HUGH SISLEY, PRESIDENT OF SISLEY FOR HONDA
A well-known marker of any company’s success is its longevity, its reputation and its customer satisfaction. Sisley for Honda can boast all three, in spades.
They’ve been honing these principles for over seventy-one years – and three Sisley generations – from Max, to Don, and for the past 25 years, to Hugh.
The company has grown continuously from the humble beginnings of a dealership on the grounds of a rented coal yard gatehouse, at Yonge Street and Sheppard Avenue, where Max had but a single car to show customers.
With determination and a dream, Sisley has grown into one of the highest volume Honda dealers in Canada. With it, came several location changes to ensure the growth of the company.
To accommodate the increasing volume of vehicles being sold and serviced daily, in 2002 Hugh needed to build the state-of-the-art facility that the company that continues to occupy 88 Steeles Avenue West.
Hugh upholds same values that his grandfather and father prized before him: quality, customer satisfaction and, most importantly, family – because Sisley Motors Ltd. is more than just a business, it’s a part of Sisley heritage.
My Business Magazine asked Hugh Sisley about what makes his company so successful, and why customers enjoy coming back. What happens initially when a customer walks in?
Hugh: The first thing that happens is a hostess greets them. A subtle differentiation between us, and other dealerships, in our customer focus.
Our people are hostesses, not greeters. Walmart has greeters. Costco has greeters. A greeter says, ‘Hi.’ A hostess or a host is a person who welcomes you, makes you comfortable, and takes care of you.
The Hostess finds the right Product Advisor to deal with you. If there isn’t one, she’ll offer you coffee or water, give you a place to sit, and take care of you.
So, that’s the first thing. The hostess will come out and talk to you. She’ll ask you a few questions. The Hostess will then introduce the Product Advisor to you. Not just, ‘Joe will take care of care of you,’ but introduces you to Joe. Maybe tells you a little bit about Joe. That’s the first step.
The second step is that the Product Advisor begins by asking questions about what brought you in. What are you here to look at? What is interesting is 70 per cent of people leave with a different vehicle than the one they intended to buy when they walked in the door.
Because we have a very robust product line, they have identified with Honda as a brand – that’s great – and then they’ve identified with a particular product in the line, be that a Civic, or Accord, or CRV. But they might not be aware of all of our products. This is where we come in as a Product Advisor.
They talk to the customer about how they intend to use the vehicle, their needs going forward.
Because it’s not just what you are doing with the car today. Most people own their car for 48 or more months. You’ve got to look at 48 months. You have to plan for that, so maybe you’ll intend on growing your family. We take that into consideration when helping you decide.
MBM: What are clients most impressed with?
Hugh: Google Reviews has changed the landscape. If you look at our Google Reviews, we have a lot of very satisfied customers, because our objective is to treat each customer as an individual, to satisfy their needs - whether it be their needs for a new or used vehicle.
Our philosophy is not to sell a car, but for the customer to purchase the car. In other words, very specifically, exactly what they want.
They have to fall in love with the car.
Our motto is “Family Driven”. We like to treat all our customers like family members.
If you are going to sell someone a car, sell them the car that you’d sell your own mother. In other words, don’t try to find a way to sell them something you want to sell them. Treat them like your own family.
MBM: To what do you attribute the longevity of the company?
Hugh: Part of the success was constant growth, moving locations four times to expand.
Secondly, we focus on the customer. That includes having the right product. Being a Honda dealer was a process that we went through. The business started as a Chrysler dealership in 1946, and with all the longevity of it, there was a constant vetting of different manufacturers that went on for three decades, until we decided on Honda in 1977.
We stuck with it, because it is a fantastic manufacturer. It provides for our customers what they want. Everything we do is focused on how we enhance the customer experience.
MBM: What kinds of things do you do to enhance customers’ experiences?
Huge: One of the most underlying themes that came through is transparency.
If you walk through our building, you will see everything. Every office has a glass component - whether it be a large window, or the door, or both. So, Doug McDougall – the General Manager of the dealership - sits in full view of our customers. We want you to see everything, and to know we have nothing to hide. If you go to our Parts Department and stand at the counter, you can see through the entire length of the Parts Department.
If you come into our Service drive-in, turn, and look north, you look through our entire Service shop. You can stand and watch the activity in the Service shop.
We don't like people in there because there are a lot of moving parts, however people can see it. They can watch. They know that if they are sitting in the customer lounge, they can see your car moved about. They can see their car in the distance in the shop.
You can see everything is visually connected to everything in our building.
We also hired someone to do feng shui for the design of our building. So, there are virtually no right angles in our building. Everything’s on a slight tilt because that was what the feng shui felt, and we felt that that would be important to some customers.
MBM: What differentiates you, from other dealerships?
Hugh: We have recently renovated our showroom to make it a comfortable place.
Also, we use a very detailed tracking system of our customer experience.
So we can see, specifically, when we are dealing with sales people on an individual basis – whether they are delivering on the promise that we make to customer. If they are rushing to get the customer into a car - not having the customer select the car – we can identify that. That causes sales to fall off. We stay focused on what the customer wants, and how they can get what they most want.
In the showroom, right at our entrance, on the wall there is our Promise to Our Customers. It’s not a poster that’s hanging on the wall; it’s actually applied to the wall. It’s part of our structure. It’s part of what we are. It’s not something we can hang, and take off.
The Promise is that whether you buy a car or not here, we will treat you the same. We promise to give you concise and accurate information. We promise to appraise our trade in – all without commitment. We will spend time without commitment.
A lot of people’s perspective is, when they come into a dealership, they are going be pressured into buying something. That’s not how we operate. Our goal is to have you buy the car – the correct car, the car you want. Not a car, the car. We recognize that can be a process. We don’t try to impose a deal right away.
We don’t just want to only sell our customers a car; we want to build a long-term relationship with them.
Dave Gordon has penned more than a thousand articles, and more than five hundred editorials, on every topic imaginable. He writes regularly on domestic and international politics, current events, culture, relationship issues, and much more.
He has spent time in the newsrooms of the Toronto Sun, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Baltimore Sun, National Post and eye Weekly.
Sisley for Honda
88 Steeles Avenue West (just west of Yonge) www.sisleyhonda.com