Felicity Callas and Krista Parise
Achievement: Boosted sales and customer satisfaction as service advisers for Mercedes-Benz Manhattan
Whenever Mercedes-Benz Manhattan service advisers Felicity Callas and Krista Parise patronize other businesses, they act as detectives. When they are treated well at hotels, restaurants or elsewhere, they incorporate those businesses' tactics to improve customer satisfaction in their dealership's service drive.
"I think our managers are tired of us bringing examples of great customer service from other companies," Parise says with a laugh. When she spots a good practice, she thinks, "We should totally implement that here."
While at a hotel recently, Callas needed a safety pin for her dress. She called the front desk and within minutes, an employee knocked on her door and handed her an envelope with her name printed on it containing about 20 styles and sizes of safety pins.
"That really made me want to come back to work and step up the bar even more," she said.
Mercedes-Benz Manhattan, as the German automaker's only company-owned store in the U.S., is often a test bed for programs and procedures.
Callas and Parise go about improving the customer experience in slightly different ways. Callas is more proactive. "When I wake up in the morning, I ask myself, 'What do I want to do today?'" says Callas. "I'll wake up with a plan. You have to set yourself a goal. You can't just walk in in the morning and not know what you are going to do." Some days, she says, her goal is to sell 10 oil changes. "You have to treat it as your own business," she says.
Parise, in contrast, responds to what she sees as her customers' needs. In particular, she is very aware of how valuable their time is. "The biggest complaint I get here is the condition of tires. The roads in New York are terrible, and so it is easy to show a customer when they need an alignment. And so I am the alignment queen." Alignments aren't cheap, but she wants her customers to go as long as possible without having to buy new tires, and without having to return to the dealership repeatedly.
The service department has traditionally not been a big draw for women seeking work in dealerships, but Callas and Parise are where they want to be. Callas grew up in Australia around cars — her father works at a dealership in Hawaii — and raced cars as a youth. Parise wanted to work in high-end luxury after college, saw an opening at the Mercedes store and decided to "give it a shot."
Says Parise: "There is a very emotional aspect to being a service adviser. You do build relationships. And I think women are way better at that than men. You do end up succeeding in the long run a lot of times more so than male counterparts."
Callas says she enjoys the job's variety. "You're not chained to the desk. You are not walking into the same job and same situation every day. It is such a self-rewarding job that you just want to please people all the time." Her goal is to become an area service manager for Mercedes-Benz.
Parise also sees herself in a bigger role. "I want to run customer experience for Mercedes-Benz or another high-end luxury manufacturer. Mercedes has a very strong customer advocacy department and I like the way they operate. It would be nice to take the experiences of what we learned in the lane and share that."