Many of you who have gone car shopping have encountered some interesting characters on the sales-floor. But for the past four years Chevrolet has been taking advice from Mickey Mouse and Goofy in order to make your car-buying experience more pleasant. I guess it really is a small world after all.
According to Time Magazine, GM implemented a restructuring plan after the bankruptcy; the automaker had new focus on altering it's Chevrolet stores and modeling them after brands such as Apple, Starbucks, and McDonald's. When you walk into any of those stores, the look, the feel, and the interactions with staff are all fairly predictable. The structure gives customers a level of comfort, and has a positive impact on repeat sales. But selling cars is not the same as making latte. This new shift in sales training came from a brand that has mastered the art of "magical" customer service. Chevy sent there salespeople to Disney.
There, Chevrolet dealers are taught to act like theater actors: When they meet customers at the dealership, they're onstage playing the gracious host. Through this process, Chevy dealers learn the finer points of focusing on the customer, an art the Mouse House has perfected over the years.
At $2700-$2800 per participant, this training doesn't come cheap and don't expect to by greeted by sales staff in a costumes, though that may make for an interesting test drive. What Chevrolet is trying to do is move away from the stereotypes of slick salespeople, and more towards a model of assisting someone with their purchase. Of course when you have commissioned salespeople that make their money from each sale, this is very different than paying someone a flat wage regardless on how many iPads or cappuccinos they sell within a day.
For many years dealerships have done things their own way with minimal influence from the automakers, but Chevrolet has realized the need for a more consistent buyer experience regardless of location. However, doing complete overhauls to dealerships is expensive and some long-standing locations can be resistant to change.
But to some dealers, the changes represent an overbearing attempt by GM to exert more control over how they run their businesses. A dealer in Oklahoma sold his dealership in 2012 when Chevrolet asked him to renovate it or risk losing $250,000 per quarter in dealer-excellence money from Chevrolet. A billionaire dealer in Miami, Norman Braman, sued GM over a separate program that he says would have withheld a bonus if he didn't place limestone on his Cadillac's store exterior. (A settlement was reached in 2013.) Joel Sassa, who runs Chevy's marketing in the New York metropolitan area, says many dealers went to the Disney training "kicking and screaming."
But if you talk to anyone who has been in auto sales for at least ten years, they will tell you that despite a few "stealerships" that are hanging on to old ways, most dealers have begun to adapt to a new kind of car buyer. Those that make the change in philosophy and scenery, have a better chance of selling a car to that all-important "millenial" buyer.
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