Improved cross-departmental communications creates a more positive environment for customers as well as managers and staff. 
 - Photo by hedgehog94 via Getty Images

Improved cross-departmental communications creates a more positive environment for customers as well as managers and staff.

Photo by hedgehog94 via Getty Images

Most of us have at least one dealership experience before we go to work in one. I remember the excitement of going to buy a new car with my family. I have often thought of these memories while helping families at my dealership. Vehicles are the second-biggest purchase most consumers will make in their lifetime, and we owe it to our customers to deliver the best service, satisfaction, and experience possible.

Unfortunately, at too many dealerships, customers are still seen as adversaries or targets, and departments are divided by invisible fences. To avoid falling into the old dealership mentality and ensure we can not only deliver the vehicle but retain the business, let’s take a closer look at three critical components of success in today’s market:

1. Communication

Few things provide a greater impact on the customer experience than a seamless communication effort between all departments. When there is positive, effective communication, the sky is the limit for success.

Good communication helps in all areas of the dealership and can go a long way toward creating a positive customer experience. If a customer walks into a dealership that is strong in communication verses one that doesn’t communicate well, the experience will be off-the-charts greater.

An example would look something like this: A customer walks through the lot with a salesperson, selects a vehicle, and walks into the building with their salesperson. When the salesperson walks to the desk or the sales manager’s office, rather than the customer being left alone, they are greeted by someone. It could be their F&I manager or anyone else, including the dealer.

The point is that the customers sees communication happening around their deal, those who need to know the details are getting them, and the customer is not left alone to wonder whether the dealership really cares about them and their needs.

2. Accountability

Accountability is a critical aspect of dealership work, and particularly so in the F&I department. If everyone is being held accountable for their job and duties, it will help everyone succeed. A dealer who invests time, money, and resources in its employees should demand that everyone be held to the same high standards.

This outlook affects everything from accurate completion of all paperwork to early involvement of other team members. Getting it right not only ensures a good experience for the customer but saves time!

And we must make sure we are doing the right thing the right way. Fairly or unfairly, the onus of front-end compliance tends to fall on the business office. F&I managers must ensure accountability is being communicated and carried out daily. Leading by example is the best way to effectively hold staff accountable.

3. Teamwork

Teamwork will make a dealership sink or swim. We love it when customers say, “Wow, this has been an amazing experience!” I am 100% convinced this is the result of good teamwork.

Effective teamwork demands that everyone genuinely care about and respect each other and remain focused on the customer experience. To start, the F&I office should work with every department in the dealership. It makes the progression from sales to finance to service second nature. When everyone comes together to reach one common goal, it creates a positive, productive environment.

That is the key to separating ourselves from the competition. We need to make the dealership a fun atmosphere for our customers. If we communicate effectively, are held accountable, and genuinely care and respect one another as co-workers and friends, we can all succeed.

A dealership is a great place to build your personal and professional career. We get to meet and serve all different types of customers. But to ensure they come back for their next service appointment — and, ultimately, their next vehicle — we have to commit to a mentality that puts the customer first and delivers an experience they can’t get anywhere else.

Jesse Johnson is a finance manager at Knoepfler Chevrolet in Sioux City, Iowa. Email him at [email protected]

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