I love my Dodge RAM 1500. It has a HEMI engine and leather seats. It sits up above traffic a bit so I can see past the cars in front of me. It’s comfortable to drive and even has a radio that picks up AM stations! Purchased new toward the end of 2009, my truck is paid for. I love that fact even better! It’s just now getting close to 100,000 miles. In fact, that is when my next service is due. When we bought it, the car manufacturers were struggling so much that they even threw in a lifetime power train warranty.
We purchased this vehicle from Allen Samuels Dodge, a growing family dealership. We liked them so much that I have had them perform all my service. I want this my truck last far beyond the 100,000 miles that it is almost at. In 30 years, I want them to regret their decision to include a lifetime warranty. I might be too old to drive, but that’s not the point!
I loved the service that Allen Samuels provided. They would walk me through all the service that was needed and what to expect on my next visit. They established a relationship with me and I with them. They knew that getting a car serviced was almost as fun as going to the dentist.
About two years ago, Allen Samuels sold all of their dealerships to AutoNation. To me, AutoNation is the Walmart of car dealerships. They are an impersonal corporate entity. Being as loyal as I am (Monica would call it stuck in a routine), I still got my car serviced at the same place even though they have changed names.
I just came back from getting my car serviced and this time I won’t forget how the experienced has changed from a family owned dealership to a corporate entity. While the experience wasn’t entirely bad, it was long and frustrating and terribly impersonal.
When it was Allen Samuels, I knew exactly who would be there. They were either related to the family or a very long-term employee. I would be greeted with a smile and time would be taken to help me understand not only the service needed at that time but also what to expect in the future so I could plan ahead.
This time, none of the faces were familiar and smiles were replaced with half-hearted attempts to look pleasant. No time was taken to understand what service will be needed in the future. What really struck me though is that the wall where they had all of the employees pictures was gone. Instead it was an empty wall with sun-faded spots where the pictures once were. There was no attempt to hide the fact that the pictures were gone.
It is very evident that while AutoNation touts itself as “the largest U.S. retail of new cars, trucks & SUVs”, the focus on people is gone. The focus on people has been replaced by a focus on profits and cash flow.
As your business grows, you must be aware of your profits and cash flow. However, you must never lose focus on the people who make your profits and cash flow possible. I have heard over and over again that customers crave relationships with local businesses as corporate entities are busy chasing the almighty dollar. More often that not, people are not just buying a product, but they are investing in a relationship with you.
This is the only way that you will be able to compete with Walmart, IKEA, Target and all the other corporate retailers. As they continue to struggle and lose focus on people, you can attract customers through the relationships that you build with them.
I wish AutoNation well and I hope they are immensely successful. Meanwhile, I’m going to find a locally owned business for the next service on my Dodge.
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