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Think Your Customers are Loyal?

How one dealership earned an extraordinary display of devotion, and how you can too!

She did what?” I wanted to get this one right.

“One of our customers, Cindi Arroyo, is so happy with us she got a tattoo of our dealership name,” said Jill Giglio, co-owner of Wild Fire Harley-Davidson, in Villa Park, Ill. “We even have a picture. Would you like to see it?”

Do big twins burn gas?

And that’s how Wild Fire Harley-Davidson zealot Cindi Arroyo and her dealership tattoo made it into our column. But what is more instructive is how the tattoo made it on Cindi. “To bottom line it,” states Arroyo, “Wild Fire is like a family.”

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows …
Cindi and her husband bought their first motorcycle as a couple from Wild Fire about four years ago. From the beginning they knew the experience was going to be special.

“You walk in, they scream hello,” Cindi checks herself. “Scream is probably a strong word, but you know, they greet you by name.” (No, I think to myself, I know several of the Wild Fire crew members; scream is probably accurate.)

“Amy in MotorClothes was one of the first people I met at the store. She found the perfect leather jacket for me. She said, ‘Here, this is the one you need for what you’re telling me you want.'”

The gang at Wild Fire learned what Cindi liked and made sure they took the time to show her new stuff. “Cindi, come here, this is new,” they would say. “This will look great on you.” Cindi says her husband gets the same treatment in the parts department and service department.

Perhaps most significantly, Cindi learned how to ride at the dealership via the Riders Edge program. “I was a little scared,” admits Cindi. “A couple of times I did do crazy things and dropped the bike, [but it was] okay, because the instructors were great. I hate to use the word nurturing, but they were. By the end of the course, they were actually telling me to slow down because I had caught on so fast.”

What can you do?
Make great initial impressions. Putting your best foot-peg forward is important. In the later years of his career, baseball great Joe DiMaggio was hurt and aging and his once finely honed skills were slipping. Yet every day he played his heart out. A teammate asked why he pushed so hard. The great DiMaggio reportedly replied, “Because for someone in the stands, it might be the first time they’ve seen me play.” He wanted the reality to match the reputation. You should too.

Customer care
When you know someone’s name, it becomes much more personal. We’ve written about this ad nauseam, but it never fails to create a compelling customer experience on both a conscious and perhaps even subconscious level. Want to dramatically improve your efforts? Learn and use your customers’ names.

Know your stuff
Most customers are happier when they have products to make their motorcycling experience more complete. Whether it’s the perfect bike, accessory or piece of riding gear. You should know your product lines so well that you can suggest two or three complementary items from one primary purchase.

Teach customers something:
Author Peter Senge says, “Through learning we re-create ourselves.” That’s exactly what you do when you teach your customers how to do something like ride. It leaves an indelible impression, they re-create themselves and forever link that experience with your dealership.

Principal Partnerships
For many customers, the relationship with the dealership’s owner is important, and it’s important to Cindi as well. “Jill is not one of those standoffish owners. She’s right there, she’s with you, she’s on the floor, she’s helping you … I didn’t know she was the owner until somebody told me she was, after she had helped me. She didn’t introduce herself as the owner. She just said, ‘Hi, I’m Jill. How can I help you?'”

When asked about her impressions of Jill’s husband, Wild Fire dealer principal Ozzie Giglio, Cindi says she hasn’t met him but she feels as if she has. Why hasn’t she met Ozzie, is he an absentee owner? Nope, he’s serving in the military and spending a lot of time in Iraq.

“When I found out that he had gone overseas, it just meant more to me, because I’m also in a military family. I have a brother-in-law in the service and my father’s retired,” says Cindi. “It means a lot to me that he is serving now. I would love to give him a hug and tell him thank you for serving and to tell him what the dealership means to me.”

Key lessons
Even if you own the place, don’t act like you do! Occasionally dealer principals suffer from “owner-itis,” when the owner of the dealership has an attitude problem. You sweated, saved, slaved and put it all on the line for your dealership. Agreed. You’ve gone into debt, taken on risk and provided employment for countless others. Yes, you have. And since it’s your name on the door, you’ll do as you please. Doing as you please won’t help you reach your potential.

