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Tips to building a lasting culture at your car dealership

If you're looking to build a lasting culture at your dealership, these tips and strategies are a great place to start.

Your dealership’s culture is one of the essential factors in determining how successful it will be. Culture is the experiences, expectations, philosophy, and corporate values that are the foundation on which your car dealership is built. You have those, right?

This past week, an acquaintance stopped by his dealership to make an end-of-lease purchase—we’ll call him Paul. Paul said his sales guy recommended the lease purchase because, in this market, it was a better economic purchase than getting a new car.

He also said he spent an extra 45 minutes talking about cars they’ve owned and the current new car market. Paul likes the dealership because “the sales guy knows what he likes, remembers the names of his family, and they have great conversations. It’s a relationship.

That’s a great employee and, according to Paul, a great dealership. And I’m guessing that the dealership has an excellent culture and Paul has become that dealership’s latest evangelist because of it.

Through Paul’s experience, it’s easy to see why it’s crucial to have and live a consistent culture within the car dealership: the people who work for you are responsible for connecting with customers. Hopefully, they work at understanding their needs, meeting them where they are, and helping them find the right vehicle. Everyone who works for you needs to feel comfortable and happy at work. And “it’s about the money” isn’t a good value.

The same goes for customers; if they know they’ll be greeted with a friendly smile and helpful attitude every time they walk in the door, they’re more likely to come back again and again.

That’s why it’s so crucial that dealerships focus on building an exemplary culture—not just for employees’ sake but also because happy employees lead to satisfied repeat customers.

1. Define your culture values

You first need to define the cultural values you want to see in your car dealership. These values will help guide and shape your dealership’s culture, so they must be well-thought-out and specific.

For this exercise to be effective, you should do it with the entire team (or as many people as possible). The more people involved, the better chance you have at getting buy-in from everyone on what needs to change.

When employees are included in this process, they better understand why their role matters within the business, making them more likely to contribute personally and professionally as part of their job description.

If there aren’t enough employees or managers available for an in-person meeting, consider holding an online discussion where everyone can share ideas over instant messaging software like Slack or Google Hangouts Video Chat.

2. Live the culture you create

Once you have established your culture, it is time to live it and be an example that employees can follow. This means showing appreciation for your team members, being consistent with the values you’ve promoted, and creating a fun and engaging work environment.

3. Measure, adapt and repeat

You will want to assess the growth of your employees. You can measure this by:

  • Using a 360-degree approach, which means discussing with your employees’ peers and superiors
  • Looking at employee engagement surveys and retention rates
  • Measuring and documenting individual progress, such as how much they’ve grown in their job function or how they’ve improved in areas like communication skills or customer service
  • Make changes if something isn’t working and measure it again.

4. Let customers know you value them

  • If you were a customer, ask yourself what would make you want to buy from your car dealership. How would you like to feel valued as a customer?
  • Do you have a unique program for repeat customers, like discounts or rewards points that add up and can be redeemed for future purchases? If not, start one.
  • Figure out how much it will cost to set up these programs and compare that number with the lifetime value of each customer. In most cases, getting them back will be worth it because they will spend more money over time, even if they don’t live in your immediate area.

Five rules for success

Implement these tips in your car dealership to foster an environment of employee and customer growth.

  • Don’t be afraid to try something new.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback.
  • Don’t be afraid to take risks, even if it means failing first.

If you’re looking to build a lasting culture at your car dealership, these tips and strategies are a great place to start. By defining and living your culture values, measuring employee growth, letting customers know they’re valued, and promoting customer loyalty through loyalty programs or giveaways, you can create an environment where customers like Paul enjoy hanging around to talk with your employees. Then you’ll know you are successful.

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Steve Mitchell
Steve Mitchell
Steve Mitchell is a contributing writer and reporter for CBT News. He earned bachelor's degrees in Marketing and Television from the University of Texas in Austin and a Masters of Theology study from Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas. His passion for automobiles lead him to become a creative director for automotive marketing ad agency. Most recently, he was the manager of interactive marketing for Mitsubishi Motors, NA.

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