If you have been around our team at Bob Clements International for any length of time, you know we are fanatics when it comes to your dealership generating obscene amounts of money! In order to do that, you must have a business that meets your customers’ expectations throughout the experience. Wish as you may, your business can’t exist without your customers. Most of the dealerships we work with sell a high-quality product, provide excellent service, and have the right parts stocked for when customers need them and they charge a premium price for those services. The struggle that many dealerships run into is keeping the professionalism of your team at the level it needs to be to justify a premium price.
- How your people look = how customers perceive the value of your dealership
Your personal presentation and the personal presentation of your people is important in how people perceive your business. That may sound like an obvious statement, but the core of it is this: if you want your dealership to be a business that gets a premium price for your wholegoods, parts, and service, you and your people have to look the part. People get nervous spending thousands of dollars with someone who looks like they have never seen that amount of money in their life. However, if we can give the customer a perceived value by the way our people appear and interact with them, customers will feel more comfortable spending their money at your dealership.
Personal presentation goes far beyond physical appearances, even though that is a major component. The professionalism of your people when they interact with customers on the phone or through email is also incredibly important. Do you have standards that you require your people to abide by?
When I call a dealership, oftentimes the phone is answered like this: “ABC Dealership, this is Jim”. The tone that is set from “Jim” may give me the impression that I am an inconvenience to the person on the other end. Because I know the owners and managers at these dealerships, I know that isn’t the case at all, but we have to look at each area and ask if our people’s presentation in each department is actually exhibiting who we are as a dealership.
Ask yourself these questions:
- If I were to walk into my dealership as a customer, would I be comfortable giving any of my employees xx amount of money?
- What is being portrayed by my employees when they answer the phone?
- What standards do I have for my employees, and are they aware of them?
- Am I utilizing my employee handbook?
- You may be thinking, “Well, I know this is true, but how do I implement this change?”
First, set your expectations. What do you expect from your employees in regards to dress, personal appearance, and communication? Once you decide, communicate that to them. Communicate consistently and point out people who have done a good job of portraying the image you want your dealership to have. There is something powerful about positive reinforcement, it takes you very little time to tell someone they are doing a good job, costs you nothing, and yields great results.
The next thing you need to do is make sure that your expectations are clearly outlined in your employee handbook. I know, an employee handbook, that sounds like a lot of work. But, we have to keep in mind that your employee handbook is the process for your HR department. I am aware that many dealerships don’t have employee handbooks. I get it. You didn’t start your dealership because you loved dealing with HR issues and paperwork. However, the HR side of the business is going to be there as long as you aren’t your only employee. If an employee comes to you and has a question about something, there is a breakdown in process. The same holds true in the Human Resources side of the dealership.
All of this to say, there should be a page in your employee handbook that addresses what is expected of your employees in regard to personal appearance and what steps will be taken if the appearance of the employees does not meet the standard that you have set. We have an “Employee Handbook Template” available for dealerships that you can find here, in our Dealer Toolbox.
- Be consistent
One of the keys to encouraging your employees to maintain a professional appearance is being consistent with your expectations and how you want your business portrayed. This starts with you as the owner or manager of your dealership. You are the standard for your people. If you don’t adhere by what you are asking your people to do, you will be saying one thing and doing another which will not give your dealership sustainable change. Taking an objective look at your business and your people regularly will set up your business to portray the image you have worked hard to create: A dealership with premium products and services that are worth the premium investment.