MONTEREY, CA – Driving Sales news posted some highlights from their interview with Erich K Gail, COO of Cardinale Group.
The text of the article is below:
With shrinking front-end margins on new and used cars, tough competition and an ever-changing consumer, it’s important for dealerships to understand the customer experience they are providing on a daily basis. DrivingSales recently completed a $1 million customer experience study emphasizing the essential need for dealer principals, GMs and executives to look at each of their customer touch points with customer experience in mind.
The experience of the customer is what Erich Gail (COO / Cardinale Automotive Group) feels is an honor to share with his customers. DrivingSales News recently had the opportunity to speak with Gail. He is the financial and leadership heart of the dealer group that has risen from the worst of times to the top of the heap in a few short years with the humble philosophy, “It’s not about us, it’s about the customer!”
Sometimes the simple back-to-basics attitude is what it takes, as Gail explains reflecting back to the year 2009, “It was devastating – loosing six franchises, 300 employees, all of our lines of credit were maxed-out and cash reserves had been dwindled down.” Gail realized that the survival of the group was at stake and drastic changes needed to be implemented. That’s when the “Zero Moment Commitment” Cardinale Brand foundation to perform was born.
Here are the five crucial steps to the turn-around of the Cardinale Automotive Group:
Step 1) CRM is not an option, as Gail put it “If it’s not in the CRM, it doesn’t exist!”
Step 2) Improved training, on not only a professional, but a personal level as well. Each quarter, a new study book is chosen to improve the quality of the employee that ultimately reflects in the customer experience. Begin your day on a positive note, establish your morning, follow-through and execute your plan.
Step 3) Commitment to Phone Mastery – Most dealerships offer some type of pre-recorded disclosure saying, “This call may be recorded and monitored for quality assurance.” At Cardinale stores, there is no “may” about it. Gail explains, “Customer’s only call in a time of need for our services, don’t botch up the call.” To achieve this, they record and evaluate thousands of calls per month, spending over an hour-plus per-day evaluating three calls per employee during a 30-day period. This is how they achieve a 4.5+ customer satisfaction rating.
Step 4) Commitment to managing the health of money that will not allow the group to be swayed by market trends, but only enter into deals that are a relationship where everyone wins. This applies to the employees, customer, vendors and even, the factory.
Step 5) Zero Moment Retail attitude for sales, service and parts with the understanding that in the information age with all the transparency in the market today, customers know what they want, just not where to get it. Just as a racecar driver hits the apex at the optimal moment to maneuver around the turns of a track, when a customer contacts a representative of the Cardinale Automotive Group they will be treated in such a way that will keep them coming back for years to come and leaving completely satisfied with their decision.
Like every good idea, the proof is in the results, and that is where Gail is like a proud father showing of his child. Through clarity in decisions and focus, the Cardinale Automotive Group was honored with the distinction of being named the best place to buy a used car in Monterey. This achievement was made possible by only keeping a continually changing inventory of in-high demand used vehicles with each purchase having an exit strategy before it ever hits the lot. The majority of the inventory on the Cardinale used car lots come from a familiar place – their service drive. Gail has put in place a “Letter of Intent” that is signed by the dealerships general manager and mailed out to the customers that now owns the vehicle that would be a perfect fit for the resale inventory. An example once again, of an amicable deal for all parties through relationship-driven thinking and training.
In addition to all of its accolades, Cardinale also has the luxury of only single-digit employee turnover, which if it’s not an industry low, must be right up there with the best of them. As Gail says, “We hire slowly, and only align with personnel who display an understanding for purpose, process and commitment.” All else need not apply!
Gail also boasts to offer a higher-than-average compensation plan. One could beg-to-differ stating it is higher pay for a job done well. Compensation consideration is factored in for a required percentage of “Green Check Out’s” from the CRM, along with a minimum of 20 customer calls-per-day that result in two appointments with all calls confirmed by a sales manager.
Doing the job right from the start, the Zero Moment, is all part of the Cardinale way. As Gail reiterates, “You can’t move forward if you’re scrubbing up yesterday.”
Like all good magicians, Gail has a trick up his sleeve beyond the five- step program. Headquartered in Salinas, California slightly south of Silicon Valley, Gail was able to build a team with some of the brightest computer intelligent minds in the industry. They developed a proprietary online system that targets in-market- buyers that weaves through the millions of shoppers that click aimlessly on the information super highway. Total analytics, as Gail describes it.
The results not only greatly reduce their leads costs, but in one case study, actually lowered the contact-to-sold time from a national average of 51.8 days to 5.3, resulting in a total-gross of $3,400.00 per unit sold encompassing a total investment of $14,000.00 per month and 125 units sold.
As the market has witnessed its ups-and-downs over the past 10 years, it’s safe to say, building solid customer relationships along with daily training and adjustments are a good combination to insure your dealership is not a casualty of the times. As Gail puts it, “We will no longer chase the market, but invest in ourselves and the company needs.”