Jaguar Land Rover North Scottsdale isn't just puttin' on the ritz for its customers. It's taking dealership employees for afternoon tea at the nearby service-oriented Ritz-Carlton hotel as part of their training.
A new training program for customer-facing employees helps them "experience what our customers are used to," said Bobby Perich, general manager of the remodeled 10,000-square-foot store in Arizona that now houses both British brands.
The dealership's buyers have very high expectations wherever they go, including high-end restaurants and hotels that his staff can't afford, Perich said.
Perich takes three or four employees at a time -- concierges, valets and vehicle loan staffers.
His point to staffers: The store's customers "need to get the same, if not a better, level of service when they come to the store."
The training starts with lunch at the nearby upscale Capital Grille steakhouse: "The first time we went there and we valet parked, there were six cars in the valet circle, and four were either Jaguars or Range Rovers."
Later in the day, the group goes to the Ritz-Carlton in Phoenix for tea.
"They have a tea room with a formal tea setting," said Perich. "It is very opulent and over-the-top with the china, the music, the piano player and the explanation of the tea."
Chris Marchand: Experience should feel rewarding.
The luxury experience
At both places, staff members explain how they interact with customers, said Perich.
The training is just one of the customer experience programs the store has instituted since it put both brands into the same dealership in January 2013 at the urging of the factory.
The facility has been cited as a prime example of the direction that Jaguar Land Rover North America wants its stores to take. Dealers are being urged to buy or sell their franchises and combine Land Rover and Jaguar into one facility with a wide range of cars, crossovers and SUVs, just like its luxury competitors. Range Rover vehicles are also part of the Land Rover franchise.
"The new modern facility is inviting and features both brands, but most importantly, the on-the-ground customer experience is designed to be as rewarding as the vehicles themselves," said Chris Marchand, executive vice president of operations for Jaguar Land Rover North America.
For the Penske Automotive Group-owned store, the proof is in the numbers. Jaguar new-car sales rose 39 percent to 136 units in 2013. Land Rover was up 21 percent to 535 vehicles. Used-car sales average 60 to 65 units monthly.
When Penske acquired the franchises in 1994, separate stores were built for each brand. In 2002, the group built the Scottsdale 101 Automotive Collection for 13 brands on a 40-acre site along with a test track and racing museum. The Jaguar and Land Rover brands continued to be separately housed.
About two years ago, Jaguar Land Rover North America began urging dealers to combine the brands into one store to avoid losing customers who wanted a vehicle type or size that one or the other brand didn't offer. The Penske organization agreed the idea made sense and remodeled a building on its campus.
The staffs were merged to sell and service both brands.
"Nobody's title changed, but they all felt like they were promoted. We were smallish or average-sized niche stores," said Perich. "We have to remind each other we are a big kid on the block."
The showroom has an open layout with service close to sales to allow for interaction, he said.
The brands share a rear service area that handles about 80 repair orders daily.
Perich said the store has streamlined the procedure so that the same service adviser takes one customer through the entire order-repair-payment process.
Service advisers are matched with salespeople, "and they act as a team to build up trust," said Perich.
The shared service area at Jaguar Land Rover North Scottsdale handles about 80 repair orders daily.
Behind the store, there's an off- and on-road test track for Land Rover complete with hills to ascend and descend, a small rock pile and a side tilt to show off the vehicles' prowess.
"We use it every day for every new or pre-owned Land Rover test drive and monthly hold a clinic for customers," said Perich.
Customers drive the track for three hours -- with supervision, he said.
The store also sponsors a quarterly off-road excursion to the nearby mountains and valleys that's limited to 12 customers.
"We keep them in line like ducks to teach them what their car could do and to get into the desert," Perich said. "They bring the kids and dog."
Jaguar events aren't quite so rough and rugged. During the holidays, the store held a driving event, for which attendees met at the Penske Racing museum.
The museum served as a donation center for the Toys for Tots program; car owners all brought toy donations, and the store made a charitable contribution, said Perich.
After a museum tour, the owners drove caravan style for 25 miles to a popular Phoenix restaurant for brunch.
"The valet parked our 15 Jaguars together in the front row of the place," said Perich, who left gift bags in the owners' cars while they ate.