The other day I was bimbling along in my cocooned world of Rover’s patented leather and walnut when I was overtaken by a Hyundai i40. ‘What’s the fuss about that’, you may think, but I had to rub my eyes partly due to the fact that I actually found it to be a nice looking bit of tin. Being en route towards Gatwick, there also happens to be a Hyundai dealer there, so I decided that I would pop by just for a ‘blimp’. I trundled onto the forecourt and it was everything you would expect of a modern Pacific Rim dealership.
All the wares were parked in a slanted, row looking ship-shape and Bristol fashion with no gawdy whitewash screen scribbling or day glo boards thrown into the windscreens – just a selection of immaculate motors displaying the asking prices. Customer parking areas were clearly displayed, and in a rare case these days, you could actually park in them – not a single dealer sign-written demonstrator was in sight. Plipping the lock button, I left the Rover behind me, entered the showroom and headed for the i40 that was sat dead centre of the spacious emporium.
Some of you may recall the horror I encountered in a nearby Citroen dealer a little while back with disinterested staff and back row receptionists seeming to be far more interested in Facebook or text messages than looking professional. The moment I walked through the door, a office girl passed me by with a cheery ‘hi there’ and a sales chap sat on his desk gave eye contact and bid me a hearty good morning. Not hard is it? Right away I felt secure in the knowledge these guys (and gals) were on the ball.
Doing the usual walk round looking and obligatory opening and closing the doors, the sales chap spoke up by saying ‘have a good over it and I’ll speak with you in a moment when you have your bearings’ – wow! That could have been just me a few years ago. Sometimes a simple acknowledgement and appreciation of your presence is enough to suffice, better than being ignored or even worse, jumped on by some oik in a cheap suit before you have even opened your car door. As promised two or three minutes later, the exec raised to his feet and came over towards me.
He was textbook – shook my hand, gave me his name and asked for mine then asked me what had brought me into the dealership today – oh I could have kissed him. In no uncertain terms, I told him I was not in the market currently but rather than disappear with a puff of smoke like some kind of Genie from the lamp, he was happy to just to tell me about the car and answer any questions I may have. Now, I do know a thing or three about ‘pitch patter’ and while he was subtly still ‘qualifying me’ by asking me what my current steed was etc, he was a world away from the hard sell tactics.
In next to no time, I was no longer interested in the car I had come to view, but more in awe of his relaxed and friendly approach to handling customers. Spotting his in tray on his desk, I noticed there was a credible number of deal files that told me he had plenty of pending deals which is often a fair indication to a guys performance. So after becoming conscious of not wishing to keep him from his craft, I pulled the conversation around by asking for a brochure and choosing to leave. Even there, he did things just right – I was offered his business card though I did decline to hand over my personal details.
He was more than understanding in my choice to not offer my number or e-mail address, though I did cite that should I wish to take things any further, I would be in touch. A good strong handshake followed and I sauntered back to my car impressed with almost everything I encountered. Now this is why the likes of KIA and Hyundai do so well in the UK. They have exacting standards of customer care and satisfaction ratings that even the Germans fail to achieve, and it’s here you find all those MG Rover patrons of old.
Back in 1995 there was a dark cloud on the horizon, initially, only the size of a cotton bud in the form of Daewoo. They offered free this and that, but rather than the rest of the trade sit up and take notice, they opted to gang up together and in effect, run the new boys out of town. Subsequent far eastern marques are now established here in the UK and will remain to do so for so many good reasons. Funny how not so long ago owning a KIA was almost akin to burning tyres so far as social acceptance mattered – today they are a runaway hit simply because of the promise of care, service & granite warranties.
Back in the good old bad old days, many Rover dealers did so well because the sales force often excelled with customer service. Selling flawed items like Maestro or Montego means you needed to have a USP (unique selling point) in other areas namely customer retention. Your average Joe Punter can accept a wonky car to a certain degree, especially if all parties are seen to be moving Heaven and Earth to put matters right. This is why so many customers stayed loyal to the cause despite issues over build quality or poor re-sale values – people will only buy from people, its that simple.
Not every potential customer is a red blooded petrol head who yearns for heritage or sporting prowess, many simply don’t care what they drive so long as its a five-seater steel umbrella – though everyone expects to be treated fairly, squarely and with care. A good friend of mine bought an i35 from the same place recently and even though they had a right tussle for a discount, tempers never frayed and both parties got what they wanted in the end with everyone walking away happy.
Like I have stated all along – good money can still be earned by simply throwing straight dice and its nice to know there are still – a few good men!
If the late George Turnbull is reading this from up high – I salute you sir!