A smile, a handshake, a genuine “thank you”—small, everyday courtesies build customer affinity and trust. And in the high-stakes world of automotive sales, any seemingly minor action can be the difference between closing a deal and losing out to a competitor.
As one might expect from a company with “courtesy” in the name, Courtesy Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram thoroughly embraces this philosophy. For more than 60 years, the dealership group has maintained successful rooftops in California and Arizona by emphasizing the human factor.
In the words of General Manager Jack Grimley, Courtesy is “really in the people business.” That means every sale can’t be treated like a simple transaction, but the natural result of a personal relationship with the customer.
“With all the research consumers do, they’re still looking for the dealer they feel comfortable with,” said Grimley, who runs the dealership’s location in San Juan Capistrano, CA. “It starts when they meet the sales consultant at the door. If they come to the dealership and the sales consultant doesn’t greet them properly and they don’t feel comfortable, they’re not going to buy the vehicle here, no matter what you do about the price. They have to feel comfortable with the sales associate and the management team.”
Siloed departments, changing regulations, heightened customer expectations, and no way to reliably manage it all.
To maximize sales and exceed every customer’s expectations, Courtesy must ensure the sales experience remains positive and consistent across every department.
“We sell cars, we service cars, we sell new parts, we sell finance,” said Grimley. “My goal is to create one solid silo rather than four independent silos, even though we technically have four businesses under one roof.”
Unifying the dealership is no easy feat—and the challenge has escalated as consumers have embraced technology and become better-informed.
“These days, it’s up to us to make sure our sales staff understands how well-educated the consumer is, said Grimley. “They need to give customers all the information they need to make a good buying decision before they walk into our dealership.”
Unfortunately, when you’re focusing greater resources on meeting heightened customer expectations and keeping sales rolling in, regulatory compliance can fall by the wayside. Grimley, a seasoned F&I professional, has battled these issues head-on throughout his career, including during the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath, when he led Courtesy’s rooftop in San Diego. While there, he reversed flagging retail trends and helped the business grow, adding new people while many competitors were shuttering.
Not all issues can be solved through smart leadership alone, however. A recent experience compelled Grimley to seek outside assistance. Shortly after transferring from San Diego to San Juan Capistrano, he discovered some potential compliance gaps. The situation wasn’t disastrous, but it didn’t align with Courtesy’s standards.
“We were just doing the normal stuff to make sure we were compliant,” he acknowledged. “If I had customers calling me every day complaining about, say, the finance area or the way the deal was processed, that wouldn’t be good for the dealership, certainly not for the customer. These little things make the difference in the big thing, and the big thing is customer satisfaction.”
KPA’s compliance auditors provide “an eye-opener”
Grimley was only a few months into his new job when he decided to reach out to KPA. To help his rooftop get on the right track, he took advantage of the company’s compliance audit services.
“I told them, ‘I’d like you to come in and go through my finance department,’” he said. “I had heard about all the different regulations that had changed over the last couple of years, and I knew we were in need of an update. We arranged the first meeting, and they came in and looked through the finance department, looked at all the signage we had around the store, and pulled 15 or 20 deals.”
“I didn’t tell anybody KPA was coming,” he added, “because I wanted to get the straight truth. I didn’t want people cleaning up.”
That strategy, while perhaps surprising for Courtesy’s staff, allowed KPA’s compliance auditors to do what they do best: conduct a rigorous investigation into recordkeeping, training, employee awareness, and current compliance status.
“I can tell you the first inspection was an eye-opener,” said Grimley. “There are personal information issues people don’t think about. Maybe a sales consultant has a sales folder in his drawer, which isn’t locked and located in the open area of the dealership. Or signage—in California especially, you need to have all your signage in the proper places. There were a few signs posted, but none of it was current. We had some parts done but there were so many things that KPA came up with, and that allows us to feel more comfortable in the way we do business.”
Peace of mind for managers, employees, and—most importantly—customers
When customer satisfaction is on the line—not to mention the legal liability of failing to keep up with changing regulations—no dealership can afford to assume anything about compliance. Grimley said he appreciated the peace of mind KPA offers, and well as the fact that consultants don’t “pull any punches.”
“They just give you straight information, whether it be buyers’ guides, windows stickers missing on vehicles,” he said. “To have that outside perspective definitely makes a difference. We take so many things for granted in this business. Even an experienced manager can miss things.”
Beyond better awareness of compliance issues, Grimley likes how KPA lends credibility to his role and helps him motivate his team to engage in better workplace habits.
“If we on the management team point out issues to sales staff and technicians, it’s not as effective as having somebody from the outside coming in,” he said. “Seems like everybody listens a bit better.”
Through ongoing evaluations and support, KPA empowers Courtesy to provide extraordinary customer experiences without sacrificing compliance. Grimley still schedules surprise audits so his team can address any and every potential issue, no matter how small. After all, as he knows, it’s the little things that matter most.
Protect your dealership from regulatory fines and legal actions with KPA’s Finance and Insurance compliance solutions.
Online, onsite, and on-call resources deliver a detailed compliance program assessing risk and helping to design and implement policies, programs, and training. These work together to ensure all customer-facing personnel and programs are both accountable and effective.
KPA’s F&I software and services are specifically designed for vehicle dealers looking for a verifiable compliance program. Limit liabilities and protect your dealership with KPA’s front-end compliance solutions.