The Unobvious Ones is a monthly look at movers and shakers who fly below the radar in the Canadian auto industry.
FULFILLING CUSTOMER GOALS OFF AND ON THE ICE
What do hockey and dealerships have in common? Both require team players, and the GM dealership Boyer Pickering in Ontario has that in former National Hockey League (NHL) player Rob Pearson.
As the Business Elite program manager and the marketing manager, “I do fleet sales for small to large businesses,” said Pearson, 49. “I get the pricing together and hand-deliver the vehicles.
“A lot of [customers] need their vehicles 24/7, and when they come in, we get them in and out through service and make a vehicle available to them if necessary.” Pearson played for the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1991 to 1994, then went to the Washington Capitals and St. Louis Blues before wrapping up his hockey career in Germany.
“I had injuries, and I finished in 2001. I was a stay-athome dad for a couple of years, and then a friend got me into Xerox and I sold that for a year. In the meantime, Iranmy own hockey school.
“A friend came by, and he was working at Boyer. They were between managers and the Boyer family welcomed me in.”
But fleet is only his day job. Pearson also works for the Toronto Maple Leafs Alumni, coaches the Pickering Panthers Junior A hockey team and runs hockey schools for the Boyer Group’s dealerships.
“We rent ice and put up flyers,” he said. “It’s children 5 to 12 years old, and Boyer pays for everything. A lot of these are our customers, and we want to be in the community supporting them.
“I like to talk to people and hear their stories, and I think that’s key. That’s where my marketing comes in. I’m doing it for the Leafs, the Panthers and for Boyer.”
SATISFACTION DELIVERED, ONE VEHICLE AT A TIME
Picking up a new vehicle should be both exciting and informative for the customer. At Charlesglen Toyota in Calgary, delivery coordinator Jim McAlorum, 64, makes sure it is.
“I spend an hour with them. I do the Bluetooth, the Apple CarPlay and Android. Toyota has Remote Connect, so I download the app, and I demonstrate the navigation.
“My approach is lighthearted humour, but if they don’t like that, I change my style. If they already have a Toyota, I ask if they want a fast delivery or the full hour. I try to tailor it to the customer.”
McAlorum is one of two delivery coordinators. The other, Mark Peters, trained him for the job.
“Our shifts overlap,” McAlorum said, “but when we’re busy, I come in early and get home late. On month end, we don’t have hours. We just do it.
“I make sure the vehicle is cleaned, all the accessories are on it, the keys are there, and then I pull it into the delivery room and line them up for the day. Last month [August], we had 26 cars in one day.”
McAlorum spent 38 years manufacturing prescription eyeglasses and for 15 of those years owned a lab. But the business gradually changed and he closed the doors.
“I was a customer of Charlesglen Toyota and had an oil change, and one of the managers came over and started talking to me. We developed a friendship, and when I shut my business down, he hired me.
“I was a salesperson for a year, but then I had a medical issue, so I took a year off. They hired me back as the delivery coordinator in 2011. I’ve been doing this since then, and it’s the best job in the world.”
KNOWLEDGE IS VITAL FOR PAYMENT ON TIME
Getting warranty claims processed quickly is important for a dealer’s bottom line, but accuracy is just as essential. As senior warranty administrator for sibling dealerships Subaru City and Rally Subaru in Edmonton, Dawn Sutherland checks the claims and often helps technicians with their diagnoses.
“Because of the claims I see, I’ll sometimes know things they haven’t seen before,” said Sutherland, 51. “I’ve been working on cars since I was 16 and that old-school knowledge helps when you’re thinking outside the box.”
Sutherland took welding and automotive in high school. She apprenticed in the parts department of a General Motors dealership, then spent 13 years rebuilding transmissions at a remanufacturing plant in Edmonton.
Around the same time that plant closed, Sutherland was injured in a car crash and could no longer work on vehicles. So she applied to Rally Subaru as a service adviser.
“I didn’t have any experience doing anything else,” she said, “and my options were limited. And I thought with my training, I would be able to do this.”
While on the service counter, Sutherland also processed warranties. She transferred to the larger Subaru City dealership 17 years ago, primarily for warranty work, but continued to process claims for both.
She also fills in on the service desk as required and helps in the service tower, juggling repair orders if necessary to be sure all vehicles are ready on time.
Warranty payment depends on the technician’s report matching the repair.
“I make sure it makes sense, that he followed the right steps. You have to have a respectful relationship with your technicians, because you learn a lot from them, and I also help them whenever I can.
“When you’re working on cars and trying to figure out problems, it’s a puzzle, and I’m a puzzle person. It’s really interesting to me.”