GM has been considering selling Hummer to the Chinese, while also playing with the possibility of euthenizing the SAAB brand if they cannot sell it. Although I am tempted to ask “how did we get here?” I’m sure many have already asked this question, so I will refrain.
What I would like to discuss however, is that we have reached a point in the evolution of value where the obvious should no longer surprise us. Business is about people first, then about money. At the end of the day, people make cars, people sell cars and people buy cars. Many make the mistake of believing that the car business must, then, be about cars. But it isn’t. The car is, in fact, the most commoditized part of the equation (especially American made cars). Although we would rather deal with cars than people, this approach is powerless in an experience economy. People are the source and receptors of experiences, the judges of value and the determinants of our success. They are empowered with information and are therefore no longer victims to our tactics.
The good news is that loyalty also is about people, and that it can be created at very little or even at no cost. Simply by finding ways of making our customers emotional about our brand, what we stand for, what we’re committed to, and what we do to be authentic to this claim.
Which brings me to an article I read about Mr. Sewell and his long-term attention to customer service as a way of adding value to his dealership. Mr. Sewell’s approach to business has left him and his brand perhaps more stable and certainly more loved than the brands of the products he sells.
“I asked a neighbor what she will do with her Saab now, and she said she just plans to buy another Sewell,” Campbell said. “That’s brand power.”
Mr. Sewell seems to have known what many overlook . . .”We couldn’t control the product,” said Sewell, “But we could control the customer experience.”
Now, as the Chinese auto manufacturers are considering entrance into the US market, they are looking for high brand loyalty dealerships to carry new unknown brands under their wings. When such dealers invest their hard earned brand equity to good business use, I’m sure there will be those among us who may consider them as “selling out” to yet another wave of importers. But just remember, they did the right thing all these years in building their brands, It is the auto brands that have failed them.
Is it too late to put our attention on the customer? No.
But many of the large dealerships I speak with still believe they are selling cars (the most undifferentiated aspect of their business), as if it was still 1970. Let’s sell trust, convenience, respect, guaranteed transportation to work, safety, anything but cars. It isn’t about the product anymore. The experience is what differentiates brands. The product is just the vehicle we use to carry our mind-set and commitment to serving people.
Here is the link to the article.
Thank you Mr. Sewell for your example.
Committed to XCL