Ardmore Toyota’s ‘Technology Geniuses’ help minimize the wait while they maximize the wow
Kim Gallia isn’t a magician. She makes her living as the assistant general manager at Ardmore Toyota in suburban Philadelphia. But early last year, she came up with a way to decrease the sales transaction time while increasing the time customers spend getting acquainted with their vehicles’ high-tech features.
And that’s no small trick.
“We sell a lot of cars, about 350 new and used per month, on a dealership that sits on just an acre and a half,” says Gallia. “We have to keep it moving. But, at the same time, we don’t want our customers to feel like they’re being rushed. We can’t afford to shortchange the delivery.”
Basically, she and her team needed to communicate more, but take less time doing it.
A New Delivery Department
How did they pull it off? By creating a stand-alone delivery department and staffing it with “technology geniuses.” These specialists guide customers through the final stage of the sales process, freeing up their sales colleagues to return to the showroom floor and assist other customers. The key, says Gallia, is staffing these positions with people who have not only a deep knowledge of Toyota’s latest in-vehicle technologies but also outgoing, customer-friendly personalities.
Manny Woodard fits that description. After two years as a lot attendant shuttling vehicles, he became well acquainted with features such as Bluetooth connectivity and Toyota’s Entune App Suite. So when management offered him a position in the delivery department, he was ready to make the leap.
“I’m pretty tech savvy,” says Woodard. “But I also really like helping people. When I worked the lot, I didn’t have any interaction with customers.”
‘Your Guy’ for Tech Questions
Now, Woodard says, customer interaction is front and center. It starts with the geniuses’ bright red shirts (think Best Buy’s “Geek Squad”) so customers can easily spot them. It centers on a delivery process tailored to the customer’s needs and wants, including the use of iPads to register Entune users.
Typically, this takes place after the customer has completed all of the paperwork. But if, say, it’s a busy Saturday and the F&I department is backlogged, the geniuses will jump start the delivery—eliminating the downtime that too often frustrates customers. And the support continues down the road with follow-up phone calls, email and social media conversations with customers who want more help.
“We want to get people off to a good start with their vehicles. But we are also here to keep them going,” says Woodard. “Customers contact me all the time. It could be the same day they drive off the lot. Or it could be six months later.”
“We will help customers with the technology, whether they bought their Toyotas here or not,” says General Manager Bob Coppock. “We assure them there are no stupid questions. The geniuses’ job is to provide answers and make the customer feel comfortable with their car. We let them know: ‘This is your guy.’
“But the geniuses don’t replace our salespeople, who still do a great job of following up after the sale,” adds Coppock. “So our customers become comfortable with more than one person at the store. From a business standpoint, that’s what you want.”
Everyone Wins, Especially the Customer
It’s still early, but Ardmore Toyota’s delivery department seems to be working. The dealership is consistently at or near the top in its district based on Toyota’s internal customer satisfaction survey. And the store’s torrid sales pace, if anything, is even hotter.
“Did we create new jobs? Yes,” says Gallia. “But that added expense doesn’t hurt our bottom line. Just the opposite. When you add it all up, the geniuses have had a positive effect on our business. They’re allowing our salespeople to get back on the floor and do what they do best: sell cars. And our customers are more excited about their vehicles. Everyone wins, especially the customer.”