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Success stories

Auto Dealership Consortium

A consortium formed by purchase of multiple, traditional auto dealerships faced difficulties instituting a modern, uniform service delivery. The premise appeared simple: customers value the service delivery inherent in any purchase or repair/maintenance event. Everything that helped dealerships deliver value to customers along those lines deserved reinforcement and management support. Anything else added no value and was to be eliminated.

ICG was asked to evaluate service delivery. After an extended observation of Saturn dealerships, we identified five areas impacting service: sales of autos, insurance, extended warranties, service, and parts. We identified problems such as:

  • New information systems overwhelmed the staff
  • Measurement metrics and compensation did not support the desired service delivery model
  • Dealer management controlled rather than coached
  • Auto sales competed with insurance/warranty sales
  • Online appointment repair booking was deficient for a “tech-savvy” customer base
ICG proposed an overhaul of the service delivery process combining performance management, coaching, team building, training for systems and service delivery, communications support, and role/metrics balancing. The client was able to improve service delivery while reducing costs.

ICG aids clients in attracting and retaining customers by trusting frontline workers and designing the business system around them. Most service “failures” are built into the system by management choice. A service-first model reverses the industrial “cycle of failure” by:

  • Valuing investments in people more than in machines
  • Using technology to support frontline workers rather than to monitor or replace them
  • Making recruitment and training as crucial for frontline workers as for managers
  • Linking compensation to performance for employees at all levels, not just for those at the top
ICG encourages clients to appreciate the incremental value of better service so that they will commit the requisite investments in training, worker continuity, wages, hours, and turnover reduction. Urging contact staff to “go the extra mile” for customers accomplishes nothing unless those salespeople understand why and how things may be done differently. ICG helps clients improve customer recovery, recognizing the close link between resolving a customer’s problem on the spot and the customer’s intent to repurchase.

Capable workers, well-trained and fairly-compensated, provide better service, need less supervision, and are more easily retained. Their customers are more satisfied, return more frequently, and purchase more often.


The fall and rise of service in the 20th Century
Published in Competitive Advantage, American Society for Quality Services journal, 1997