At Sterling McCall Lexus in Houston, customers can get help setting up their iPads, advice on choosing the right cellphone and even a breakfast prepared by a country club chef -- all for free.
The complimentary services are boosting the dealership's bottom line by bringing customers into the store more often, says General Manager Joey Dupuis.
About 18 months ago, the dealership started a team to teach customers how to use the technology in Lexus vehicles. Today, many customers return to the store seeking help with other tech devices.
Customers also come in to enjoy a gourmet breakfast each Saturday. The dealership started offering that perk in mid-2011 to drum up more Saturday service business.
"What's started happening is our customers really appreciate the time they spend at the dealership," Dupuis says.
Edward Yosowitz is a physician, but he says he's "not the smartest person in the world with electronics."
A onetime patient of his, Lisa Gallagher, is a technology specialist at Sterling McCall Lexus, where Yosowitz bought his LS 460 in February.
"It's a blessing they have her," Yosowitz says. "I have sent some of my doctor friends and other friends to the dealership, and the first thing I tell them is, 'You have to talk to Lisa to help you on the technology.'"
Initially, Dupuis was reluctant to form a technology team that would require staffing, training and certification.
But Lexus required all of its dealerships to have such a team because of the additional technology in its vehicles, Dupuis says. A dealership of Sterling McCall's size requires a two-member team, he says.
"I was hesitant at first because it is an additional expense. Even though Lexus has a portion of the money coming back to you as part of margin restructuring to cover it, it was still money in our front end margin going away," Dupuis says. He declined to discuss specific margin and cost figures.
But Dupuis soon noticed a return on his investment as the technology service grew into a customer-retention tool.
"Our technology specialist answered some questions about an older car and the customer was real impressed with what the older car can do," Dupuis says. "But when she told him what a new car can do and showed him, it resulted in a sale of a new car."
Sterling McCall Lexus is owned by Group 1 Automotive Inc. Group 1 declined to release the number of new and used vehicles the dealership sells per year.