The Unobvious Ones is a monthly look at movers and shakers who fly below the radar in the Canadian auto industry.
PREVIOUS JOBS INSTILLED TIMELY PROBLEM-SOLVING
From copiers to roofs to electricity, Sumana Kundu has had a varied career, but all of it has contributed to her expertise as director of customer service at Jaguar Land Rover Canada in Mississauga, Ont.
“These were make-or-break environments,” she said. “You had to support customers immediately or you could have power stations going down, or the [roof] project had to wait.”
That trained her to always be resourceful, she said.
“Now my goal is to manage both client and retailer expectations, making sure the stores have a very modern, luxury-type experience, and the customers are getting the level of attention they deserve. I have to make sure I follow through.”
Kundu begins her day by checking the results of consumer surveys, which come in from across the automaker’s 30 Canadian dealerships. If necessary, she will follow through on customer issues. She works with three regional customer service market managers but also visits the stores when she can.
“It’s important to see what our customers are experiencing.” Kundu, 48, earned a degree in civil engineering. One of her co-op assignments was with Xerox. She continued there for nine years, working in finance and service while earning an MBA.
General Electric contacted her, and she joined the technical service department, supporting customers globally. She then took a supply chain role at a shingles company. “That was a gift of learning to manage such a broad team and supply chain, but I wanted to work with clients, not products.”
She joined Jaguar Land Rover Canada in her current role in May.
“I thought there would be more challenges not having that [automotive] background, but I’m coming in with that mindset of how do we get our clients and retailers what they need. I have a good support system to overcome the barriers we face.”
THE AUTO BUSINESS — AND HYUNDAI — ARE IN HIS DNA
As sales manager at Attrell Hyundai in Brampton, Ont., Connor Attrell has followed in the footsteps of his father, Bob, who owns the dealership as well as Georgetown Hyundai, about 12 kilometres away.
“My grandfather had a mechanic’s shop,” Attrell said, and in the 1980s decided to buy a Toyota store, which now belongs to Attrell’s uncle. Bob worked at the Toyota dealership before signing on as a Hyundai dealer in 1991.
“When I left school at 19, I didn’t know what I wanted to get into, so I worked at the dealership during the summer managing the fleet sales,” said Attrell, 29. “I ended up being the used [vehicle] sales manager when someone left.”
He subsequently gained a broad range of experience, including service, inventory and fleet management as well as in new and used sales.
“I’ve done everything except the parts department and changing oil.”
The experience proved invaluable when the pandemic hit just as his father planned to open Georgetown Hyundai.
“I signed up the banks, hired the staff, set up all the processes. It was trial by fire because it wasn’t anything I had ever done. We had to be open to change.”
With current supply chain issues that have hampered inventory, “the old-school sales process with negotiations and capturing volume has changed.
“Everybody’s offering the same thing, so it’s a higher level of customer service, and we pride ourselves on that.”
His focus is synergy in the dealership. “It’s apparent to people when employees get along,” he said, and he credits his experience for keeping things running smoothly.
Treating employees with a high level of respect, “doesn’t cost anything. I won’t ask my employees to do anything I wouldn’t do, and I hold them to the same standard.”