As a dealer principal you set the tone for the dealership. Your attitude is your employees’ attitudes. What do you want that “tone” to be? And employees these days are on heightened hypocrite alert. Common examples include: Employees park out back, but the owner parks in the front; No smoking near the building, but the owner smokes wherever they please; No cell phones on showroom floor, but guess who uses one; Time to push bikes and someone just stands there like a Pharaoh watching the construction of the pyramids.

“Owner-itis” is the professional equivalent to having spinach in your teeth. Your true friends will tell you. Others won’t. It’s hard. It’s embarrassing. But you should know. Own the place, but don’t act like you own the place.

As an owner you are always on
On a recent flight, as my wife Amy and I sat in our seats, we watched other passengers boarding and the flight crew making their pre-flight preparations. In an obvious breach of flying protocol, a first-time flyer found he was standing next to the pilot and asked for a drink of water.

As a group, pilots are known for the cool confidence and also sometimes cocky demeanor. As a sociological researcher (voyeur?) I watched anxiously awaiting the condescension, “Sir, I am the pilot on this aircraft.” Or “The attendants will help you after we’re in the air.” That’s not what he said. “Sure, my pleasure.” He cheerfully responded, deftly serving the parched passenger. The traveler went to his seat, the pilot to the cockpit, and Amy and I were treated to some of the best service we’ve ever had on a four-hour flight. The pilot set the tone for the crew in terms of being customer-focused.

Don’t neglect your ownership responsibilities by spending all day working the parts counter, but look for opportunities to show your customers and your employees that helping the customer is everyone’s responsibility. Take a moment and pilot your reputation to new heights.

Connect deeply with customers
Ozzie Giglio serving in Iraq resonated with Cindi Arroyo. You perhaps can’t sign up for a Special Forces assignment in Iraq, but you can find ways to bond with your customers. Peter Drucker said the role of business was not just to make a profit, but to improve the environment in which they operated. Drucker meant the community. What can your dealership do to be a better community citizen? You can also take a page from the playbook of one of my favorite founding fathers, Ben Franklin. Who said you can, “do well, by doing good.” We need more of that kind of thinking these days.

Sink the Ink
Cindi Arroyo’s tattoo was not done on caprice. Wild Fire Harley-Davidson was having an open house event and one of the vendors on site was going to be a tattoo artist. She talked it over with her husband the night before and he basically said, “If you feel that strongly about it … go for it!”

The next day Cindi headed off to work, fearing she might miss the event; she turned and headed to the dealership. Once there she headed straight for the tattoo artists. She met with an artist by the name of Gina, and told her what she wanted. Gina’s response was apparently concise. “Cool. Where do you want it?”

During the process, word spread with customers and the dealership staff. A couple of the sales girls came outside and were thrilled. “She’s actually getting it done!” Since then, Cindi has received numerous calls and requests from friends, family and other dealership customers to see the tattoo.

To fulfill these requests more easily, Grace, Wild Fire apparel professional, helped Cindi pick out a few shirts that would show off the tattoo.

James Wallish, marketing manager at Wild Fire (and photographer of inset picture), talks about what else the dealership did for Cindi. “When Cindi received the tattoo, and we were made aware of the Dealership’s logo being featured on it, the dealership decided to pick up the cost. We were pretty blown away that an individual felt so much loyalty towards WFHD that they would get a tattoo depicting our logo.”

Cindi enthusiastically shares Jill Giglio’s reaction: “Jill was just astounded. She didn’t know that her dealership meant that much to us. … She’s hired the right people; she’s made the right atmosphere; she’s created …a home for people to ride … The whole experience has blown me away. My heart belongs to Wild Fire, literally. And that’s where my loyalty lies because they were great from the get go.”

Is Wild Fire the perfect dealership? Probably not. No dealership (or person!) is either wholly good or bad. Can this chapter of the Wild Fire story be instructive? You bet. In fact you can ink it.

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