Winning the face game
Dealer managers tell me time and time again: “I’m the face of the store and people want to talk to me when they call or come in.” There are both victories and setbacks here. The victories are imbedded in the impact the manager has made on the customer — the service and communication rendered, the value offered and transferred to a customer who has now gained a sense of loyalty. The setbacks are also imbedded in this very impression. If a customer wants and has to speak to the store manager — and this is multiplied by many customers per day — how then does that manager get anything else done? How as a better model can a manager get virtually anyone in the store to be the face of the business? How does that affect both a customer’s perception and the level of service they will actually get?
As dealer managers balance these rewards, they need to know what are the risks? The last thing an upset customer at the counter wants to see is a manager in a back office not willing to just say hello or recognize them — let alone handle their problem. Customers have feelings, and SalesMinded dealers are always sensitive to and willing to drop what they are doing and help anyone in their store who is upset! Please don’t forget this huge insight in the pursuit of more “managing time.”
In these economic times, we all want loyal customers and lots of them! Make sure to have a careful balance between the risk/challenges in pursuit of solutions.
Challenges: Today’s dealer manager has a huge plate of responsibilities: Sales and profit demands, inventory levels, store appearance, staying up on new products, training, creating a service-oriented team — and the list goes on. If the store manager is the only “go-to” guy who can handle customers on the phone and in the store, the store has huge limitations in productivity. Others on the team need to get involved in these customer relationships.
SalesMinded solutions: Here are six strategies a manager can employ to really make a dent in the balance between them having to engage all customers versus getting others on the staff involved:
1. Meet as a team. It is very difficult to perform as a customer-oriented team if you don’t meet and communicate as a team. So many dealers I talk with skip meetings as a store or business unit team because they are “too busy.” Too busy means the customer relations duties will fall back on the store leader. Stay with your meeting plan!
2. Break down customer interactions with counter employees and technicians. Discuss with them the top five customer interaction/service situations and how to effectively handle each one. If a customer comes in and asks for “Tom the manager,” make sure a counter sales person can say, “Tom is with another customer (or on the phone), how may I help you?” “Please tell me about your situation and let’s look at what you may need.”
3. Overcome ego. This is a tough one. Often the dealer manager is the one who creates their own problem. They say to themselves, “No one can handle customers like me, so I need to handle my customers — that way they get great service and stay loyal.” That’s a trap. A leader has to say to himself instead, “I can’t handle every customer, and I will take the time to teach John and Mary how I interact with customers, meet their needs, and solve their problems.”
4. Train and role play. Walk through the words, situations and feelings with your store team of both you the seller, and the customer/buyer when they walk in and only want the store manager. “How may I help you?” “Tell me about your situation, and I will help you right now.” (Again) “Tom is with another customer right now, but I will help you — let’s look together at your service or tire needs.” “May I walk out to your car with you and take a look?” The leader has to transfer the specifics of the situation to make a customer as comfortable (or more so) with another store employee as they are with the leader.
5. Get other store employees proactive on the phone. Let’s say a customer has called in with a problem and wants to talk to Tom, the manager. Tom needs to have the conviction to sit with the counter sales person, brief them on the situation, and have that sales person call the customer. “Mrs. Johnson, I’m Jerry at ABC Tire Store — Tom asked me to call you and discuss the situation with your car. I have some good news, we are...( discuss solution).” The sales person offers the solution and then says, “Please call me, Jerry, back if you need anything else at any time, and I will help you right away. Thank you for your business, Mrs. Johnson.” Until Mrs. Johnson hears another voice or sees someone else solve her problems and make her feel good, she is tethered to Tom the store manager.
6. Have a leadership “default position” in stepping in to help customers. A real leader will train his staff that when a customer is starting to brew some emotions or insists on seeing the manager, that at that moment and without hesitation, the staffer at the counter must politely state to the customer, “Excuse me, of course I will get Tom, and he will be right here in a moment,” then will approach the manager (if he’s in the store) and assert that his help is needed with the customer. Tom’s “default” is to remember the customer is always king — and goes to treat him as such. A manager freeing up his time can never be an excuse to cancel the Golden Rule.
The dealer manager has to take the steps to balance what they can physically do for customers versus leading, training and teaching their staff to step up and help with building a great base of loyal customers. Nothing is more satisfying for a store manger to hear from a customer, “I’m sure glad you had Jerry call me — he did a great job, and I’ll call him back when I need anything.” ■
Doug Trenary, president of Doug Trenary’s Fast-Track Inc., is an award-winning author, speaker, and teacher who has helped companies of multiple sizes, including independent tire dealerships, increase sales and productivity since 1985. His book, “The SalesMind,” focuses on how to establish strong positions with yourself, your buyers, and your time. For more information, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (404) 262-3339.
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