As anyone currently working in the automotive industry will tell you, we are in a time of rapid change and growth. Younger demographic groups, evolving social attitudes, groundbreaking technologies, shifting economic and political ideals—both here in Canada and globally—are creating demands we in the industry would never have foreseen only a few years ago.
Despite the feeling that the future is coming at us quicker than some of us may want it to, and the daily battle of keeping one step ahead of our competition, I continue to believe good relationships with clients will continue to lead to future sales.
Growth is good, but good client relationships are better
In my current role—leading our 700-plus team in the development and execution of the Cox Automotive Canada (CAC) family of brands, along with driving business strategy, and operations nationwide—it can be all too easy for myself and our executive team to get sidetracked on our day-to-day, internal challenges.
For example, since entering the Canadian market in 2015, we’ve aligned to our International division (providing us with the ability to utilize other technologies and international brands where we see the business case in Canada), expanded our technologies and ancillary services (that we provide at auction locations across Canada), and we recently launched our 10th brand in Canada (Ready Logistics.)
Now while all those actions and wins may look great in an internal PowerPoint, what I have been most proud of is our team’s ability to see outside of our offices, to focus on our clients. It may be a challenging to build a business and fortify a strong dedication and commitment to your clients and business partners at the same time, but it is also essential for long-term business success.
Ensure customers are your company’s lifeblood
Recognizing that your company is not alone and is part of a broader community is also essential to ensuring customers are your business’ “lifeblood”. As we know, the automotive space in Canada is geographically large but also small in many respects. Working with many of my colleagues who are also clients—at the dealer, OEM and lender side—means having good relationships is critical for our mutual successes.
This philosophy was confirmed at our recent CAC Client Advisory Board meetings. Over the course of a couple of days, we hosted a mix of clients from OEMs, lenders and key accounts. We provided them with an update on the past year’s activities, and then a look into the near future on what we have on the horizon to help them grow their business.
Engaging with clients in an open, transparent forum on a regular basis—like our Client Advisory Board—is just one of the many client relationship activities I believe can build a strong and growing business. This is why “Customers are our lifeblood” is one of CAC’s core values. Another key is to listen to your clients and deliver solutions to make them stronger, competitive and more profitable in today’s market. In our case, that means ‘convenience’. As the market becomes increasingly competitive and sophisticated, our clients are looking for an all-in solution that they can work with and win in today’s environment.
However CAC meets our clients’ needs—whether that’s continuing to grow our footprint and business in Canada through new technologies and partnerships or launching global Cox Automotive brands, services and solutions into the Canadian market—managing the transition to these new solutions should remain relatively transparent to our clients, with minimal pain or impact to their business.
Excellent client service can result in building a stronger business
The philosophy of “good service leads to future sales” can work at many levels in your business. Not just in the boardroom. Where it can potentially create the most impact are the one-to-one interactions with your clients. In our industry, no better example of this is at the dealership level where an excellent client relationship can drive future sales.
According to the 2016 Cox Automotive Maintenance & Repair Study, 85% of customers stated that their experience with the Service Department influenced their likelihood of purchasing another vehicle from that dealership. And of those who returned for service, 77% were satisfied with their retail experience, based on the 2016 Cox Automotive Emotional Connections Study. Let me leave you with a final number: a study done by our Cox Automotive customer retention brand, Xtime, reported that the client experience at the dealer level could directly result in increased service retention, as much as a 7.5% increase.
In the end, my past and current experiences in the automotive industry have convinced me that excellent client service can result in building a stronger business. Yes, most of us face the challenges of growing fast to keep up with our competition and demanding clientele. But let me ensure you that if you make relationships with your clients a priority—your company’s lifeblood— future sales will follow.
Maria Soklis is the President of Cox Automotive Canada, leading the development and execution of Cox Automotive’s Canadian business strategy and operations and has responsibility for the existing Manheim & Dealertrack businesses in Canada, provides a supporting role with NextGear Capital, and helps the introduction of other Cox Automotive businesses into the market.