NIADA: Action Auto Dealer Spotlight
By Deborah Toth
When Action Auto was established as a buy here, pay here car dealership in the fall of 2014, its management chose to differentiate their business from others by fixating strategically on customer service. While competitors were charging more for a vehicle than a customer could afford or turning away potential buyers, Action Auto distinguished itself by providing individuals access to vehicles regardless of their credit or financial situations, offering a fast and easy approval process, low down payments, and affordable weekly payments for quality used vehicles. This strategy allowed the dealership to quickly grow. Today it counts five dealerships across Mississippi and Alabama, has been recognized as a best used car dealership, and continues to reach its sales goals.
“Ever since we were established, we’ve kept a close barometer on what our customers need and want,” says Crystal Elliott, Action Auto’s operations director. “We’re always surveying our customers and adjusting our internal sales process to focus on more of the things our customers love about us. This helps us to improve our overall dealership sales experience. We’re quite aware that our customers have many options to purchase a vehicle, and we know that if we don’t show them the benefits to doing business with Action Auto while they are on our lot, we may never have another chance.”
This singular focus on customer service comes in many different approaches. Finding that customers are busier than ever and do not want to spend a lot of time in a dealership, Action Auto placed a premium on making the underwriting process as fast as possible. To accomplish this, the dealership established its headquarters to handle many of Action Auto’s primary business functions such as underwriting, fleet purchasing, compliance and collections, rather than each individual dealership location.
“This is a main differentiator between us and other dealerships,” says Elliott. “We complete everything related to underwriting and closing the loan centrally from our corporate office, so every customer receives the same process and closing procedure. Centralizing these processes allows our lot employees to focus on providing the best customer service we can. Having this function centralized means that we provide consistency regardless of which location our customer purchases their vehicle. It also means that we can focus on meeting our client’s needs, saving them time and money.”
While other dealerships approve a customer’s payment structure that is higher than what they are comfortable paying, Action Auto focuses on setting the customer up for success, says Elliott. “We agree upon a deal structure that is affordable for the customer yet still makes sense for our company,” she says.
During the pandemic, this approach was especially invaluable because the dealership’s customers were able to submit all of their paperwork for approval prior to visiting the location. Not only was it faster but it made customers feel safer by limiting their time in the public. Unlike other BHPH dealerships, Action Auto relies on hard data to quantify its current systems and future plans. It can gauge its customer service success by tracking its repeat business and referral program. Data shows that customers like to do business with people who treat them fairly and respectfully. Action Auto’s representatives do their best to make their customers feel that way every day.
“We focus on hiring the best people we can to serve our customer in their local location, while having our seasoned, centralized staff control the centralized processes to make sure our customer feels their experience is seamless, stress-free, and overall enjoyable,” says Elliott. “Having a centralized system, our model allows us to add new locations cost effectively because we are not hiring collectors, title processors, underwriting and closing staff at each location. We’re proud to say that our method is working and we see our programs growing daily.”
Action Auto’s dedication to excellent customer service does not end when customers drive off its lots. The dealership stands behind its cars by offering a 12,000-mile/12-year vehicle protection plan, inspiring trust for salespeople and customers alike. The firm also offers a generous referral program that is exciting for customers and consistently drives new business.
With dealerships spread across the deep South in Alabama and Mississippi, Action Auto works to be a positive influence in the communities it serves. Its salespeople have become public figures in their communities. The Action Auto staff takes time to engage with and get to know their neighbors on social media and at local events. The dealership sponsors sports teams where its customers’ children are teammates, volunteers at food pantries, and actively supports local events and festivals.
“By doing this work in our communities, people see and meet our salespeople. They look to our sales staff for advice on all kinds of things,” said Elliott. “They are a trusted face in the community, and that’s seriously needed in our industry.”
During the past two years, the BHPH dealership has celebrated several key milestones. In its Oxford MS market, Action Auto was voted best used car dealer for 2022 in an annual community poll that recognizes the area’s favorite businesses, restaurants, services and places. The company has sold 5,200 vehicles in five years with 2021 being its record year with 1,017 sales.
“We serve smaller markets and people talk,” says Elliott. “If we give a customer a good experience, word gets around quickly. The same is true if a customer has a bad experience. We must work every day to make sure we meet our customer’s expectations before and after the sale.”
As the BHPH dealership looks toward the future, its management has plans to begin opening two to three new lots annually. These new locations will join its current list of locations that include three in Mississippi: Oxford, Columbus, and Tupelo; and two in Alabama: Decatur and Florence.
What won’t end is Action Auto’s emphasis on customer service. “Our mission is to continue to help our customers drive with confidence,” says Elliott. “We know that reliable transportation can change lives by making it easier to get to work, run errands, care for loved ones and travel freely. We work hard to make sure our employees understand what they are doing and why they are doing it. The people who work here have a lot of passion for what they do. When they have a desire to do a job well, they’re unstoppable. Anyone visiting our dealerships will automatically recognize that our employees believe in what they’re doing. When training our staff, we make sure they understand the vision and how to make it possible. Part of our sales process is discovery. It’s important for us to understand each customer’s specific situation to structure a purchase that makes them successful. When our customer is successful, so are we. And that makes us proud.”
Action Auto Oxford, MS
459 Hwy 6 W
Oxford, MS 38655
Action Auto Florence, AL
1956 Florence Blvd
Florence, AL 35630
Action Auto Decatur, AL
804 Beltine Road SW
Decatur, AL 35601
Action Auto Columbus, MS
2325 Hwy 45 N.
Columbus, MS 39705
Action Auto Tupelo, MS
1401 S. Gloster Street
Tupelo, MS 38801