As I edited this month’s magazine, I was struck by all of the change that has trans formed the automotive industry just since the pandemic.
From digital shifts that have moved much of what dealerships do online, to remote back-office work that’s become permanent f or some stores, to soaring F&I professionals’ incomes, it seems like a shrinking number of things have stayed the same.
But despite the transformations that can sometimes seem dizzying, one piece of news that came across my desk last month showed me that the core of the industry’s role in American culture has stayed the same: taking care of the customer.
The obituary of industry veteran Bert Boeckmann, longtime head of Galpin Motors, noted his legacy beyond building one of the country’s most successful dealerships: his focus on the customer.
“He always welcomed people with open arms from all walks of life,” said his son Beau Boeckmann, Galpin Motors’ president and COO. “Whether you were a customer, an employee, a stranger or world leader, he treated everyone with respect.”
More of the same can be found in the story of Bill Brown Ford, which Ronnie Wendt profiles in this issue. The Michigan dealership’s emphasis on customers and the surrounding community made it the No. 1 Ford dealership in the world for two years running.
One thing I’ve learned in my short time as executive editor of Bobit Dealer Group is that the customer should underlie everything a dealership does, from sales to F&I to service, because the customer keeps the business going through strong economies and weak ones.
Combining customer service with innovation – Galpin Motors credits the late Boeckmann with multiple industry firsts, including the first sunroof installed in the U.S., and in-house vehicle customization – helped him land in the Automotive Hall of Fame and his auto group in the top half of U.S. groups for sales today.
There have been many times in my life when I walked into a business, whether a retail store, a restaurant or a service provider, and felt ignored or otherwise missed. Either I felt unappreciated or my needs misunderstood. Of course, those companies failed to get my business over the short-term and the long. When I’ve felt a priority to a business, though, my loyalty has been strong and consistent, including referrals to friends and positive reviews posted online.
As an article in this issue out of our 2022 Industry Summit underlines, reputation is everything. Be it old-fashioned word of mouth or online reviews, customers will share their experiences with others. So whatever methods you employ in yours, it pays to center them on the ever-important customer.
Hannah Mitchell is executive editor of F&I and Showroom.