way his dealership manages their guests.
The renovation with several unique features turned his dealership into what a dealership in the 21st century should be. Ironically, even with the investment into facilities, McLuskey has big plans to leverage the Internet over the next several years.
He recently talked with Dealer magazine by phone sharing the process he set up for the GRC and how that coupled with the features inside the dealership create a wow experience for their guests.
Keith, you’ve been in the industry for more than 40 years. Was it something you always wanted to do?
I would say it was something I always wanted to do. My dad started the store in 1973 when I was about 14. I just always took to the business and liked it a lot.
Your dealership today is a powerhouse in Cincinnati, but it looks like you have big plans for the future.
Yes, we do. We feel that with the great product lineup that Chevrolet has, and then you add our desire to constantly grow the used car side of the business with the power of the Internet, we think there’s lots of room to grow significantly from where we’re at.
We’ve always historically been a dealership that’s focused on used car or preowned vehicle — even though we’re number one in the Cincinnati zone in new Chevrolet sales through the end of March — we sell 2.3 to 2.5 used to every new, well above the industry standard on your typical ratios. Other dealers may challenge themselves to get to a one-to-one ratio, but we’ve always sold more used than new.
We also focus a lot on our fixed operations.
You recently went through a major facility renovation as part of General Motors Essential Brand Elements initiative.
We did, and we took it to the ninth degree. We did a lot of brand building within every single room in the dealership. We’ve got a Chevrolet history wall that kind of depicts the entire history of Chevrolet from its origins in 1911 through today.
What you’ll find in our dealership is a contemporary upbeat feel relative to all of the pictures, graphics, video monitors, fireplaces cafes and relaxation rooms.
We really tried to create a wow experience for our guests and our team members.
What specifically about the dealership creates that wow experience?
The store certainly has kind of a feel of an Apple store sort feel to it. It’s an open environment with 45 27-inch monitors throughout the facility that serve as vehicle presentation stations. So, a customer doesn’t really have a particular sales person’s office they go to.
Instead, we have product specialists that use whichever station is open on either floor. Some of them are up on the glass mezzanine overlooking the showroom.
Each of the vehicle presentation stations is tied into four USBs and two plugs for their smart phone or tablets.
And all of that is powered off of a 10-bay solar charging station that we have outside. We do play up the idea that we’re one of 15 Chevy dealers so far to win the green dealer award from General Motors.
We also offer Starbucks coffee and other hot drinks along with a Coke machine that makes over 100 different drinks. There’s also several snacks such as donuts, almonds, peanuts, cashews that are free.
But, then these things are what we call the X factor — what’s the thing that makes us stand out amongst the other choices that they’ve got.
And, we believe it’s the things I mentioned. We also transport customers around in golf carts, provide free thank you waters.
Keith, you also have a reputation for being open nearly around the clock.
I guess we do. We’re open seven days a week and until 3:00 in the morning in service – sort of a super extended hours to help with the throughput of all the used car reconditioning and new car preps we need to do along with the commercial truck accounts and incremental customer pay business we have.
We have those hours because we know people don’t want to be rushed to pick up their vehicle or drop off their vehicle in the normal 8:00 in the morning until 6:00 at night hours. Our hours provide the customer with flexibility.
Our guests have several options when they come in for service. They can use the guest relaxation room with the massage chair and the seven 80-inch high definition TVs throughout the facility.
We also have a 28-person outdoor M lounge as we call it. And, on the nice weather days here in Cincinnati, a lot of our guests take advantage of sitting outside on high-end landscaped forms furniture enjoying the weather and drinking their Starbucks coffee. Maybe they’ll go shopping or looking around on a free complimentarily-issued iPad while they’re here.
They might jump on one of our several highline bikes that provide and ride a couple of hundred yards to several shops like Costco, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy or Target. We give them a pager that lets them know when their vehicle is ready.
