Service Like an Independent
Walk into the service department of Texoma Hyundai and you'll see a giant target with an arrow piercing through the bull’s eye and the slogan “We’re shooting for a perfect 10.”
Throughout the waiting area, meanwhile, the number of banners hanging from the ceiling displaying awards rivals that of a high school gymnasium.
But that commitment and dedication wasn’t always the case at Texoma Hyundai’s service department, located roughly 50 miles from Dallas.
That bull’s eye is not only a message to customers, but it’s also the slogan that has guided the service department’s six-year transformation from an underdeveloped, dealer-first stigma to becoming a customer-focused service department that’s been recognized as a leader by Hyundai.
Dealer Mark Daniels has been in the dealership business since 1975 and owned four dealerships in the Dallas area before selling to RFJ Auto Partners—which has 29 stores in nine states—in 2014 and staying on as vice president of manufacturing.
Daniels’ Hyundai store, located in Sherman, Texas, has always been a high-volume facility, Daniels says, sitting on a 6.5-acre lot stocked with cars. In particular, the Hyundai dealership was known in the community for cutting great deals on cars, causing customers to drive the 50 miles from Dallas—sometimes even longer—to visit the dealership, which sells an average of 700 new cars and more than 1,000 used cars per year.
IDENTIFYING THE PROBLEM
While new car business was always high, the service department was another story. Customer retention was negligible (“How close to zero can you get?” Daniels says) and customer service scores were average at best. What’s more, Hyundai had increasingly put pressure on its service departments to upsell, creating a culture where service advisors were more focused on selling than building relationships with customers and fostering trust. Unsurprisingly, the result was low volume and a struggle to retain customers.
“People would drive out to buy the car but they wouldn’t drive back to get the car serviced because it wasn’t an exceptional service. They might as well go somewhere closer,” Daniels says. “You can’t chase scores, you can’t chase numbers and you can’t chase sales. But if you take care of the customer and you take care of their cars and they feel like you’re taking care of their best interest, all of that comes with it.”
Daniels knew that in order to turn around the service department and have it seen as a trust-worthy, local shop in the metropolitan Dallas area, the change needed to start with the culture inside the shop. It was a tall order and Daniels says he knew he needed a stronger leader who could cut through the corporate stigma and adopt the values more closely associated with independent shops.
Daniels started by hiring a new service manager: Jason Brewer, a young 34-year-old technician looking to move up into management at Daniels’ Chrysler-Jeep-Ram store. While he had no previous management experience, Daniels says that Brewer always had a knack for building relationships with customers and exemplified the qualities he wanted to engrain in his Hyundai service department.
Brewer’s first act as manager was making another hire: He brought a former colleague, Clint Davis, to act as lead service advisor. Davis was a former shop owner and with decades of experience in the industry, he was able to bring managerial expertise, an eye for hiring talented employees and strong selling skills.
Brewer and Davis began by creating a new philosophy at the store: Move away from selling and focus on relationship building. Brewer gathered his staff and emphasized taking care of the customer the way they themselves would want to be treated, prioritizing repairs and working with customers to come to a resolution they were comfortable with, listening to customer concerns and reviewing vehicle and customer history prior to appointments.
“Something we focused on at the beginning was building a good customer base. Getting more customers in here, being as inviting as possible and treating them the way they should be treated at the same time,” he says. “Just trying to get the trust and getting the people back in here and showing them what we were capable of doing was the focus.”
Texoma Hyundai’s facility doesn’t have the typical service drive where customers can drive up, so Brewer created a policy of doing meet-and-greets with the customer. Now, when a customer arrives to the service parking lot, a service advisor will immediately walk out and greet the customer, then perform a walkaround.
In addition, the service department capitalized on the dealership’s new facility by installing glass walls in the waiting area that looked out onto the shop floor. In fact, customers have to walk through a roped-off area of the service department to reach the lobby, creating an added element of transparency. To that extent, Brewer has emphasized maintaining a clean shop floor—replacing the flooring and painting the walls frequently. In the lobby, Daniels has dedicated areas to children, meeting rooms and the typical refreshments.
“You typically see things like that from the more highline service departments,” he says. “In a smaller town, we’ve done that with a Hyundai store and it’s gotten a lot of attention, as opposed to being a Mercedes or a Lexus [facility].”
While it was a slow process, the results six years later have been astonishing: Customer retention has risen to 40 percent (while still on the lower end, it’s above average for the small town), CSI has risen to 988 on a 1,000 point scale, and the service department has been named No.1 in service customer satisfaction among all 830 Hyundai stores nationwide for an unprecedented third year in a row. What’s perhaps more telling is that now, customers will drive hundreds of miles to visit the service department, even though multiple Hyundai service departments are located in surrounding areas.
The process changes weren’t without some obstacles; of the service department’s previous staff, only one technician remains. The others either quit or were let go. Since then, however, Brewer has been able to build his own team based on attitude and passion and he’s experienced zero turnover since. In particular, a parts manager hire, Chuck Salinas, has completed the management team, which Daniels says works collaboratively and exceptionally well together.
There’s no silver bullet, Brewer says. Improving customer satisfaction relies heavily on the basic principles of customer service: listening to concerns, treating everyone with respect and working with the customer, rather than trying to push your own agenda.
“We know a lot of customers by name, whereas a lot of people don’t,” he says. “We don’t treat people like a number. We know everything about the car, they trust us with the car and know we’re going to do the right thing.”