During the Christmas break, I had the chance to spend some time with folks who work in auto dealerships, and once again I observed just how important people are in the retail car business.
Sure, the product is important, but there is no substitute for great people creating great relationships inside the stores.
One friend I spent time with has almost doubled volume since taking over a dealership. That's not easy at a time when car makers are trying to make all cars in a category as competitive as possible and customers have lots of choices.
How did my friend to do it? I believe it was because of his people.
The industry has spent hundreds of millions of dollars making sure dealerships have pretty buildings. But what really matters is who is working inside. That's what makes the difference—it doesn't matter about the building. Better to save some of that construction money for your personnel and reward the great performers.
A great relationship will get people to switch brands much faster than a great product. Sure, you need great cars and trucks, but it is dangerous to ignore the folks who are representing the brand at the dealership.
As simple as it seems, it's all about the people. Whether it's the salesperson or the F&I representative or the person you meet when you enter the service department—that's how you win or lose loyalty among your customers.
Factories too often try to eliminate the human factor, and it is a big mistake.
The industry is selling millions of cars each year, but let's never forget—unless they were sold to Enterprise, they were sold one at a time by people selling to people.
Mr. Crain is chairman of Crain Communications Inc., parent company of Tire Business. His column first appeared in Automotive News.