At Car-Mart, repeat business isn’t an accident. It’s part of the company’s DNA. When customers buy a used car from Car-Mart, they become part of the Car-Mart family.
It’s part of our mindset, according to Bill Gardner, General Manager at Car-Mart of Camden, Arkansas and the company’s 2019 recipient of the Mission, Vision and Values Award. That’s the name of the award for the highest number of repeat customers.
In a town of 12,000 [population], Bill’s dealership experienced 76 percent repeat business last year. “We did what lots in bigger cities couldn’t do. This speaks volumes for our team that we treat customers, so they want to come back to Car-Mart. They have a choice to go elsewhere, but we work hard to keep them as part of our family,” Bill says.
He says the Golden Rule goes a long way: ‘treat people the way you want to be treated.’
“It’s how we treat the customer. They’re human beings, no matter their challenges. We put ourselves in our customers’ shoes to see if and how we can help them,” says Bill. “At Car-Mart, we have a reputation of going that extra mile for our customers and helping people that nobody else will. I practice this philosophy.”
Plus, Bill enjoys helping customers find a vehicle. “It’s gratifying to me to show customers how they can buy a quality, used car. We do everything in our power to help customers buy a car. We assist them through the purchasing process. And, we work with them and help them solve their problems.”
Listening is key
According to Bill, most people just want to be heard. It’s important to listen objectively and obtain facts of the situation. Then comes honesty.
“Above and beyond everything else, there has to be honesty. If I can’t help a customer, I tell them. But I never close the door. I’ll do what I can to help them achieve their goals.”
Car-Mart’s last resort is to repossess vehicles, so the company will work closely with customers to avoid that possibility. In some instances, customers may unfortunately encounter hardships and are unable to make their monthly payments. “We give them lower payments so we can keep them in their vehicles. Many customers don’t know we do this. “It’s a surprise to them, so when they find out, they’re all smiles,” says Bill.
During the customer’s ownership of a vehicle, Bill and his team maintain a close relationship with the customer. “When customers have a problem, they come and see us. We’re here to help our customers,” Bill says. “Bad things happen to good people and the world should not pounce down upon them.”
“It’s intensely gratifying for my customers to pay their vehicles off and look me in the eye, and say ‘let’s trade,’” Bill continues. “It’s rewarding to know from inception to completion, we have stood with the customers through the good times and the bad times.”
Returning from retirement
Retirement didn’t last long for Bill. In June 2016, he retired, but Car-Mart convinced him to come back and work with customers. “What can I say,” says Bill about returning to Car-Mart. “I enjoy people. The greatest joy I have is helping someone. It’s better than sales.”
Bill says he never has a dull moment. After all he is also the full-time pastor at Sweet Home Baptist Church in Camden, a position he has held for 42 years. Plus, he has two daughters and three grandchildren.
He joined Car-Mart in 2002 as an Account Representative in El Dorado, Arkansas. He worked in several positions during his career including Service Manager and Satellite Manager.
As Bill wakes up and contemplates his day ahead, he says a simple prayer, “let me make a difference in someone’s life today. I walk out the door and go to work.”
Learn more about how you can join the winning Car-Mart team and grow into a manager position just like Bill!