Presenters Ken Carter, Derek Maxwell, and Rick Versace Jr. will explain how technology can streamline operations.
ACTON, Mass. — Bob Moody has a customer who buys a lot of Lincoln MKT Town Cars for his black vehicle fleet. Except on this day, it was the customer’s Ford E350 15-passenger van he did not buy from Moody that blew out its engine. Even worse, the van’s mileage was about 1,000 miles beyond the warranty limit.
The dealership the customer bought it from couldn’t help. Most service reps would look at this scenario as an out-of-luck dead end and suggest buying a new van. But not Moody, who called up a contact at Ford Motor Co. and — long story short — got the customer a new engine, all paid for.
“That’s how you get customers for life. You go the extra mile,” says Moody, the East Coast sales manager for Acton/SoCal Penske Professional Vehicles, a nationwide dealer and sales and support network for all types of luxury transportation fleet vehicles.
Moody started in retail vehicle sales with Acton Lincoln Mercury in 1996, and four years later moved to the fleet division run by Bill Cunningham, now Acton/SoCal Penske’s VP and general manager. Acton Lincoln Mercury became Acton Chrysler in 2012, and the fleet department merged with SoCal Penske in 2013 to become Acton/SoCal Penske Professional Vehicles.
Moody’s 22 years of sales and customer service experience provide valuable lessons across the business board, especially for luxury transportation operators juggling the roles of being customers while serving their own. Moody, a longtime fixture on LCT trade show floors, recently shared his street-smart advice on customer care with LCT.
Moody: It comes down to when there is a problem, you solve it and don’t ignore it. We try to establish those relationships, so when problems do come up for customers, we have someplace to turn. Even if I don’t know the answer to a problem when they call, I’ll get the information for them. At least if I can’t fix a problem, I know who can. They want somebody who will answer the phone and attempt to help them.
Moody: A client approached us at an LCT show four years ago who wanted to buy a Lincoln MKS, and he asked why he should buy from us instead of from a competitor. We said we would be there long after the sale if he had a problem. We didn’t want to sell him one car one time, but cars for life. A few years later, he was driving the MKS and a chip from a truck hit his windshield. He went to a service department at a Lincoln dealership and they said the glass was on national back order for two months.
It wasn’t about the money or the windshield; it was about the fact the car would be out of service and not making money for two months. So he called us on a Saturday and was surprised when someone actually answered the phone. We called our service rep at the time, who is someone we go out to dinner and spend time with. We asked him if he could help us, and he got a windshield for the customer right away. After it arrived at the dealership, they tried to charge my customer the retail price on the windshield. We told our service rep, and he paid the customer the difference between wholesale and retail price.
Moody: For any customer in this industry, time is money. When he needs the vehicle, he can call me up, and with little effort, he will get the maximum results. I’ll be at my house and I’ll get a call, “Bob, I need two MKTs or two XTSs. Can you get it done?” And he knows because he has a relationship with me I will give him the best price. By the time I get to work on Monday, I have the purchase order and the paperwork to him, and he has to do very little work. He didn’t have to shop around at many dealerships. A lot of times I’ll know incentives will be changing on a certain manufacturer’s product in a week or two. If a customer calls me, I’ll tell him upfront to wait because the price will be cheaper by $1,000 in a few weeks. They know I will do that so they don’t have to worry about it.
Moody: The delivery warranties on some vehicles for some reason don’t get turned on (and registered) at the manufacturer’s level during the purchase process. It’ll just shut off. A customer will go into a service department thinking they have the 4-year, 150,000-mile (livery) warranty, and they have a big repair in front of them. The service rep will say they don’t have the warranty. That is very annoying. It’s nothing we did at the dealership level. So he’ll call us and say he thought he had the warranty, and I’ll tell him I can get it turned on, but it may take 24 hours to a few days. Of course they don’t want to hear that, and I wouldn’t either. We have to react to those problems and get the warranties turned on. If it will take more than a couple of days, then I’ll have someone from the (OEM) service department call the dealership and say there’s a warranty, it will be turned on, and do the repair.
Moody: A lot of customers think we make, like, $10,000 on every vehicle we sell. With livery cars, it’s just not that way. If you buy a retail car, they have dealer holdback, floor plan assistance, and volume bonus. With fleet vehicles, we just don’t have that kind of profit margin. Sometimes it’s hard to overcome that. They always think there’s more money off and there just isn’t. With our pricing structures, whether you buy one car or 30, it’s the same price. You’re not going to get rich off of selling a couple of cars. You have to get established in the business, develop a constant client base, and pump out a lot of these vehicles every month.
Moody: To me, a job is basically parking my car in front of the same building every day, working my 40 hours, collecting a paycheck, taking all my sick days and vacation time, and not really caring about the company or the people I work with. But Acton/SoCal Penske’s actually given me a career. I’m invested emotionally in the job and company. I like doing what I do. It’s a matter of answering the phone before work, after work, and on the weekends. I tell my customers, “If you’re not successful, then we’re not successful either.” It’s more of a team-based thing. Although I don’t own the company I work for, I feel like I do sometimes because I’m trusted to make decisions and do the right thing for customers trying to buy cars from us.
Acton/SoCal Penske Professional Vehicles cares about the industry. They invest hundreds of thousands of dollars at these show and events. It shows the people who work for them they actually care about the customers they are selling to. It’s not just about the sales. I wouldn’t be here for 23 years if it was just a job. I’d get bored pretty quickly.
The one thing that’s never said on the fleet side is, “It’s not my job.” It is my job, no matter what. Even if I’m not qualified to do a certain thing, it needs to happen somehow and I need to understand that. It’s like answering the phone during the weekend or when I’m not actually here. My wife will say to me, “Did you sell any cars today at work?” And I’ll say, “No, but I sold three of them on the way to work.” I answer my phone because I’m invested in the company.
Moody: Many of my customers I consider friends. It’s a matter of staying in touch on social media. When a customer of mine posts something, I will comment on it. I’ll say, “That’s awesome. You did a good job.” When I come across or talk to them on the phone, I say, “Oh, yeah, I saw what you posted on Facebook. That was really cool. Did you have a good time on vacation?” “Congratulations on being a grandfather or a father.” It’s about having actual conversations, not just every time I talk to you it’s about, “Do you want to buy a car?” It’s about, “Hey, how’s your life?”
Many people appreciate when I send them a personal email just to let them know about pricing structure and incentives. Often, I don’t hear anything for a month or two and then I’ll get an email back. So the effort’s always worth it.
Moody: I don’t answer the phone every time it rings. If I’m doing something that needs my attention, I’m not answering the phone. But if, say, I’m walking around, I’m going to call them right back. If they call and nobody answers or calls back soon, they might call the next guy and I’ve lost a sale. These customers just need to talk to somebody for a minute. They don’t care if I can’t really produce anything right away. But if I tell them they can have the car and I’ll get paperwork to them Monday, then they can be done with this thought process: “I have to get a car. I have to get that out of the way. I’ll call Bob.” That’s a sale.
Type: Fleet vehicles sales organization and dealer network
Locations: Acton, MA, and Cerritos & Torrance, CA
Principals: Coleman Hoyt & Phil Hartz, co-CEOs; Chris Lemley, owner, Sentry Auto Group; Bill Cunningham, VP/general manager and East Coast sales director; Greg Maddock, West Coast sales director; and Bob Moody, East Coast sales manager.
Vehicle brands: Ford, Lincoln, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler
Vehicle types: Sedans, SUVs, vans
Market share: 25%
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