As we embarked upon treacherous waters and not see clearly what lies ahead, retail car business is confronted with substantial transformation to keep up. There is no doubt that autonomous vehicles are coming, electrification will one day take over fossil fuel and collective transportation and ride share concepts will grow increasingly in popularity. There are already sparks of awakening out there by some auto retailers who are mostly of younger generation and capable of seeing the inevitable change. Some already started diversifying or divesting either by calculating their exit strategy or planning ahead to join the new world of transportation in the near future.

One of the most important shifts in all consumer direct businesses is the new level of customer service and its superiority to product or the sale. Human relations both from employees’ perspective and customers, is the forefront of evolution. When you combine this process with creative thinking and finding ways also to cut cost presents itself with some intriguing ideas in developing talent.

Time has come in the latest stages of conventional car business to develop what I call the 2.0 version of process as it relates to customers. Typically, in a retail environment customers have two basic groups of contact, Variable department which is vehicle sales and the fixed operations. These two worlds in today’s environment are in complete disconnect, one hand does not know what the other is doing at any given time. Therefore, staffing is different when it comes to sales and service customer contacts. Taking into consideration the significance of these relationships and keeping it perpetual going forward, there needs to be a new process that combines these two functions in a retail environment and have single contact customer relationship from cradle to grave to service the same customer whether it is selling them a car or taking care of their vehicle through their ownership experience. This of course requires a new breed of talent that needs to be recruited and trained in both areas in order to be effective and efficient. In most cases there may be good candidates among existing staff who would meet the requirements. In this case the primary qualities would obviously include exceptional people skills, high level of drive and discipline, above average education that includes at a minimum being an efficient user of technology, well spoken, proficient in social media and of course a great listener.

We are currently developing some in house courses to provide the tools to develop what I would call the new “Customer Relationship Managers” who would do it from soup to nuts when it comes to customer’s needs whether its buying a car or servicing it or anything in between. Our view of the structure is of course a team concept of 3 people. Under the relationship manager two apprentices would be training as future managers while at the same time assisting the team leader to pick up the slack. The key here is hiring the right manager with a great pay that takes care of the sales and service functions combined and therefore eliminating the conventional salesperson and the service advisor perhaps to a great extend even the F&I manager. We believe this economy of scale will allow retailers to hire quality customer contact managers and pay them well, while training apprentices at reasonable cost to help with the tasks. Our workshops will become available sometime in November and we are anxious to introduce it. For those of you who are interested to hear more please reach out to me by phone at (310) 717 1876 or by email would like to hear from you.

See you next month.