How to Create a Customer-Centric Culture

How to Create a Customer-Centric Culture

A customer-centric culture puts the customer, and not the transaction, at the center of every interaction. As a leader at your dealership, you may have adopted a customer-centric philosophy, but have your service department employees? To be truly successful, customer-centrism needs to become a part of your dealership’s culture. 

Customer-centric: A service philosophy that puts the customer at the center of every interaction, as opposed to the transaction. 

Over the course of eight years, fixed-ops veteran Greg Manson completely transformed 22 different service departments by fostering customer-centric cultures. His unique approach earned buy-in from employees across each service department. Here’s how you can implement Greg’s approach at your dealership:

Form a Cross-Function Team

Begin your customer-centric culture initiative by building a diverse team with individuals from departments across your dealership. You want this team to view the service experience through fresh eyes. These team members need to see the customer’s point of view so they can help others in their respective departments adopt new practices and understand the impact a customer’s experience can have on your dealership.

Get in Character

Gather your team and encourage them to put themselves in the shoes of the service customer. To help team members get in character, Greg handed out hats for employees to wear that said, “Customer” on them. “It just helped,” he recalled. “They got the goal. It helped because we literally wanted them to look at the store through customers’ eyes.”

From the moment employees drive onto the lot you want them thinking as a customer would.

  • Was it easy to schedule the appointment?
  • Is there clear signage to direct them to the service department?
  • What is the first impression of the facility?
  • What questions would a customer have?


Resist the temptation to influence your team’s findings. 

“I needed to turn it over to them and allow the team members to build the customer experience that they would want,” Greg explained.

As your team forms conclusions, instruct them to break down their observations into categories. Here are a few common categories from the teams Greg worked with.

  • Communication
    • The teams usually wanted confirmation after booking an appointment online. Immediate confirmation is the norm in other digital business interactions, so it is expected from the dealership as well. 
    • It occurred to most teams they also desired digital conversation with the dealership. They weren’t interested in picking up the phone.
    • When they drove onto the dealership property, many noticed the need for clear signage to direct them to the service department.
  • Engagement
    • Employees in their “customer” hats generally agreed they wanted immediate and warm acknowledgement when they arrived in the service drive. It didn’t mean they needed to be written up immediately, but they wanted their presence acknowledged.
  • Transparency
    • The project teams would almost inevitably conclude customers wanted to know right at check-in what they needed, why they needed it, how much it would cost, and when they would get their vehicle back.


Your goal in this exercise is employee  buy in to a customer-centric philosophy so they, in turn, drive a culture shift in your service department.

After the team you assemble builds their own expectations of what a customer’s experience should be, they will embrace their findings and expect the changes to be implemented. The project group should meet regularly to share their findings, form consensus, and create a roadmap for deployment of their recommendations — be it process updates or facility changes.

Once Greg’s teams were on board and driving change, it was easier to hold them accountable for the transformation and building the culture . “Because these were their ideas, they were more likely to execute on them…and they were the ones sharing with everyone.”

An employee-led shift to customer-centrism shapes cultures well after recommendations are implemented.

Don’t Let Management Get in the Way

As your project team forms its recommendations, make sure management doesn’t squash their ideas — even if they seem silly at first. You want the team to reflect and grow if they fail. If something doesn’t produce the results they intended, you want them to realize it didn’t go as well as they had hoped and find another avenue.

“You need to get the clear buy-in of people not only at the manager level but at the owner-operator level. They need to understand that things didn’t get broken overnight, so they’re not going to be fixed overnight,” Greg shared. If the leadership above the service manager hasn’t bought into this process, it’ll never get off the ground.”


Your customer-centric culture starts when your team members are thinking like customers. Set them up for success by promoting buy-in to the process, starting with the dealer principal. Once your employees have spotted the changes they can make in processes or to the grounds to improve customer experience, let them run with implementation. When the customer experience is at the center of all you do, and the charge is led by your employees, it will help promote accountability to that philosophy across your entire organization.

Let us help you get customer-centric!

As you’re working on your process changes, don’t forget that putting the right technologies in place is another important part of establishing a customer-centric culture. Our technology solutions and your process improvements can create a seamless experience for your customers. From scheduling an appointment to service delivery and the communication in between, it’s all connected. Discover brand new ways to surprise and delight your customer with us.

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