Atlantic Flavour

The royal treatment
Why a Newfoundland auto dealership thinks every customer should be treated like a monarch

IT’S AN ISSUE every business must grapple with: how do you get customers through your doors and keep them coming back?

For owners who are struggling to solve that puzzle, they might want to take some notes from Hickman Automotive Group, the St. John’s-based auto dealership that keeps on racking up provincial and national awards. This spring, Hickman’s won an award from the Canadian Automotive Dealers Association for outstanding achievement within an individual dealership. It also received a business excellence award from the St. John’s Board of Trade in 2014.

The recognition is nice, but the company wouldn’t receive those accolades if it wasn’t selling automobiles. And to be successful selling automobiles, you need to keep the customer happy. Bert Hickman, who runs the business with his brother Jonathan, says they’ve learned to have a laser focus on providing a top notch customer experience. “That’s our competitive advantage,” Hickman says. “It’s all about building a personal relationship.”

And what does that entail, exactly? At Hickman’s, when a customer buys a vehicle, they are taken to each department and introduced to the staff. Sales people jot down significant details when dealing with customers and will call them up periodically, not to ask them who they are buying their next car from, but to wish them a happy birthday or ask how the daughter’s hockey camp went.

Hickman adds that a few years ago he brought in experts from Disney for a week to train his employees on how the entertainment giant treats its customers. “If you’ve ever been to Disneyland, every employee there is empowered to greet you and they will show you where to go rather than just pointing you in that direction,” Hickman says. “The returns from [that training] were astronomical.”

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