Improving his dealerships is more of a long-term investment, he said, but he believes it still pays off.
“I can’t say it dramatically increased sales, but I know it increased customer satisfaction and the customer experience overall,” Richards said.
Richards and his brother, Jeff, are in the middle of building a new Toyota dealership – one of two new showrooms under construction in the Augusta area – near their existing Nissan lot in North Augusta, and they think having a comfortable, clean and modern showroom will give customers a better experience and encourage them to buy.
“We see a difference in customer satisfaction for sure,” Bob Richards said. “I think that leads to more sales.”
Milton Ruben Superstore is renovating its Toyota, Chevrolet, Chrysler and pre-owned dealerships on Washington Road, shooting for a completion in late spring.
“We want to offer our current and future customers a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere with modernized comforts, such as comfortable seating, WiFi connectivity and flat-screen (TVs),” said Kristin Bentley, Milton Ruben media specialist.
The dealership has been in operation for more than 30 years, and company officials estimate this project will cost about $5 million. The dealership remains open as construction continues on the surrounding buildings, said Milton Ruben Director of Business Development Jerry Ikner.
“We’re still 100 percent operational and doing well,” Ikner said.
Masters Buick GMC updated its Washington Road showroom in 2008, at the height of the automotive industry collapse. Owner Will Schafer said it was important to him for the showroom to remain up to date.
“I think customers like to do business in a place that looks nice,” Schafer said. “I felt like it was important, even in the worst of worst times.”
Schafer said the remodeling process begins with an appraisal of the existing showroom by factory-designated consultants. After they evaluate the store, they give specific reccommendations for improvements. Schafer then takes these plans and hires a local contractor to implement them.
“The Buick brand has really changed their image to a more upscale idea,” he said. “They’re competing more with import luxury cars now.”
Buick and GMC have a rewards program that pays back dealerships’ improvement expenses when they reach certain sales and customer satisfaction goals.
The Masters Buick GMC dealership was able to earn back 75 percent of its costs in the upgrade, and Schafer said he feels it’s money well spent.
“Having a place that looks neat and the appearance is nice tells customers that the employees care about their work,” he said. “Customers want to do business in a place that looks like business is taking place.”
Staff writer Jenna Martin contributed to this story.