Serve Like Bill

Here in south Texas, tucked into the Hill Country, the pace is slower, the people are friendly (not waving when at complete strangers on the road is considered downright rude), and there’s a unique lifestyle and culture that’s easy to understand in your gut, once you’ve had the opportunity to spend a day or two visiting.

If you really want to get a feel for the place, check out our twice weekly hometown newspaper where you’ll find excellent coverage of the community’s social calendar, the Senior Center’s daily lunch menu, pictures of every athletic event and, my favorite, the police blotter. Robberies, burglaries, and homicides? Nah. Here we’ve got police officers exhibiting “super human strength” when they move a large rock from the road in front of Walmart, and officers called in to check on a calf down in the riverbed that sounds like it’s in distress (turns out he was just hungry), and even a report of someone’s car being siphoned of gas on Main Street (turns out the embarrassed lady just didn’t want to admit she’d run out of gas while antique shopping). You get the picture.

As you might expect, we’ve got more than our fair share of car dealerships selling pickup trucks where the primary selection criteria appears to be “with gun rack” or “without”. But here’s one for you, my little town is also home to the top rated Mercedes Benz dealership in all of North America.

Is that because in this little town of 8,000 people every household’s second vehicle (next to their pickup truck) happens to be a Mercedes? Nope. It’s because this little dealership out in rural Texas attracts customers from all over the US and even Mexico.

Why? The answer is very simple. His name is Bill Bird. And he owns the place. 

I got to meet and begin to get to know Bill when we purchased my first Mercedes after moving to the Hill Country several years ago. Admittedly, as a tall guy (5′ 19″), I was really just looking for a car I could fit in and wandered in to “kick some tires”, so to speak. I walked out with a new car because the experience was, well, just extraordinary. What sets this dealership apart is the way they make their customers feel. Valued. Important. Respected. Served.

When I bought the car I was told to never wash it. “Does Mercedes have some unique paint keeping its black cars looking clean forever?” I wondered. Not quite. Turns out Bill sincerely wants to get to know his customers. The best way he could figure on doing that was to give them a good reason to come back. Apparently unlimited free car washes/detailing is a good motivator to get customers to come in, drink a cup of Starbucks coffee, nibble on a freshly baked cookie, and visit for awhile.

Then they threw in free massages every Tuesday and Thursday and added a video game room and hot chocolate and now my son begs to go hang out at the Mercedes Benz dealership instead of going to SeaWorld. Need a shoe shine? Hop on up on his “throne” and put on your sunglasses. You’ll need your shades on after you see the shine they put on those shoes.

Turns out serving someone is a pretty good way to get to know them and a pretty good relationship builder.

But cars being cars, well, they’re going to have problems occasionally. What happens when that really expensive German engineered vehicle just isn’t performing up to par? Does it suddenly become an “us” versus “them” hair-pulling, frustrating experience?

Hardly. Bill has instilled in his dealership, the entire organization, the default response to every single customer request should be YES. YES, I will go above and beyond to make this right for you. YES, I will go above and beyond to make this easy for you. YES, I will go above and beyond to ensure you are served and happy and satisfied with your experience here. YES. Bill figures there are already enough NO’s in the world.

Of course, you know this only works if the leader is setting the example from the top and if every single employee is empowered to deliver on their YES. Because Bill sets the example from the top, I’ve got his personal cell phone number. Just in case. There may be a day when I require him. When that day comes, he wants to be sure I can reach him quickly and easily. After all, I’m his customer. And I’m valued. I’m served.

Now, a guy like Bill, you know his service extends way beyond his business. I’m sure he’s the kind of guy that serves his family, neighbors, church and community in ways I’ll never hear or read about so it comes as no surprise when I see his picture in our little newspaper underwriting the T-ball field maintenance, serving on the Board at the YMCA. Even humble Bill can’t avoid getting noticed from time to time.

You want to get noticed, have customers, and be successful like Bill? Serve like Bill. A great start would be to grab a gallon of gas for that lady who ran out, or feed Elmer’s hungry calf down on the riverbed. Then watch how it makes them feel. You get the picture.

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