Monday, August 20, 2012

I'll Have a Carrot with That Stick

The only carrots that interest me are the number you get in a diamond. -Mae West

Automotive News recently reported that Chrysler has eradicated dealer incentives for customer satisfaction and eliminating penalties for dealers who don't build stores that meet the company's requirements. The automaker is leaving the customer experience and satisfaction up to the dealer.

General Motors tells its dealers that it is focused on the “customer experience” and that EBE is intended to give the customer the best possible experience. The experience is not about what color tile is on the floor, what hangs from your walls or what your receptionist desk looks like (or if you have one). The experience is about the time and care that each customer gets, both during and after the sale.

I learned a long time ago that you cannot pay people to care. GM can’t pay dealers to care and dealers can’t pay employees to care. We must hire people who have pride in their work and have the “people skills” necessary to carry out business as we intend.

I believe that you are much more concerned about providing the customer with a great experience if you sit next to your customers at your kids’ ballgames or at church or at a community function. The culture of a small rural store is much different than at a large store where customers can be (but aren’t necessarily) disposable. In a rural area, if you screw up the customer experience, that news is at the local coffee shop before your customer makes it home.

There does not seem to be anything wrong with the customer experience that GM customers are getting in the dealerships across South Dakota. They continue to reinforce dealership personnel with repeat business. According to the South Dakota Automobile Dealers Association, total market share for GM in South Dakota dealerships from January 2011 through June 2012 was 28.6% which is 68% more market share than GM’s national 18.0% YTD through July 2012. If the customer experience was poor, these customers would migrate to a different brand.

In the above referenced Automotive News article, Peter Grady, Chrysler's vice president for network development and fleet was quoted: "I believe the nature of the dealer is that the only thing better than making $1 million this year is making $2 million, and the only thing that's better than making $10 million is making $15 million," Grady said. "I think a dealer is inherently a competitive animal that wants to always strive to always be in some kind of a competition to make more money."

For anyone who has spent any time in a car dealership, Grady’s comment is obvious. Dealers don't need carrots and sticks from the factory; the marketplace provides all the incentives and disincentives needed. Programs like EBE and SFE are simply artificial carrots and sticks that cloud up the real processes. Multi-tier pricing destroys the credibility of the pricing model in the customer’s eyes.

Get rid of these programs and just focus on building world class vehicles. That has much more influence on the customer experience than any facility anywhere!

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