When Eric Savage worked for his family's dealership, he was always on the hunt for a tenacious salesperson, someone motivated by profit. Now, in his own dealership group, he still values profit, but he wants the best customer experience to drive his sales associates' tenacity.
Savage, president of Freedom Auto Group in Pennsylvania, said he trains his sales associates to ask each custo- mer questions that would lead to a sale, but serving the customer comes first. He describes his ideal candidates this way: "It kills them not to be able to solve the customer's problem," even if that means sending the customer to another dealership.
Job descriptions in dealerships are changing dramatically. So are pay plans. Much of that change is fueled by the mission to make customer experience a top priority.
For the past year or so, the industry has buzzed with advice for achieving a positive customer experience, said Chris May, manager of sales process development at JM&A Group, an F&I product provider and training company in Deerfield Beach, Fla. Dealers are looking to hire employees from the hospitality industry, high-end retail companies and technology retailers.
"Historically, dealerships were very process-driven," May said. "In this marketplace, it's much more important to be customer-focused because customers are coming into the dealership with their own experiences and preconceived notions."
To provide a positive customer experience, dealers are altering employees' job descriptions with flexible hours, reliable pay plans and an atmosphere of teamwork.
Job descriptions were fairly loose in the past, May said. Dealers hired "warm bodies" and churned through a "subset of them until you found the right one."
Now dealers have a more thoughtful approach to hiring. Many say they want someone with emotional intelligence, accountability and time-management skills, for example.
Candice Crane, vice president of dealer solutions at Hireology, a Chicago consulting firm that helps dealerships recruit and hire, said the most successful candidates are concerned "less about making a whole bunch of money and more about meeting the customers' needs."
"It's more altruistic, looking for people who are passionate about the customer experience versus money," she said.