Phil Hauck's TEC Blog

Thursday, May 30, 2013

John Bergstrom On Developing His Bergstrom Customer Experience Culture

John Bergstrom, principal and co-founder of the more than 30 Bergstrom auto dealerships in Northeast Wisconsin, which are on the cusp of reaching $1 billion in annual volume this year, has an organization famed for its consistency of high customer service experiences.  While they have been refined and customized for situational reasons over the years since they purchased the first dealership in 1982, there is a set of values ... each of which is grounded in a story ... that drives how each of the 1290 employees is expected to treat customers (and each other). 
He expressed these in a presentation this Noon to the Green Bay Chamber's CEO Roundtable group.  

Here are some of his points:
•  The values are based on his very Catholic and Scandinavian mother, who ran a family of five kids and a father who worked for his uncles selling pulp.  From her, he got the idea that everyone will be a "Guest."  Every Sunday at 4 PM, the extended Bergstrom family was invited to gather at their home ... and the kids were grilled in advance to welcome each family member, shake their hands, say Welcome and Thanks For Coming.  Another time, John received a phone call from his Cub Scout Packmaster giving him some information, and he forgot to say Thank You.  His mother whomped him, saying that the Packmaster was taking his valuable time to help him out, and he must be respectful!
•  Note that the Values stated below make up the Bergstrom Customer Experience Culture that John and Dick have inculcated ... and that they are articulated in SPECIFIC BEHAVIORS!!  (What are the specific BEHAVIORS that make up the top 5-8 elements of your organization Culture??)
•  He began his presentation by talking about a recent day, when he was involved in three significant events ... none of them remarkable ... but each representing a group of people actively trying to make Northeast Wisconsin a better place to be ... just naturally, as a HABIT.  It wasn't remarkable.  It was what they DO.
•  After graduating from Marquette, he became a used car salesman ... and then with his brother borrowed $40,000 and opened a bar (one of more than 80 in the area)!  How could they be distinctive?  They took their Mom's suggestion ... and made it a point for their seven employees to try to remember as many patrons' names as possible, and what each drank.  They made it a contest, and applied memory techniques.  They got to where between the seven of them they knew 80% of the clientele and what they drank.  At one point, the police closed them down because too many people were in the bar.
•  They opened additional bars, not as successfully ... and eventually sold them to buy a hotel, and then an auto dealership.  Entrepreneurial!  Following are some of the Values that make up the cultural that makes the organization successful today.  Each is told as part of an actual STORY, which makes them more memorable!

1.  Greet everyone.  Shake their hands, look them in the eye ... and try to get their name.  "I'm John.  What is your name?"
2.  Ask about their lives ... but don't dwell on the drudgery of life.  If they ask about yours, stay positive.
3.  Pay attention to that ONE person.  Make that person the sole focus of your attention.  Make him/her feel valued.
4.  Weekly, the staff will meet ... not to talk about sales and expenses and profits ... but about the Customer Experience!
5.  If the customer or prospect is a mother with kids, they get priority.  Go into the parking lot and help them out.  After the experience, accompany them to their car.  Carry what they have if appropriate.  Why?  Because everyone has a hectic life, especially a mother with kids.  At 10 PM that evening, when all is quiet, she will go on Facebook or the internet and tell her friends about her day, especially the wonderful experiences she had.  We want to be part of that.
6.  At the conclusion of the discussion, say Thank You.  Twice!
7.  As a boss, never be special.  Do everything you ask your employees to do.
8.  Take advantage of every opportunity to participate in making a customer's day brighter ... and in fixing a specific problem, especially if it involves your product or service.  If you do it well, not ingratiatingly, just naturally ... the word will spread!

•  They employ Mystery Shoppers to sample the service levels of every operation monthly:  Service, Parts, Body Shop, New Cars, Used Cars.  The experiences are compiled and graded ... and ranked.  And discussed.  "What opportunity do we have to be even better?"
•  At the end, he told several other stories that represented how leaders convey values through their actions, setting the Cultural Behavior expectations.
•  And he ended with, "That's Our Story!"  
It's all about your Stories.