Driven by passion – Bill Harper goes the extra mile for his customers at AutoNation Subaru
Story By Lucy Rosen
When we hear the word Subaru, many of us think about the car company’s tagline: “Love: it’s what makes a Subaru a Subaru.” But for William “Bill” Harper, customer relations manager and delivery specialist at AutoNation Subaru Hilton Head, the slogan is more than just a slogan: It’s the ethos of his job.
Harper landed his role at the Hilton Head dealership on the same day he brought his Subaru in for a routine oil change. One of the service managers is a friend and asked Harper if he was still looking for a job. He introduced him to Ken Kirby, general manager at AutoNation, who hired him. Harper has now been with AutoNation Subaru for five years and has helped over 500 customers understand their cars even after they take their cars home.
“I pride myself on taking a genuine interest in the customer and knowing something about them – the name of their pets, children, spouse, birthdays, why they decided on a Subaru,” Harper said. “I always run into clients who are amazed that I can remember not only their names but various details that they may have shared with me. I don’t think of this as extra service or going the extra mile. I’m genuinely interested, and I think it shows.”
Just as Harper’s approach could be called above and beyond to most, he is also always focused on meeting the customers’ needs. He doesn’t use a script when working with customers but practices active listening and strives to meet them where they are – literally. He buffers his schedule to make room for short-notice appointments and follow-ups at the customer’s request. Knowing some older buyers are uncomfortable with texting and emailing, he tries to connect with them in the way they’re most comfortable. Whatever the customer wants, Bill delivers.
Subaru, which has donated over $250 million to charitable causes over the last 15 years, encourages retailers to participate in its annual Share the Love Event, where customers can choose to donate to one of four national charities or dealership-sponsored hometown charities. AutoNation alone has raised over $40,000 in donations for local organizations such as Bluffton Jasper County Volunteers in Medicine and Palmetto Animal League (PAL), a no-kill animal rescue organization.
Harper looks forward to AutoNation’s Mutt Mixer, an October adoption and fundraising event that draws over 250 people for an evening of music, beverages and a variety of cute dogs to pet. Over the last three years the dealership has raised over $10,000 in donations for PAL, along with carloads of pet supplies, blankets and treats. “We host customer-appreciation functions throughout the year, allowing our customers to bring in their pets, and I keep a pet wall in my office. Everyone loves to feel valued and included, and they especially love seeing their fur baby photos displayed.”
While Harper’s biggest business goals for the next few years include staying the course with bringing in more sales and donations, he credits his success thus far to being authentic – both with himself and with his customers.
“To me authenticity also means doing what you love. I love the Subaru brand and our cars, and I enjoy coming to work every day to share my love of the brand with our customers.”
1. Believe in your product. I love this brand and am on my third Subaru, so who better to sell this car than someone who drives one too?
2. Follow up. Sometimes that extra email can mean the difference between losing a customer and making a sale.
3. Stay organized. Mistakes happen when important details get lost in the fray.