Customer Service Culture Leadership General Fixed Operations Shop Customers

How JM Lexus Became the Most-Recognized Lexus Dealership

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Jim Dunn had a dream: An avid golfer, he wanted to design and build the practice putting green of his dreams, a meandering nine-hole green with undulation, curves and angles that was no mere putt-putt practice course. And where did he want to put the course? On the roof of JM Lexus, the Florida-area dealership of which he is the vice president, of course.

Make no mistake, the putting green is no personal investment for Dunn, a respite from the craziness of managing the largest Lexus dealership in the world. It’s just one of myriad ways that Dunn and the team at JM Lexus strive to appeal to customers and stand out in an area replete with other dealerships. The 3,200-square-foot putting green is available at no cost to customers to practice while they wait for their vehicles to be serviced, and includes a pro shop that sells JM Lexus-branded accessories, has its own LPGA golf pro and that awards prizes to top players.

However, the putting green is far from a gimmick: It’s part of JM Lexus’ perceptive understanding of its customer base, their needs and how to ensure they remain with the dealership from sales to service to body.

And the results show: On the fixed ops side, the 250 employees see more than 4,000 repair orders per month and the body shop is one of the few Lexus-certified collision centers in the country. The company has been awarded the coveted "Elite of Lexus" award year after year for excelling at sales, service and overall owner support based on "extremely exceptional" results from customer feedback surveys.

While customer service has always been vital to the operation, which was founded by JM Family Enterprises head and well-known dealer Jim Moran in the late 1980s, evolving with customers became even more important to Dunn as the recession tanked new-vehicle sales and millennials gained a greater presence.

“Our business is changing,” Dunn says. “The people who are coming into our part of the market, the Generation X and Generation Y consumers, they’re very serious about the well-being of the environment. They’re going to be the customers who are considering us in the future, and we want to be able to extend our hand to them.”

This is how they did it.

 

Top-Down Leadership

It all starts from the top, Dunn says. If you expect a certain level of customer service from your employees, that expectation needs to permeate every area of the business, starting with leadership.

“A lot of the things that we offer here date back to some of the stories about some of the founders,” he says. “Back in the day, Jim provided ice cream to the customers, which is something we still do. Those innovations and the courage it takes to undertake them is really part of our great legacy.”

Dunn says that Moran was a steady presence in the dealership until his passing in 2007 and that he readily encouraged his employees to be innovative and push the envelope. Dunn was also mentored by Moran during the first two years of his tenure with JM Lexus and says that his leadership has allowed him to continue innovating and implementing new systems and processes that push the business forward.

“We want them to have a memorable experience,” he says. “Whether it’s in sales or service, we wash our customers cars every day. Providing amenities to our customers is part of the experience.”

Dunn says that the company’s core values of communication, cooperation, consideration, innovation and accountability are cornerstones that Moran laid out for the company and still drive the innovation at hand today, particularly in fixed ops.

“It’s about putting the customer first philosophy,” he says. “Anybody can sell one car. The service department, parts and collision—they sell the rest of them.”

 

Understand Your Customer

There’s another motto that the staff at JM Lexus lives by—and it sounds counterintuitive at first: “If it ain’t broke, break it.” The idea, Dunn says, is that yesterday’s methods could very well be outdated today, so re-tooling and being on the cutting edge is crucial to surviving in a competitive industry.

“If you turn around and think about what Uber and Lyft have done to the transportation industry, that’s happened rather quickly,” Dunn says. “It’s about convenience, it’s all about service and it’s all about respect for time.

“It’s a rapidly changing world. If you’re not in tune with what’s going on, you’ll be left behind. We want to be the first ones to the party, not the last ones.”

JM Lexus frequently surveys its customers to understand how they spend their time and what’s most important to them. That’s how ideas like the putting green and the recently implemented Lexus Plus, which provides  negotiation-free, market-value prices for every offering available for purchase at a dealership, including service packages.

“That’s the way we’re moving in our future. I think it’s what customers are demanding. Not being a traditional experience for our customers. We’ve got the best customers in the world. We have to challenge ourselves to provide that world class service,” he says. “For years, they’ve tolerated the processes in our industry. I think as the face of the consumer has been changing, things that we’ve done 10 years ago, don’t work as well. We have to satisfy the desires of our customers.”

 

Treat Employees Right

The staff at JM Lexus aren’t just employees, they’re referred to as “associates” and the dealership does everything in its power to empower and retain those associates. To wit: a fitness center, indoor swimming pool, on-site child care, on-site medical center, tuition assistance, bonuses and two cafeterias are among the perks available for employees. In addition, the service facility is 44 bays and air conditioned and the collision repair center is equally state of the art, providing an environment for technicians that is easy to recruit for and retain.

The dealership also raised its minimum wage last year to $16 per hour—nearly double Florda’s then minimum—and technicians in the body shop are paid for everything they do, regardless of whether the shop is paid.

Consequently, the dealership has been ranked in Fortune magazine as one of the “Top 25 Companies for Work for” for a number of years

While the dealership does use some predictive index process tests during the hiring process, Dunn says that more than anything, the dealership’s reputation and benefits attract a highly talented, successful pool of applicants.

“Really and truly, a lot of the associates that are working in fixed ops have been here longer than myself,” he says. “We provide world-class benefits. The amenities are not just for our guests, but also our associates.”

Those amenities also include an emphasis on training, be it sending technicians to the nearby Lexus training center or sending all managers, directors and above to a six-day leadership development program.

“We can never do enough training to stay current with everything that’s going on,” Dunn says. “These cars change at the speed of light. To provide world class service, our techs are highly skilled and highly trained.”

 

Appeal to Customers.

With a solid foundation in place, Dunn says this allows the team to be a fountain of ideas.

“We get our think tank going and participation of our associates and it’s inspiring to see all of our associates come up with ideas,” he says. “I’ve been in the car business enough to know that you have to stay current. There are a lot of brands that are littered along the roadway right now. We want to be on the cutting edge of things. Again, it’s really in our DNA … We have processes, certainly, but I just think that’s in everybody’s spirits. It’s in their hearts to create an environment that customers love, to treat every customer as we would a guest in our home.”

Of the many customer service amenities the dealership has implemented, those include:

  • An express department that does minor services in less than two hours
  • An outside Zen garden area
  • The nine-hole putting green, which is 3,200 square feet and includes protective fencing, lighting for night playing and a netting system to catch flyaway balls
  • In the lobby, massage chairs, a Starbucks coffee shop, a library, relaxation room, complimentary iPads, WiFi, a deli with cappuccino and croissants for breakfast and deli sandwich and homemade cookies for lunch, china and silverware instead of disposable paper dishes and plasticware, and numerous environmental touches like using bio-friendly dish soap and bamboo furnishings
  • In the body shop, energy-efficient LED bulbs, a switch to a nitrogen spray system that reduced material usage by 28 percent per month, and a lean production system that keeps efficiency up
  • Solar panels on the roof that have already seen a return on the investment

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