Treating guests like, well, guests

April 25, 2023

We write a lot about the future of the automotive retail experience, and at times it seems like it’s a lot of theoretical discussions that don’t necessarily make it to the sales floor and service bays of our dealerships.

Being an admittedly impatient person myself, once a good new idea presents itself to me, I’m drawn to it pretty quickly and I am apt to discard the old idea or approach pretty readily.

It’s not always so easy on a company or dealership-wide level. Your employees will be more likely to stick to anything that has been a tried and true proven method for their own success. Most of that is dictated by the behaviours and actions they get rewarded for or that they see others rewarded for.

So, for example, if hitting your monthly sales targets is driving all your sales conversations, and the sales leaderboard is the visible display of that success, then you can’t be surprised or disappointed if they fall short on other key measures, like providing a great customer experience.

If your F&I and business office teams are only praised or rewarded for stellar sales months and exceeding targets, they can hardly be blamed for squeezing your customers a little harder and creating what we all recognize as one of the worst customer experiences in dealerships.

OEMs and analysts have been working at a 30,000 foot level re-imagining the entire customer journey, considering every customer touchpoint in our digital and physical omnichannel world. That’s all great. But the experiences your customers are going to feel are going to be dictated by the things you focus on, measure and reward on a daily basis.

That’s why it was such an interesting experience visiting the Genesis Retail Experience Centre in London, Ont. for a special ceremony earlier this month. They were the first auto retailer on the planet to be formally recognized as being “In Partnership with Forbes Travel Guide.” That means they met a set of rigorous standards that measured whether they were delivering an exceptional experience throughout all aspects of their dealership, or distributorship as they call it.

Darren Slind, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Clarify Group, a Markham, Ont.-based research and consultancy firm that worked with Genesis to launch the program, was on hand for the special ceremony. “We looked at all of the touch points in the guest journey,” said Slind. “What’s impressive is the consistency with which the Genesis London team delivers that elevated experience to their guests.”

During the tour of their facility, and in an interview at the event, General Managing Partner Hass Hijazi, explained the differences in approaches that make the Genesis experience so different for their guests.

The use of the term “guest” is very much on point at Genesis London. From the layout of the facility, the design, flow, amenities and personal touches, it very much caters to a guest experience in the luxury space. Even the washrooms are well appointed with personal touches you might expect at a resort or spa, like mouthwash. The coffee is served in China not paper cups, the guest waiting area looks like a stylish café.

When guests pull up to the Genesis branded service bay, the doors automatically open and they are greeted by an enthusiastic and well-trained ownership experience manager. Their vehicle is checked in, their needs are discussed, and they never set foot anywhere near an actual service bay. The vehicle is shuttled off to the service center adjacent to the building.

Regardless of their role, these are highly-trained people who are comparing the guest experience they are delivering against those at luxury hotels, restaurants and resorts.

It might seem to be an oversimplification, but they are treating their valued guests like, well, valued guests.

About Todd Phillips

Todd Phillips is the editorial director of Universus Media Group Inc. and the editor of Canadian auto dealer magazine. Todd can be reached at

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