At 3 p.m. each day, the scent of fresh-baked cookies wafts through the hallways, offices and showroom of North Park Lincoln in San Antonio. A salesperson does the baking.
"What's better than when you walk through a place and smell chocolate chip cookies?" says Billy Vaughn, 54, general manager and partner at North Park Lincoln. "It gives customers the sense that the dealership is dedicated to them."
In addition to cookies, Vaughn provides customers with such amenities as complimentary bottled water, car washes and morning pastries. North Park's customer perks -- and its high retail sales -- have attracted the attention of Ford Motor Co. executives. They view Vaughn's practices as a model for the way Lincoln dealers should handle their customers.
"We'd want them to do many of the things he does today and more," says C.J. O'Donnell, Lincoln's group marketing manager. "There are people who have an innate understanding of the luxury marketplace. His performance speaks for itself."
Specifically, O'Donnell notes Vaughn's innovative thinking. For example, prior to meeting with Ford leaders in October, Vaughn pushed Ford to consider investing in "people at the dealership level," O'Donnell says.
That means adjusting margins so dealers can reward staff for exceptional work.
"Billy's made us think harder and longer about those issues," O'Donnell says.
Ford hopes Vaughn's example will help Lincoln dealerships take on Lexus and other luxury segment rivals as Ford's top brand moves upscale. But Vaughn, speaking from experience, cautions that there are limits to how readily Lincoln can challenge Lexus.