In the last couple of weeks, I spent some time with a couple of dealer principals who probably are 40 years apart in age. But they had something important in common. They both understood the importance of having a great relationship with their customers.
The young fellow must have picked it up intuitively, but my friend, who has been in the dealer business for quite a while and runs one of the best stores I have encountered in my days, certainly knows it from experience.
All the great dealerships I know of seem to have that in common. It doesn't matter whether you are in the new-car sales department, used cars or service. Building a relationship with your customer is the difference between being good and being great — and sometimes the difference between success and failure. I have watched dealerships with the wrong attitude and seen the competition eat them alive.
Consumers place tremendous value on that relationship, too, when it comes to choosing whom to trust for their next purchase or repair. It is the operating principle that everyone in the auto retailing business should be mindful of, regardless of how long they've been at it.
And yet something that seems so obvious is never that easy to achieve. There are too many dealerships in the country that are simply — and too often at the factory's encouragement — going for volume without a thought to building any sort of relationship with their customers.
But if things slow down a bit this year and everyone has to scramble to keep up with last year, they're going to wish they had those established relationships to fall back on.
This year, for many, it is back to the basics. Blocking and tackling are going to determine winners and losers. Let's hope you built plenty of great relationships during the good times. You might be very glad you did in the next few months.