Earl Stewart is the owner and general manager of Earl Stewart Toyota in North Palm Beach. The dealership is located at 1215 N. Federal Highway in Lake Park. Contact him at www.earlstewarttoyota.com, call (561) 358-1474, fax (561) 658-0746 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Listen to him on Seaview AM 960, FM 95.9 and FM 106.9, which can be streamed at www.SeaviewRadio.com every Saturday morning between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m.
This column originally appeared in October 2006.
About 17 years ago, a car dealer in Dallas wrote the book "Customers for Life." His name is Carl Sewell and the book describes in detail why treating your customers with care, courtesy, respect and dignity is the surest way to success in the retail automobile business.
When I first read this book many years ago, I wished that I had written it myself. I learned a lot from "Customers for Life" and it had a major impact on my business and my life.
If you would like a free copy of this book, just go to my website, EarlStewartToyota.com. Click on the link under the picture of the book where it says "complimentary copy click here."
Some of the chapters in the book are: the customer will tell you how to provide good service, if the customer asks, the answer is always yes, there's no such thing as after hours, under-promise and over-deliver and you can't give good service if you sell a lousy product.
When you read this book, you should have a pretty good idea of how you should expect to be treated by your car dealer, or any retail business establishment.
Remember that Carl Sewell is not just a nice guy but also a very shrewd businessman. He learned that by treating customer so nicely and fairly he actually exceeded their expectations. These customers continued to buy from him for the rest of their lives, hence the title.
Back in 1990, he calculated the average customer for life bought $517,000 in cars and service from him over their lifetimes. Adjusted for inflation, that would amount to closer to $1 million today. Furthermore, these customers referred their friends, neighbors and relatives. Also, Carl Sewell did not have to spend any advertising money to persuade them to buy from him. It is no wonder he is one of the largest volume and most profitable car dealers in the U.S.
Carl also believes in treating his employees with the same courtesy, care and respect that he treats his customers. Have you ever been embarrassed in a retail business when a boss chewed out a subordinate in front of you?
Chapter 13 is entitled: Who's more important, your customer or your employee? A: both.
When you enter a car dealership where the employees are more like teammates and genuinely care for each other and their supervisors you can practically feel it in the air. You feel more comfortable and trusting and more confident that, if they treat each other like this, you will be treated similarly. This is a direct quote from the book: "It's very rare to see a manager who treats his customers one way and his employees another. And it's awfully hard for employees to treat customers well if the boss treats them badly."
After you read "Customers for Life,: why not loan it to your car dealer? Remember that this is not a "do-gooder" kind of a book. The message is that a businessman can be more successful and profitable by employing the recommendations of this book.
Loaning your car dealer this book would be doing him a favor. Most car dealers should have heard of Carl Sewell. He is one of the most successful car dealers in the county and his book is considered by manufacturers and dealers to be the "bible" for customer satisfaction. If they haven't heard about Carl Sewell, feel free to use me as a reference.
Reading "Customers for Life" had a major positive impact on my success and the reputation I enjoy as a car dealer.