By Jerri Stroud, BBB Editor
At Jim Butler Chevrolet in Fenton, employees learn that their job is to “wow” the customer. That starts with the smallest showroom visitors.
When a family comes in, the children get attention first, said Brad Sowers, who bought a portion of the dealership from his father-in-law, Jim Butler, a decade ago. Each child gets a stuffed animal wearing a red Chevy T-shirt. They’re allowed to play in the cars, and there’s also a children’s playroom with toys and television.
“We know that most families have two people working, and that their lives are hectic,” Sowers said.
The second step is for the salesperson to introduce himself or herself to the woman.
“A woman makes the decision, most of the time,” Sowers said.
Fifty-two percent of Jim Butler’s sales are to women buyers, and women often have a decisive vote in couples’ purchases. Asking a woman car shopper when her husband is coming in can be grounds for firing, he said. The dealership has won two “women’s certified” awards from Women’s Choice” and is recognized as a leading Women’s Choice dealer nationwide.
Other customer perks include a shuttle service that takes customers to nearby stores, to lunch or home and picks them up when their car is ready. There’s free bottled water and coffee in the waiting area and doughnuts in the morning.
In the service department, every customer is greeted, and a service adviser goes over the desired service and offers to shuttle the customer or provide a rental car. Each car goes through a multi-point inspection, with each area shaded green, yellow or red, with red indicating strongly recommended for service.
The dealership has a designated “quick service” department for oil changes and similar minor services, with the goal to finish within 45 minutes.
Chevrolet sets many of the training and values standards for the dealership and employees. The dealership has won the brand’s Search for Excellence awards for 18 quarters in a row and its annual Mark of Excellence Awards for the last five years.
Robin Forsythe, customer satisfaction manager for the dealership, spends two hours going through the brand’s customer satisfaction index with every new employee. The training includes how to speak to customers, how to use company software and how to deliver a car.
Sowers recently augmented the delivery process by hiring two young men for the summer to assist customers with the technology included in most new cars. Customers can return for additional help if needed.
Each salesperson has an “evidence binder,” which includes emails about the employee and results from customer surveys – whether or not they bought a car. They’re encouraged to share the binders with customers.
Forsythe monitors online reviews and follows up on all customer emails, texts and phone calls. If there’s a problem or negative review, she addresses it immediately. Sowers said Forsythe has the authority to do what it takes to satisfy customers. If the case is extreme, “I address those personally,” Sowers said. “Our goal is never to get to that point.”
Jim Butler Chevrolet sells 350 cars a month and services about 100 cars a day, leading St. Louis area Chevy dealers, Sowers said. The company recently bought four acres nearby for a new service facility that will nearly double capacity. Technicians work on cars from 7 a.m. to midnight, and the service department is open for customer drop-offs until 8 p.m. on weeknights.
Sowers said online shopping has produced a big shift in customer traffic. In the past, many customers visited 10 or more dealerships before making a decision; now it’s one or two. Most customers have researched pricing, payment plans and trade-in values before they ever visit a dealer.
“They can walk in the store pretty much with their answers in hand,” Sowers said. “If we don’t treat the customer correctly, we’re not going to get the business.”
Sowers said the dealership donates to as many as 50 different charity or local sports organizations. The Jim Butler Charity Golf Classic, started by Sowers’ father-in-law, Jim Butler, has raised $2 million for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis, and the company is involved with the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides program.
Dealership employees contribute to collections and donations for disaster relief and adopt families at Christmas. On a recent Friday, employees wore T-shirts to mark contributions to an epilepsy charity in honor of a technician’s daughter.
The dealership also is sponsoring a Teen Driver Pledge drive at area high schools. High schools are encouraged to get teens to promise to follow safe driving practices, including abstaining from cell phone or headphone use while driving. The high school with the most pledges by October will win $10,000.
Profiles of BBB Accredited Businesses and BBB Accredited Charities are created as part of BBB’s TORCH Award process and are not intended as an endorsement. This year’s TORCH Award Luncheon will be Oct. 14 at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St .Louis. For more information, click here.