Life on the Road: What I Learned My First (38th) Year
- Key takeaways as Chief Customer Ambassador.
- The importance of listening and being a better partner.
2021 was a year to remember for everyone. Dave Bates, Chief Customer Ambassador at Reynolds and Reynolds, connects with this statement, though his story is rather unique. In his nearly forty-year career, Dave understands the industry and the dealer. When asked to step into the role of Chief Customer Ambassador in March 2021, Dave was eager to be part of a new journey at Reynolds, despite knowing it may be a wild ride. One year later, we sat down with Dave to see where his new role has taken him in his first (thirty-eighth) year and what life on the road really means when working with customers.
A year in, has your definition of your role as Chief Customer Ambassador changed? If so, how?
Not exactly. I went into the role knowing I was to be the voice of our customers and to work in tangent with our executive team to meet and exceed their expectations. That has been my focus from the beginning. My primary objective has been to listen and understand how we can be a better partner. Right out of the gate, I had several face-to-face visits and a number of phone conversations and discussions with our customers. It was eye-opening and grounding all at the same time.
What changes have you seen implemented as a result of visiting dealerships across the country this past year?
The feedback was pretty consistent. As our customers acknowledge the rapid changes taking place in the industry, it’s clear flexibility is key. They highlighted the need to simplify and modernize our contracts. Each dealer has a unique view of the world, so what is important to them may not be to others. Our contracts have been simplified and provide the flexibility needed to work with our customers and help them be more successful.
What was something new you learned from a dealership or dealer that helped you see something differently?
One of the ah-ha moments for me was talking about trying new products. Many times, our customers would feel like one of our solutions may be a fit but they wanted to try it before they buy it. If you think about their business and their customer, that’s what they’re accustomed to. Before you make the $30,000 purchase on a new car, you test drive it. I think our dealer partners have that same mentality when doing business. As a result, we have built some flexibility in to allow that to happen, and this goes back to us listening to their needs and being willing to make changes that serve both organizations.
What are some other benefits of this two-way dialogue with customers?
If we are going to deepen our partnerships with our customers, we need to be able to work together in ways that deliver great outcomes for both of us. Visiting their world and getting a first-hand look at their daily operations, it fosters a positive dialogue that allows us to be creative problem solvers.
What was your most memorable dealership visit from 2021 and why does it stand out to you?
One of my first trips was to a dealership that had left us for a competitor. I had a long relationship with the organization and was personally saddened when they decided to leave us. However, about 18 months in with their new partner, they realized all providers aren’t the same, even if they claim to be. When I was given the chance to visit this dealership, it was a prime opportunity to personally thank them for giving us another chance to partner up. It was all hugs and high fives from their team. They told me they were beyond thrilled to be “coming home” and that’s something you don’t forget.
In one sentence, if you could sum up the year 2021, what would that one sentence be?
I’ve been with Reynolds for 38 years, and I would describe 2021 as a rebirth for us. Our products and our people have always been constant and phenomenal. Refocusing on deepening our partnerships and demonstrating the changes we are willing to make to do that have been refreshing and rewarding.
What should dealers expect to see out of Reynolds heading into 2022?
We’ve always strived to help dealers be successful and more profitable, allowing them to Retail Anywhere and meet the needs of their consumers. There are some big movements coming down the pipeline, and we’re excited to get them into the hands of our customers. You can also expect to see more actions that support our new direction, and of course, expect to see me at a store near you, making progress with our dealers.