The holiday season is the perfect time of year to express your gratitude for the important things in life, and for dealers, one of those important things is your hard-working, dedicated staff. So, what can you do better to recognize and show appreciation for your team? Our guest today has a few ideas. Joining us today is Chase Abbott, Vice President of Sales for Cox Automotive VinSolutions and Dealertrack F&I, to discuss the importance of practicing employee appreciation at your dealership all year long.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Welcome to CBT, Chase.
Chase Abbott: Thanks Jim. I appreciate you guys having me back.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Why is it so important to take the time to tell your employees thank you?
Chase Abbott: So, let me start with a little bit of a quick story. Circa 2003, I started selling cars. I remember it took me about six months to convince my GM that we needed to even have a Thanksgiving feast at the dealership. After a lot of persistence beats resistance, I finally got him to sign off on that. I remember when we did it, it went really well, and the employees started to feel happiness and fulfillment, and I could see a culture shift beginning to change in these people’s faces. Right when that happened, the GM comes out of the office and says, “All right, back to work. Salespeople on the point or on the phone.” I know, right?
Jim Fitzpatrick: Kind of missed something there.
Chase Abbott: I’m sitting there going, “What did he just gain from that?” I mulled it over, and the answer that I came up with was absolutely nothing.
Jim Fitzpatrick: No. No, no.
Chase Abbott: I feel like that as an industry, we’re a little bit of lagging behind in this. Let me share some statistics with you. 40% of employed Americans say that they’d put more energy into their work if they were recognized more often. 82% of those employed Americans said that they don’t feel like their supervisors recognize them enough, and 79% said one of the reasons they left was a lack of appreciation. It’s in an industry where we have such a tremendous turnover problem, recognition is one of the top things we can do to attract and retain this talent, and we’ve really got to start taking this thing seriously.
Jim Fitzpatrick: What do dealerships in your opinion need to do to better express gratitude for their teams?
Chase Abbott: Here’s what I would say. A lot of times the glory hogs, if you will, are the people that sold the most cars.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Every time.
Chase Abbott: And that’s every time. I would tell you to dig a little bit deeper. Utilize your CRM, utilize reporting, whatever you have, but start recognizing the things that helped lead to that sale, or that high RO out of your service drive. Like, who did the most phone appointments from the BDC? Let’s recognize that person. Who had the highest average gross? Who’s providing the best experience and getting the most money on these deals? Or, I’ve got a new one for you. Who did the most charity work last month, or last quarter? Let’s start celebrating those type of things, because if you’re having problems coming up with specifics on what you need to go after, figure out what helps lead to that sale. Dig in your data and start recognizing folks for other than just getting the car over the curb. It’s not just about that.
Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s exactly right. And all too often, sales managers, and GSMs and such, can become sarcastic in getting their point across to sales teams and such, and use humor in the wrong area to put somebody down. They think that they’re Mr. Comedian Guy, and all too often, that’s a major problem among employees that will walk away feeling completely just put down, and not being enthused about being at work at that particular dealer group, right?
Chase Abbott: If these employees aren’t in a good state of mind, we are going to … Customer experience is driven by the experience you give your employees. Your employees have to be in a fantastic mental state to provide the customer experience that you need them to provide to beat your competition. The internet changed everything, and customer experience is such a big part, so we cannot forget about this and just keep running the horses into the ground.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Right. How does employee recognition play into the increased competition for talent we’re seeing out there today?”
Chase Abbott: You know, people don’t leave their jobs. They leave their managers. I think this is a direct reflection upon the lack of recognition. We use an internal system here at our business that we can go on at anytime about any single thing, and recognize the person and give that person points that they can go to a catalog and get a gift card, or buy something for the kids. It’s a nice way to stoke the culture fire, if you will. That’s really organic once it gets going. We’re living proof of proof of that, so I think dealerships can look at some of these programs out there, or encourage it themselves, but really it’s a top-down initiative that they’re going to need to make sure takes place, but there’s a lot of ways that you can go do it.
We’ve got to remember, saying thank you costs absolutely nothing. Real progressive salespeople that are really good, they’re going to look for these kinds of things before they even entertain talking to someone at another store, because they know the auto industry as a whole is not great in this arena, so it’s really easy to see the contrast on who is and who isn’t before you even walk into a dealership.
Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. And last time I checked, back me up on this, for a sales manager or GSM, even a dealer principal, and a general manager, vice president of a dealership, as well as F&I people, they don’t make any money without a very effective sales staff, right? So, you talk about giving thanks. Those are the men and women that build your houses, that clothed your kids, that put you on vacations. So, if anybody should be thankful to anyone, it’s that management team inside of a dealership to their sales department, right?
Chase Abbott: Yes.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Because there’s nothing happening without the sale of a car taking place.
Chase Abbott: Yeah. Nobody makes them it to the F&I box to buy anything without some kind of a test drive or sales process ahead of that. So sometimes, we can get a little high on the hog, you know, literally, and not do what we need to do. I’m even going further than that. Go tell the lube tech, that does lube oil and filters all day, thank you. And I’m not saying that as a service manager. I’m saying that as a dealer principal. While they may seem trivial to you in the tradition lens, it is very relevant today, and I’m here to tell you that.
Jim Fitzpatrick: I spoke to a dealer here in Atlanta who’s got 12 dealerships, and he’s built a phenomenal culture. To get into his store, it takes somebody dying, you know, so that you can jump in that slot. Everybody wants to work for this auto group. We had a talk about culture. I said, “What are some of the key things that you do?” He said, “Well, I’ll give you a for instance.” He said,” I believe in never taking a lunch alone.” He said, “Now, we have 500 plus employees in our group,” he said, “but I never lunch alone.” He said, “I always take an associate that works for me, whether they be somebody in the service bay, or whether they be somebody in the showroom, or maybe in the back office, or an F&I manager.”
He said, “It’s as easy as a $12 lunch that I buy them, and I get to know them as an individual on a personal side. Get to know a little bit about what motivates them and such. And then at the same time I’ll ask them, if you were the GM today, what change would you make in the dealership?” He goes, “You’ll be amazed as to the great insights and input that I get from the people. And they love it. They’re having lunch literally with the dealer.” He said, “I can’t tell you how far that’s gone, to just have a simple lunch.”
Chase Abbott: You have to maintain a certain sense of humbleness about you, I think that’s what a lot of dealer principles and general managers struggle with. That they know the way, and this is how to do it, and we don’t need to do those things. Just produce those results. And you’re absolutely right. If you inspect what you expect, and you ask your employees what you need to do, it is not some big mystery. We don’t need to call Sherlock. It is 100% in front of you, but do you care enough to go pursue it, is the real question. And folks, when I hear stories like that, it just warmed my heart a little bit that somebody’s taking this seriously, and that’s a fantastic operator, and I commend whoever that is.
Jim Fitzpatrick: This is great dealers. Take an ear here, and listen to what we’re saying here, because I think it’s good input, and certainly Chase Abbott, Vice President of Sales for Cox Automotive Vin Solutions and Dealertrack F&I, I appreciate your time today. This has been very enlightening. I love your enthusiasm for the topic. This is great, and hopefully, we can have you back sometime soon to talk more about this.
Chase Abbott: Absolutely, Jim. Thank you, and thanks to the folks over at CBT. You guys do such a great job for our industry in keeping us in the know and on the cutting edge. I tune in every day, and thanks for all you guys do. I really appreciate you having me back.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Appreciate those comments. All right. Take care.
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