“The biggest obstacle of growth is [being] content,” said Mark Frendt, VP of Business Development, RICOP Construction. “I want to challenge you to get over your fear and stop feeling content with your business.”

In their presentation on customer service and brand differentiation, Frendt and Walt Beatty, President, RICOP, gave practical advice aimed at helping General Managers and Owners wow their customers and build their businesses.


The pair opened the session by highlighting a case study in which an airline surveyed 60,000 of their customers – half before takeoff, half during flight. The pre-flight surveys gave the airline rave reviews, speaking highly of the staff and the on-flight amenities. Those surveyed after takeoff were intentionally exposed to tray-tables covered in coffee stains. As a result, the in-flight customers’ rating of all aspects of the flying experience dropped dramatically.

Frendt and Beatty’s point was that customers are often swayed by highly visible, highly correctable experiences at a dealership and managers should take note.

As a solution, the duo offered a three step approach to providing truly significant customer experiences – know more, get closer and connect exceptionally. They stressed that dealers should place an emphasis on understanding how local customers shop, as well as understand the perceived expectations of their dealership’s brand.

Frendt cited that the number one reason, by 40 percent, customers switch to a competitor is poor customer service, something that can be a result of an interaction with anyone at the dealership.

“The most important person in your dealership is the last person your customer talked to,” said Frendt. “If you get your mind around that and focus on it, it’s going to help you increase your profits and sales.”

By ensuring consistency through all employee-customer interactions, he argued that keeping just two percent of customers would have the same effect on profits as cutting costs by 10 percent.

To turn around a negative company culture, Frendt and Beatty suggested involving a small group key stakeholders, including members of the dealership, as well as longtime customers and trusted advisors, to brainstorm ways to improve customer experiences.

Through a practical exercise that dealers could take back to their store, the pair showcased the power of collaboration as way to foster creativity and get buy-in for change.

“You need to get every paddle in the water,” said Beatty. “You need to get everybody at the store on board.”

With stakeholder input and intentional action, Frendt maintained that the opportunity to engage customers in a positive was infinite.

For more from NADA 2013, check out our other session recaps here.