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Last Update: Saturday September 18, 2021

Key Idea: Make Service Your Backbone

Host Hattie Bryant distills the truth about Rodgers Chevrolet: great service cements the relationship that begins with the sale.

Key Question:


Service should be the backbone and not the back end. The old-fashioned, hard-driving car salesman is now passe. While we all may occassionally run into a throwback to the 70's, Pamela Rodgers is an example of the new way car dealership owners think and plan.

Pamela is not interested in a quick buck -- she is interested in building a strong, long-lived company. By studying the history of car dealerships and by determining that she wants to be running this business years from now, she clearly defined for everyone in her organization that the path to real prosperity is service.

Q: Are there still companies out there who succeed with the old sales-driven model?

A: Sure, but we do not do business with those companies and they certainly would not be part of our library here at Small Business School.

Today, all companies should be bundling a product with service or a service with a product. And customers should feel that service is just as important to the mission of the company as is selling the product.

My hairdresser is a great example of this. She owns the shop, Hey Saylor, in San Diego. She cuts and colors my hair which is a service. Also, she tries to teach me how to style my hair to have the newest fashion looks. That is service. To get these new looks, she pulls hair care products out of her antique chest of drawers. As the customer, I have to pay attention if I want to see the bottles or tubes from which she extracts the magic. If I don't ask, "what are you putting on my hair?" I would never know because she is service-driven.

What I do know is I love the way my hair looks when she does it. So I end up buying the bottles and tubes from her so I can get the same look myself. I never even ask the price because her service is so fantastic, I want what she has. The newest look in hair styling as I write this is straight. My hair is naturally curly. My hairdresser is undaunted. She whips out what at first glance looks like a curling iron designed by some young Italian designer wanting to make her mark on hair care. It is so sleek and light. I wouldn't call it cute. I would call it hip or cool. If a good curling iron is a Ford Taurus, this appliance is a Porsche.

It is a flat iron made to make hair stick straight out rather than bend. When my hairdresser is finished using this tool on my hair, I look hip or cool. Of course, I have to buy the tool even though I already have a flat iron at home for which I had paid $135 and I never use because it is heavy and I have a tendency to burn more than my hair when I use it.

The ticket for my products and service that day was $68 for the haircut, $55 for the color and $80 for the flat iron. I left very happy.

Think about it

What service can you add? What product can you add?

Clip from: Rodgers Chevrolet - Meet Pamela Rodgers!

Woodhaven, Michigan:  In a quiet suburb just south of Detroit, we go inside an American icon -- the car dealership -- to witness a "can-do" attitude in action. We meet a woman whose love affair with the car is as real and palpable as any romance going. And at this place where GM is sold, driving people to act upon that passion is her business.

Pamela Rodgers is the owner of Rodgers Chevrolet.  We learn that key to her repeat business success is service. From her originally designed, colorful waiting area featuring a speedway theme to a team of highly skilled service advisers, Rodgers Chevrolet is a company that never misfires when it comes to building long-term relationships with customers. This is a team that's as well trained in the mechanics of human dynamics as they are the electronics of today's automobile engine. Keeping that relationship running smoothly is a matter of individualized communications where customer satisfaction is not an optional service.

Pamela's story is all the more unique in that she is one of the few women in the world to own a dealership in her own right. It wasn't passed on to her by her father or a husband, and she took a failing location and turned it around.

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Rodgers Chevrolet

Pamela Rodgers, CEO

23755 Allen Road
Woodhaven, MI 48183

Visit our web site:

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1991

Make Service Your Backbone

HATTIE: (In the Studio) Pamela Rodgers may have had a dream, but she is building this dealership by the numbers.

With an MBA in Finance, she knows how to read the financial reports. She has calculated that the best way to grow is by strengthening what she calls the backbone. For Pamela, the service department is not the back-end it is the backbone. This is certainly not your father's car dealership where sell, sell, sell was the mantra. Yes, you have to sell, but everyone at Rodgers knows that service is what brings customers back over and over and over again. The service department is a-buzz. They know they're good. And the sales people think of themselves as service providers. What can we learn here? First, really know how to read those numbers then put your time and money into making the most important part of your business strong. At Rodgers Chevrolet, service is not the backend, it is the backbone.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) The guys in the service department are serious about your cars, but they have some fun too.

HATTIE: So Keith and Dave – do you think these cars will have a rattle?

KEITH JAYSKA and DAVE MOON: Yeah – sometimes they do – they do quite often.

HATTIE: So somebody runs over a bump, goes in a hole – knocks something loose.

KEITH: Sometimes maybe a loose nut behind the wheel will cause a rattle. (laughs)

HATTIE: Otherwise it would be perfect -- right?

KEITH: Right

HATTIE: So where do you even begin to look?

KEITH: For rattles – start looking anywhere – anything that moves. Hey – see -- there's an easy one – there's a rattle right here. (laughs) I'm done. Let's go to lunch. (laughs)

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