>Meet an Elgin-area car dealer who goes out of his way to make sure customers receive excellent service every time.
One of the biggest gripes customers have about auto dealerships is poor customer service.
Not at Woody Buick GMC in Elgin, where managers view top customer service as an indispensible part of their business model. The dealership, located at 909 E. Chicago St., sells both new and used vehicles and has a service and parts department.
“Woody” is owner Stephen Woodring, who’s worked in the auto sales business for 40 years. At age 18, he started as a salesman and quickly rose through the ranks as a sales manager and general manager, before opening Woody Buick in Bensenville nine years ago. He moved to Elgin six years ago.
“To be in this business for 40 years, you have to be doing something right,” Woodring says. “You’re not in business this long because you get lucky or the market was good. We’re taking the business model we’ve been working with, and we’re improving upon it.”
“Woody is the best person I’ve worked for and the hardest person I’ve ever worked for,” says Carey Lynch, general sales manager. “He’s 100 percent about customer service. He never says ‘no’ to his employees. In return, he expects you to give the same effort he would. He’s passionate about what he does, and he won’t settle for second best, ever.”
Still, there have been some bumps along the way. The biggest challenge was in 2009, when General Motors (GM) filed for bankruptcy as part of a government-led plan to restructure the struggling 100-year-old company.
“It was terrible,” says Lynch. “I was very worried for Woody’s health, when GM went through bankruptcy.” But Woody and his managers derived a plan to save jobs for the staff of nearly 60. Executives gave up bonuses, and all staff took pay cuts; even the purchase of office supplies was scaled back. “We never missed payroll,” Lynch says. “Health insurance was taken care of, and Woody always paid staff before he paid himself.”
Woodring’s generosity extends to his loyal customer base. Lynch says every customer that Woody does business with is promised unwavering service that many dealerships don’t offer. “Some dealerships are content making a big profit on one customer, and they don’t care about making another sale the rest of the week,” she says. “We don’t tolerate that. In this business, you earn customers, and you earn relationships for life. They trust you. You can’t take advantage of customers. If you do, they may not find out today, but they will find out. You’ll never see those people again.”
Through its valet service, the dealership delivers a newly purchased vehicle to the owner’s driveway or place of business. If your car needs service, Woody Buick delivers a replacement vehicle, then brings your car back washed and vacuumed.
“That way you don’t have to sit and wait here at the dealership,” Lynch says. “A lot of people don’t have time. People work, and then they don’t want to give up family time on Saturday to sit here, and they shouldn’t have to. It’s not necessary.”
Woody Buick also offers a 24-hour test drive policy for customers interested in purchasing a new vehicle.
“When you do a 15-minute test drive with someone in the back seat, you get nervous,” Lynch says. “You feel more comfortable if you can drive around with your family and actually put the vehicle in your garage.”
The service department has a preferred owners program that returns to customers 5 percent of what they spend in service repairs. The reward points can be used for car rentals, repairs, parts or services like tire rotation.
While there are dealerships closer to his home, Brett L. Sechler of Rockford has purchased three vehicles in four years from Woody Buick. The retired school teacher heard about the dealership from a co-worker, who gave the business a ringing endorsement. Sechler negotiated his purchase of an Acadia over the phone. The price was right, so he ordered the car sight unseen. When he needs an oil change, a Woody employee drives to Sechler’s Rockford home and picks up his car; a replacement vehicle is at his door whenever his car needs repair.
Sechler has been so impressed that he’s recommended Woody Buick to dozens of contacts. “I was treated like royalty,” he says. “I’ve never done business with a dealership like Woody. They work around your schedule. They’re friendly, and they’ll bend over backward for their customers.”
Lynch knows the importance of good customer service. She was once a car customer herself, which is how she ended up selling cars. In 1999, Lynch owned a hair salon and was in the market for a new car. Unhappy with how she was treated at other dealerships, she walked into Navarrete Pontiac GMC and found her dream car. Impressed with her knowledge and her moxie, the dealership offered her a part-time sales position on the spot. Over time, Lynch went to work for a neighboring car dealer and later enrolled herself in a minority dealership program, in hopes of getting her own dealership. In time, she landed with Woodring, when he opened his Elgin location.
“I love interacting with people,” she says. “I enjoy working with a customer who has a preconceived notion that he or she is going to be jerked around and not be treated fairly. That person always walks in with a chip on his shoulder. I love turning that person into a happy customer, when he tells me it was the best experience he ever had buying a car.”
That enthusiasm is evident in Woody Buick’s television advertising. The commercials star Woodring and Lynch, whose on-camera rapport is no act. “We’re both average people,” she says. “We can relate to our customers. Woody is the same person you see on TV. He’s a goofball. He comes up with crazy ideas, and I’m the straight person.”
Over the years, Lynch has observed a change in the way people buy cars. “They used to walk into a dealership and not know anything about the car,” she says. “Now, people shop via the Internet before they come into the dealership. They don’t have the time to come in, or they don’t like confrontation. They don’t want to argue over the price of the car or its trade value. We don’t argue. We’re not going to lose your business over a few hundred bucks.”
For the past few years, GM has gradually consolidated Buick with GMC and former Pontiac dealerships, to create the current Buick-GMC network. During GM’s Chapter 11 reorganization in 2009, the company designated Buick as a core brand and unveiled the new LaCrosse sedan, which was well received by the buying public. The LaCrosse remains one of the most popular Buick products, along with the Enclave and the GMC Terrain.
“Years ago, we had to talk people into buying our vehicles,” Lynch says. “They would buy them because there was a huge rebate, or they wanted to be loyal to General Motors. Now they’re buying the vehicles because they’re great products. General Motors is a whole new company with new products. They’re just phenomenal.” ❚