Automotive News - September 19, 2016 - Supplement - S13

SPECIAL ADVERTISING SUPPLEMENT EMPOWERING EMPLOYEES TO GIVE GREAT SERVICE Erinn Sowle grew up in a longtime auto-retailing family, but left her hometown to build a successful career at Nordstrom, the high-end department store chain. When her mom asked her to come back to help run the family business, Sowle returned with lessons gleaned from Nordstrom's legendary world-class customer service. She has brought that customer-centric perspective to her family's two dealerships, Suburban Chevrolet and Suburban Ford in Sandy, Ore. For instance, if a Suburban manager sees a dealership employee doing something right-whether providing an unexpected service for a customer or just picking up a piece of trash on the floor-the manager can give the employee a "Wow Card." It's a business card that says, "Wow...You did an outstanding job!" Each of the dealerships has a monthly drawing; six Wow Card recipients per store are rewarded with gift cards or other perks. It's part of Sowle's belief that taking good care of employees, and empowering them to make good decisions, results in the best customer service. "In every interview we have when hiring people, we talk about the importance of great customer service," she says. "Then we try to manage our employees very objectively, and very consistently. For instance, we pride ourselves that we don't change pay plans for our salespeople." If they exceed expectations, they should be rewarded for it, she says. Suburban employees also participate in a profit-sharing plan, and the schedule is set up so all salespeople get every other weekend off. But the biggest thing is empowering employees, she says. "We tell them to make the right decision, to accommodate the customer if there's a problem. Deal with the customer and we'll work it out internally later. If a customer has an issue, the employee is trained to solve the Erinn Sowle "The customer service expectation is there; today's customers are demanding a more efficient, quicker experience at dealerships. Whether their car is in service for an oil change, or they're buying a new vehicle, it should not be a painstaking, all-day process." problem-not wait until a manager is back in three hours." So that customers receive seamless service, each salesperson has an office partner; they share information on ongoing deals, and the schedule is set up so that one of the two is always around. "There is always someone who knows what's going on with a particular customer," Sowle says. Her grandfather opened Suburban Chevrolet in 1967 and added the Ford store in 1984. Sowle's mother, Nancy Jaksich, bought the Chevy store in 1995, and brought Sowle back to help run the business a year later. This August, Sowle officially became the dealer/principal of the Chevy store. The dealerships are a fixture in the local community. Suburban awards six $1,000 scholarships to local high school students, and also supports school athletic programs. But closest to Sowle's heart is Suburban's 15 years of supporting the local Guide Dogs for the Blind operation. Suburban sponsors a yearly Cruise In for car enthusiasts; each of the past two years, the Cruise In has raised more than $30,000 for the Guide Dogs program. Sowle says being a good employer and community member means that many of the company's 110 employees have been with Suburban for years. "We treat them well, and in return they treat our customers well," she says. Suburban also offers customers loaner cars in its service departments, and every customer receives chocolate when paying a service bill. A newly renovated waiting area offers refreshments and iPads for waiting customers, although Suburban's shuttle service also is available for customers who would rather go home or back to work. "The customer service expectation is there; today's customers are demanding a more efficient, quicker experience at dealerships," Sowle says. "Whether their car is in service for an oil change, or they're buying a new vehicle, it should not be a painstaking, all-day process." She says feedback from customer surveys often includes statements like "Wow, it was so easy" or "That was the easiest car-buying experience I have ever had." For Sowle, it all boils down to a "simple statement we repeat to our employees: Be consistent. Be nice to people. And treat every customer the same way, every time," she says. SEPTEMBER 2016 / ally / 13

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Automotive News - September 19, 2016 - Supplement

Automotive News - September 19, 2016 - Supplement - Intro
Automotive News - September 19, 2016 - Supplement - S1
Automotive News - September 19, 2016 - Supplement - S2
Automotive News - September 19, 2016 - Supplement - S3
Automotive News - September 19, 2016 - Supplement - S4
Automotive News - September 19, 2016 - Supplement - S5
Automotive News - September 19, 2016 - Supplement - S6
Automotive News - September 19, 2016 - Supplement - S7
Automotive News - September 19, 2016 - Supplement - S8
Automotive News - September 19, 2016 - Supplement - S9
Automotive News - September 19, 2016 - Supplement - S10
Automotive News - September 19, 2016 - Supplement - S11
Automotive News - September 19, 2016 - Supplement - S12
Automotive News - September 19, 2016 - Supplement - S13
Automotive News - September 19, 2016 - Supplement - S14
Automotive News - September 19, 2016 - Supplement - S15
Automotive News - September 19, 2016 - Supplement - S16
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