It's one thing to go out of your way to help a customer and another to do it the Audi Mechanicsburg way.
Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania dealership -- near Harrisburg, the state capital -- sent a sales technician and a master mechanic on a two hour-plus, 113-mile drive, to replace the tires and wheels that were stolen off a customer's A8 sedan.
The owner had parked his car at a hotel near the Philadelphia International Airport and left on a Caribbean holiday. He returned to find his car propped up on landscaping rocks.
The car owner "called here in a panic," says Steven Baun, general manager of Audi Mechanicsburg and Sun Motor Cars Porsche, housed in the same building. "He had the sport package with wheels, and the car was almost sitting on the ground."
The owner didn't want his car towed by an emergency service for fear it would be damaged. It was 4 p.m. on a Friday, and the dealership closed at 4:30, but Baun didn't flinch. A limousine was dispatched to pick up the Audi owner and his wife and drive them home.
Two employees volunteered to make the drive. They emptied a parts vehicle, pulled the wheels off a new A8 and headed out on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. They returned the car to the owner's house in Harrisburg at 2:30 the next morning.
It was costly and time consuming. The owner's insurance covered the wheels and tires, but he wasn't charged for the service.
But there was an upside for the dealership because six months later the rescued owner bought a new A8. Baun says he also "sent a lot of business our way" and even gave the two dealership employees lifetime memberships at the Gold's Gym health clubs that he owned.
That wasn't the first time Audi Mechanicsburg went above and beyond what's expected of a dealership. Baun says the idea is baked into his business model.
He doesn't dare add up the man hours expended, but Baun says superior service is what sets his store apart from its competition. And in a secondary market such as Mechanicsburg, he says positive word-of-mouth is essential.
"Treat the customer as you would yourself -- and sometimes it does cost you money," Baun says. "We don't get any compensation."
He says the extras the dealership provides are not part of the Audi Emergency Roadside Services program run by Allstate Roadside Assistance and free to new-car buyers for four years.
Audi of America executives like what Baun is doing. They asked him to speak in October to a group of dealership employees at Lincoln Center in New York. The event was part of a daylong seminar launching the brand's "Kundenbegeisterung" customer service program. Audi translates the long German word very loosely as "creating Audi fans."
Seminars were held this fall in 14 U.S. cities, and about 15,000 dealership employees were invited to learn how to engage customers better, personalize sales and service and learn from other industries.
"Audi Mechanicsburg is helping to lead the way," says Jeffrey Tolerico, director of Audi of America's Eastern region. "It exemplifies superlative customer service."