When Earl Stewart's cell phone starts singing “When the Saints Go Marching In” and a picture of a red phone appears on the screen, he knows the call's origin: his Toyota dealership.
Three years ago, Stewart installed four red phones throughout his store in North Palm Beach, Fla. Customers at the dealership can call directly to his cell phone with problems — or compliments.
The phones are part of a customer service evolution that Stewart launched to set his dealership apart from competitors. The goal is to attract customers for life. Stewart also hosts bimonthly parties for recent car buyers, passes out business cards listing his home phone number and writes a weekly newspaper column.
“You want proactive and fully engaged customers,” says Stewart, who gave up his engineering career to work at his father's dealership in 1968. “They love you and become advocates for you.”
Stewart requires that his employees read Customers for Life, a customer service book written by Carl Sewell, who is also an auto dealer. And he gives copies to recent buyers during the bimonthly New Owner events organized by his wife, Nancy Stewart. The catered events usually draw about 100 to 200 people.
Although buyers receive Stewart's business card with home phone, no one has called, he says.