We also provide courtesy transportation if they don’t want to wait – and this is our preference — because there is no better place for them to sit than in a brand new Chevrolet to get excited about possibly upgrading their current vehicle while it’s in service. We can whet their appetite and maybe accelerate a decision to replace their current vehicle.
It turns into a nice trade-in for our used car lot, we get to sale another vehicle and everybody’s happy.
What kind of impact does having that type of facility have on the business?
Without question, we get a lot of enthusiastic comments from our guests and from prospective employees that we take on a tour and we’ll end up hiring onto our team.
But, obviously, it’s hard to separate what kind of impact the facility has had on sales.
We certainly believe it’s a positive impact and will continue to be a positive impact. But, coming out of the great recession, everybody’s sales are up significantly so it’s hard to really get a feel for it. I know last year was a record sales and profit year for us, and so far this year we’re beating last year’s results. So, it all seems to be working well together and the investment is paying off.
You mentioned using your guests’ time in service as a time to market new vehicles. Do you do much selling out of your service department?
We do. We have our guest relations center – or GRC — as we call it. Other dealerships might call it a BDC, but for us, it just doesn’t sound like what we’re all about. Guest Relations Center fits better for us.
We have four people in the service GRC and 12 people in the sales GRC. Definitely, the four people in the service GRC proactively talk to our guests about the free upgrade analysis on their vehicle and also their insurance because, we’re an Allstate insurance agency, too, within the dealership.
So, when people come in for service, we want to make sure we roll out the red carpet and at least show them the options on what a replacement vehicle could do for them, along with what Allstate insurance can do.
When you started the process of selling out of the service department, how did you get everyone on board? Did you encounter resistance from the service department team?
We did early on, but, but candidly, if we think about the entire opportunity there that exists for everybody – we still compensate that service advisor who engaged with the guest for the service work, even if the guest buys a new vehicle. That work still needs to be completed along with additional work that typically is needed for a complete used vehicle reconditioning.
It ends up being more gross for our service department — and for our sales department and F&I departments overall. We’re fair about how we share that additional profit with everyone.
Our four team members in the service GRC share in a monthly bonus pool based on the number of people they confirm a vehicle upgrade analysis with.
So everyone is committed to the process. There’s a sign in my office with two rules: “Rule number one, help our technicians turn more hours. Rule number two, see rule number one.”
As long as everyone — other than the technicians and our product specialists – are selling more cars and selling more labor and parts associated with that labor, then everybody wins. We basically work for those two departments – sales and service – because all we sell is sales and service.
The GRC is an intriguing concept.
We feel like that’s a key part of our future growth.
We took the responsibility of handling leads and phone calls from the product specialists and instead let them focus on presenting the product, going on great demonstration drives and presenting numbers.
Meanwhile, the GRC is responsible to turn the leads and the phone calls into appointments.
When our guests walk in the front door, they see a large rectangular TV set up long-ways — like you would see in an airport. It has all of the guest names and the time and the product specialist that they’re assigned to.
So, they feel welcome when they walk in. It’s very organized, everybody knows who’s supposed to be taking care of who. And, it lets our product specialist focus on that guest experience and not handling phone calls and sending out emails. Again, it’s like an Apple store. All of our people are out and about on the floor, like you would have in an Apple store. Nobody really has an office.
Hopefully we always are super attentive to people when they approach the store or come into the reception desk and our welcome centers.
Product specialists, historically, can fall off or get away from the program if they have to handle leads.
But when you’ve got a team knowing all they have to do is hit the metrics we’ve established for them on appointment attempts and appointments set and shows – and as long as they’re whole bonus plan is based on that — then our the product specialists take the baton at that point and do everything they can to sell a car and earn a commission.
So, we’ve got the different groups focused on the things that really matter most to them.
The GRC is compensated through the show, and then obviously from the handshake through the commission, the product specialists are paid.
Now, when the product specialists don’t sell people, obviously they need to continue to text, email and follow up to create a be-back to ultimately sell that customer.
