When someone asks you to name the “Happiest Place on Earth,” one word comes to mind to a lot of people: Disneyland.

Marty Sklar of the Walt Disney Co. says, “From the beginning, starting with Walt Disney, we have had five things that make me proud to be part of this company.”

He names them: high-quality products, optimism for the future, great storytelling, an emphasis on family entertainment and great talent, passion and dedication from our cast members.

So how is this relevant to selling cars? Simple. If your dealership is not a great destination, if you are not striving to be the happiest — no, the greatest — place on earth to purchase cars, then you are missing a significant competitive edge.

Using the Disney model, let's look at how to transform a dealership into a destination offering happy experiences.

Innovation

Managers and employees should ask themselves every day, “What did I do differently today to make my job and my clients' experience better?”

Disney makes guests' visits more enjoyable with things like FASTPASS that cuts down wait times for attractions and the Mobile Magic App that lets guests check wait times and park details.

Innovations don't have to be costly.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car simply offers the unexpected: “Hi, I'm Joe and my job is to help you get your car and get on the road a quickly as possible.”

Try this. Create excitement! Thank the customer for buying something — new or pre-owned using the dealership's PA system. Have every employee applaud, throw confetti and cheer, and offer a sparkling cider (faux champagne) toast!

Quality

Every dealership strives to deliver a high standard of excellence in service and to maintain high-quality across the entire dealership.

Yet often, management fails to honestly study their destination from an outside perspective. Stand in front of your dealership. Does it have curb appeal? Walk through. What do you see? Is it clean, accessible? (At Disney, it's every Cast Member's job to keep the park spotless, including the executives.)

Are the guest amenities sufficient and above par — beverages, snacks, waiting area, play area, restrooms? Even things as small as employee name tags make a difference.

How helpful are your people — are they compartmentalized and focused on their own job or do they offer to help, regardless of the need? Do managers act like the dealership's maitre d' and ensure the service is excellent and fix it if it isn't? Are you always looking for ways to improve?

Community

At Disney, Cast Members create positive and inclusive ideas. A dealership should be no different. Welcome clients into your community, to your family.

Give employees name tags so no one is a stranger. Be sure every employee greets every customer personally and positively.

Get to know them. Why are they looking for a car? What will they use it for? Do they have a family? What type of work do they do? What needs, wants and desires do they have when it comes to a car?

Listen intently, remember, and use what is learned in an authentic manner.

Be prepared for children accompanying their parents and have activities that cater to them.

The greatest place on earth to buy cars begins with genuinely caring and interested people. One way to do this is through local community support. Do these things in a visible way that involves your employees, customers. The goodwill will be immeasurable.

(Next month we'll discuss more ways to make your dealership a desirable destination point.)

Richard F. Libin is president of APB-Automotive Profit Builders, Inc., a firm with 42 years experience working on customer satisfaction and maximizing gross profits through personnel development and technology. He is at rlibin@apb.cc or 508-626-9200.

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