Making car dealerships competitive again
By Robert Frank
Christian Thibault has revitalized the art of car sales, introducing a 21st-century approach that has placed 440 Chevrolet Buick GMC among the top ten GM dealerships in Quebec–and the top five in Greater Montreal.
“It was tough at first,” the dealership’s co-owner acknowledged. “When I arrived here three years ago, customers rated our customer service the worst of all dealerships in the province.”
Back in 2009, General Motors was also teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.
“GM had to close 60 dealerships,” Thibault recalled. “It was hard on customers, who often had to find a new GM outlet to serve their needs.”
He brought to Laval the customer service approach he had honed at the GM dealerships that he owns in Montmagny and La Pocatière, northeast of Quebec City.
“Basically, in a small town, if you don’t do well with one customer, it can have serious repercussions on your entire business,” Thibault explained. “It’s commonplace to meet them in the supermarket. So you have to take care of each and every one of them.”
“We needed to foster the same close relationships with our customers here in Laval,” he continued. “My first week here, I could meet 8-10 disgruntled customers a day. Troubleshooting often took up my entire day.”
“Now, problem-solving happens only once every 2-4 weeks,” he smiled, “and the nature of the problems are much different, which is why the customer satisfaction index shows that our clients are much happier. We now rank third or fourth in the province, and my aim is to be number one.”
Competitive with Costco
Thibault explained that the secret of his success is giving customers what they want.
“You have to adjust to the people,” he said. “First, we’re very aggressive on prices, because nothing else happens in this business until you sell a car. For example, we quote prices including taxes, so there are no nasty surprises.”
Thibault has also boosted used car sales by offering his pre-owned car clients a special $74.95 hourly labour rate when they bring the vehicle they purchased to his dealership for maintenance.
In addition, he introduced tire and oil changes that are cost-competitive with the likes of Costco and JiffyLube.
“I want to create a priority, fast-service lane with my own brand where, if it takes more than a half-hour, the next change is free,” he continued.
“The next step will be to offer auto maintenance without appointments,” he enthused. “I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it.”
So what does the GM dealership co-owner drive?
“For the past four months, I’ve been driving a Chevy Volt,” he said.
“It’s great. Most of the time it runs on electricity alone. The gasoline motor switches on so rarely that I’ve only bought 20 litres of fuel to drive 6,000 km!”
To test drive a Volt or any other GM product 440 Chevrolet Buick GMC is located at 3670 Autoroute Laval (service road) 440 or call 450.682.3162
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