The price of going higher is change
Begin, start, commence, institute, inaugurate, initiate. There is something refreshing and optimistic about these words, whether they refer to the dawn of a new day, the birth of a child, the prelude of a symphony or the first few miles of a family vacation. Free of problems and full of promise, beginnings stir hope and generate an imaginative vision of the future. They set the stage for newness and hope. Unfortunately, there are not enough new beginnings going around in most dealerships. Instead, it is the same ole thing day in and day out. No freshness, solid leadership, innovation, motivation, people development or well defined direction. Thousands of people show up for work in dealerships across America every day with their hands ready to work, but not with their hearts in the game.
Employees exhibiting complacency, low motivation, low or no goals are a direct reflection of missing leadership and/or corporate directives formulated to encourage and grow people. We should all recognize by now that there is a direct correlation between low CSI and attrition. There appears to be a growing dull existence regarding morale due to non-engaged employees. Why?
One big reason is what a dealer told me recently: “This business is now all about technology.” Really? Funny, but I have yet to see a dealership that has a showroom kiosk where customers can walk up and punch in the options for the blue truck they want to buy, get a value for their trade, get a receipt and drive away with a new vehicle. Maybe they exist, but I have yet to find one. Sure technology is important, but I think we are reaching an ugly level of compromise when we put technology ahead of our people. Technology should be in place only to facilitate and support the actions of our people and our processes.
If your people are well taught and provided with the proper educational tools, then they will become more productive and when that happens they become engaged employees, which in turn reduces expensive attrition, costs. If your processes are on target and upheld with a disciplined work ethic – the store becomes stronger. Without these in place, it becomes a bit like you asking a service technician to perform a head gasket change while handing him a crescent wrench. Instead of talking about how big your problems are, start talking about how big your employee’s talents and dealership processes are. I did have a number of dealers write me regarding my September article in which I offered a free strategic sales and marketing plan template by simply emailing me and requesting “The Plan.” I have to think about all the dealers who did not request it. Do they actually have a detailed plan in place or is it not important to for them to plan for the future success of their store and their people? I do not know. However, the ones that did request it are making changes and have adopted the notion that ideas are the beginning of all great achievements and I take my hat off to this group for the initiative to begin a positive change.
Can you institute a dramatic change in your dealership? Some think this is only for the big guys, but if we look at the major game changers over the last few years: Google, eBay, PayPal, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Etsy, Instagram, etc. How many of them were developed by big corporations? Zero!
Why are some managers fiercely resistant to changing things up a bit by instituting a solid plan?
There are a number of reasons…don’t know how; laziness; afraid of exposing themselves and their lack of knowledge; don’t care; ignorance arrogance – know everything already; doesn’t think it will make a difference; no confidence in their people to change; too weak a leader; indifference; and, the killer – complacency.
Leaders transform the present into something better. Goodbye yesterday and hello tomorrow.
Sure, technology can help you get exposure and get folks in, but then people take over the process. When you open a bank account what has to happen before you start using your debit card or writing checks?
That’s right – you have to make a deposit. Similarly, when we deal with people whether it be employees or customers, we have to make several “emotion” deposits with them before we make a single “emotional” withdrawal. I shopped a dealership recently. Salesperson walks up and said “welcome to (dealership) my name is Joe and you are?” Then, got very close and sticks out his hand. This guy made three (three) emotional withdrawals from my emotional bank account before he made any deposits. It saddens me to see the perpetuation of old techniques being employed in today’s new market. Guess they don’t know what they don’t know.
Invest some emotional deposits into your team and watch the difference it makes. Ok, sometimes they mess up. Instead of ruining their day and beating them up, identify the error and let them know the next time you are sure they will get it right. Let them know you have full faith in their talents and know they will make better decisions in the future. This way they can maintain their dignity and go out to pass on positive deposits with their customers.
As I wrap up my comments, let’s take a minute and look at what I hope we can agree is obvious in our industry.
1. Most Americans don’t have a positive perspective about the auto buying process.
2. The reality is, quite a few auto dealers and their people do a good job of taking care of the customer.
Do we have room to improve our performance? Absolutely!
Do we have the right people to execute a value added business strategy? With proper tools and training in most cases I believe we do.
The big challenge and the $64,000 question is: Do we have the leadership and the fortitude to implement these changes to streamline and improve the customer experience in our showrooms?
I have worked with both small and large dealers to turn things around and have met with great success. I know if you want to improve, it can be done because I have seen some great transitions over the last few years.
My concern is that if we don’t implement these changes then some company or entity will see this as a great opportunity to initiate those changes, improve the buying experience, and by then it could be disaster for old-school change resistant dealers.
I talk in depth about this in my recent Report on Google entitled Google: Friend or Foe of Auto Dealers, and their activities over the last few years. You can get this report by sending me an email. Simply request “Report” and I will fire you out a copy. It contains important things you need to know about to protect your future dealership interests.