While at the IADAC Conference in Lake Tahoe, we took a few minutes to chit chat with the used car Queen of Orland, Ca. Brittany Hibdon.
Dealership News: As a woman owner/operator, do you find it gives you an advantage or a disadvantage in dealing with customers? Is it easier dealing with male buyers or do you find the women are more trustworthy of you than they would be a man?
Brittany: I believe talent and personality play more of a role than gender. However, there is a lot of stigma attached to the idea of a “typical salesman.” The majority of my sales staff is female, and we’ve had people walk in the showroom and comment in surprise at the number of women employed. Breaking the stereotype expected might be an advantage all on its own! Women also tend to have more empathy – nurturing is in our make-up. With male or female customers, we tend to wear our hearts on our sleeves, and customers see that we care. I think this may allow us to break down walls and connect faster with our customers.
Brittany: I’ve actually found that customers are less concerned with my gender than fellow industry members! When I first started buying cars at the auction, it was clear I had entered a man’s world. I think since it’s still fairly uncommon to meet a female dealer, most dealers are simply surprised by it. I’m very grateful for the friends I’ve made and the respect I’ve been given as I’ve made my mark in this industry.
Dealership News:Tell us a little bit about the dynamic of working with your husband who runs the service dept. Who gets in who’s hair the most?
Brittany: That’s debatable (LOL). In all seriousness, we get along quite well. My husband does a fantastic job of overseeing our Service Department, and knows more about fixing cars than anyone I’ve ever met. Even other shops in town call him for advice. I stick to my role of General Manager and we stay out of each other’s hair for the most part. In addition to regular managers meetings with our leadership team, he and I recently started a “Same Page Meeting” once a week, and that helps us by purposely setting aside time to discuss any issues that we both need to work on together.
Dealership News: Every small-town dealer has its main competitor, without naming names (we know who it is LOL), what do you do better than they do, is it service, is it sales, is it selection?
Brittany: I have a lot of respect for our largest competitor. However, I believe that our niche separates us from all of our competition. Our mission statement says it best:
Brittany: We put our customers first, before everything else. We believe everyone deserves to drive a Nicer, Newer car®. Our business is different- our business is not selling cars. Our business is finding solutions to the everyday problems that keep most people stuck in a car they hate. We’re on a mission to change the world one person at a time by helping them get the car they want and deserve.
Dealership News: Who are your favorite vendors and do you use classified listing sites so you can pull from surrounding cities or do you use other methods such as social media, radio, or cable TV to bring folks in?
Brittany: We’ve done well with radio and social media. We work with an incredibly talented marketing company that has helped us increase our reach to surrounding cities and grow our customer base. We’ve found that speaking to masses works better for us than targeting specific buyers or spending money on classified listing sites. It’s not for everyone, but it works well for us!
Dealership News: You can’t satisfy all of the people all the time but you sure can try, what measures do you have in place to make sure you aren’t held hostage by negative reviews or questionable review sites like the good folks at Yelp?
Brittany: I appreciate your classification of Yelp as “questionable!” I think best way to handle a negative review is to respond. If the customer is upset or frustrated about something, I try to leave a short reply and then take the conversation off-line. We reach out and often can get to the bottom of the situation and find resolution. Some people just like to complain and won’t respond to us, but that’s OK too. I’ve had situations where customer see our replies to negative reviews and “like” or comment in agreement with us! People want to see that we are real, and that we care about the things they care about.
Dealership News:Where do you see the future of the automobile industry after the electric, autonomous cars kick in, say 10 years down the road? Will the used car business survive?
Brittany: Since I am in the solutions business, not the car business, I think there will always be customers to help and problems to solve. I also believe customers want great service, they want human interaction, they want to touch and drive and smell and see. Electric or autonomous cars are probably not for everyone, and as the industry shifts beyond just new technology to buying online, etc. I believe giving the customer an unexpectedly wonderful experience will stand out even more.