Best dealerships? Just look for the happy employees
It pays to treat employees well. That message was hammered home by the 100 dealerships honored as Automotive News' Best Dealerships To Work For in 2012.
As reported in this issue, the winners are a cross section of American dealerships. They do business all over the country and represent most brands. They are big, small, privately owned, publicly owned, part of a group or stand-alone mom-and-pop operations. It makes no difference.
What they have in common is respect for their employees and an understanding that when employees consider a particular dealership a good place to work it changes the business model.
High employee turnover, a costly problem at many dealerships, becomes a thing of the past.
Satisfied employees tell their friends that the dealership is a great place to work, which makes recruiting easier.
Happy employees make happy customers when a strong ESI -- employee satisfaction index -- translates smoothly into a strong CSI.
The word-of-mouth good will that spreads throughout the community is more effective than traditional advertising.
The 100 dealerships use a variety ways to show they care. There are weekly massages, tickets to sporting events, discount purchases, even on-the-spot cash awards for just doing the right thing and being helpful to customers. Some ideas are unusual; others have been used for years. But few seem costly, which means the return on investment is overwhelming.
At last week's gala celebration in Chicago where the 100 winning dealerships were honored, dealers swapped ideas, traded tips and looked for other ways to boost ESI at their stores.
There was a common denominator among the best dealerships: The old way of doing business has to be left in the past.
Increasingly, dealership employees are demanding changes -- at a time when attracting good, young talent is becoming more difficult. That means dealerships have to offer flexible working conditions and flexible compensation models.
The old method of doing business -- the general manager demands strict hours with a guiding philosophy that "moving the metal" is the only differentiator -- is long gone.
Customers are increasingly armed with more information, which requires a level of training and new-employee orientation never seen before in the retail space. Dealers must adapt. And it is good to see that there are leaders in the industry that are making those fundamental changes.
As more dealers realize the benefits of making their dealerships among the best places to work by changing the culture, the public's image of dealerships will benefit.
It's common sense, and it's the right thing to do.