But, that also does end at some point. What we ended up doing is having what’s called a long-term GRC and after eight days of follow-up by the product specialists, it then goes back to that group that really stays on top of trying to be open-ended and guest-friendly about how we get that customer back in.
That combination of the GRC working the frontend and the backend of setting appointments with the product specialist in the middle is what seems to be working well for us at this point.
And, then we just want to grow and have more product specialists and more GRC staff supporting those product specialists to grow the numbers.
Who does the training for you on that? Or, is that all internal?
We certainly do a lot of the internal training, but we use Phone Ninjas and Chevrolet’s different training components that we’re always attending. We just went to a Joe Verdi BDC training session.
Ricky Lopez with Ross Advisors has been coming in and has been instrumental with helping us make good decisions on what we do with our GRC. We try to be open-minded to training. It’s super important for our team and the product specialists. And we support 100% of whatever Chevrolet or our training partners are doing to make us better at our trade.
We expect the product specialists to use the process and be on their game ready when that guest comes in.
That next 45 minutes to two hours is about that one guest and helping them find the right vehicle that fits their budget and that we hopefully deliver.
And, if that doesn’t happen, then the guest hopefully had a wow experience and are receptive to our professional, ongoing follow up to get them back in or to deliver the next vehicle of choice to their home or office for a test drive.
Whatever it takes to get the commitment on that appointment, because our show rate is not much better than the industry standard at about 65 to 70% on people coming to the store. But, when someone does agree to a home or office test drive, we have 100% show rate, because we are going to show up. So it’s an effective way to get the customer behind the wheel of the next vehicle of choice and try to get a commitment from them.
You’re a single-point Chevrolet dealer that’s on track to sell 7,000 new and used vehicles this year. Any thoughts of expanding?
We absolutely want to continue to expand our footprint with some Internet-driven initiatives that over the next few years. But, we, we definitely feel there’s a lot of opportunity to sell outside of and well outside of the greater Cincinnati market.
What about an acquisition?
I have four children — two boys who just got out of Ohio State and another son daughter there. And as they get in the business and we decide that that makes sense, then we would consider that.
We also, again, have strong objectives in the area of growing the business just with Chevrolet. And, there’s plenty to be said for continuing to grow the business, but do it in a way that takes advantage of or harnesses the current trends from the consumer and the power of the Internet.
I’m curious, as you look back over the last several years, what’s, what’s one thing that you did that really, that turned into a grand slam for you, one, one idea that you implemented or solution?
I know this is sort of looking forward, but it’s an extension of the mindset we have of really focusing on all makes and all models and pre-owned vehicles and adding lifetime mechanical protection to them.
We recently acquired seven acres here close to the Kings Auto Mall. We’re going to build an expanded guest relations center that will include the accounting department and several mechanical bays to handle all the used car reconditioning for the work that we intend to grow.
And attached to that building is a 3,000 sq. ft. world class photo lab with a 360 degree turnstile.
As all of the new and used vehicles go through the prep and reconditioning process, it never looks better than the moment you finish buffing and waxing it and dressing the tires.
We’re actually having the professor and the students from the University of Cincinnati photography department facilitate and assist us in designing exactly what is the perfect picture. They call them portraits.
The backdrop on the wall will be our M faint blue LED glow above it with the perfect ambiance and angles along with perfect lighting levels. A $12,000 camera will take super high-def pictures. We’ll be able to get a perfect photograph 24 hours a day – which enables us to get the picture onto the Internet right away.
I guess to answer your question, I would say it’s an evolution of our desire to appeal to someone that wants all makes and models. And, if they come in and we can switch them from the Honda Accord to the Chevy Malibu. That’s our preference and that’s another new car sale to us.
But, if they want a Honda Accord or they want a Toyota Camry or they want a Ford Fusion, then we can put them into a used vehicle of the brand of their choice.
Author: Digital Dealer
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