Buying a car is typically one of the most expensive purchases of our lives. It can be a lengthy, stressful experience, involving uncomfortable negotiations with salespeople who might be more concerned about their commission than about providing great service.
Sonic Automotive, one of the largest car retailers in the U.S., knew that if it was to thrive in a crowded market, it had to offer a different approach—one focused on the customer, not the sale. As John Perez, sr. director talent acquisition, at Sonic explains, “Our senior managers decided that if we didn’t change and align more with what the consumer wants, then in 10 years we may not be around.”
The company introduced a new sales model—“One Sonic, One Experience”—that walked customers through a car sale in a way that was simple, fast, and fun. The company claims the whole process from selection to sale and financing can take as little as an hour.
But Perez says Sonic soon realized that the new model meant a major rethinking of the kind of people they hired. “We didn’t need ‘sales sharks,’ but people who were good listeners and strong customer advocates. We also want the people we hire to stay with us. Delivering a great experience means being predictable, repeatable and sustainable, and that’s much tougher with high staff turnover.”
By partnering with us to drive higher sales, higher customer satisfaction, and a better candidate experience, [SHL] is helping us be the best place to work and shop. I wouldn’t use anybody else.
Sonic Automotive looked for an efficient hiring process that would enable it to quickly identify the best candidates. At first it tried an out-of-the-box assessment product that, Perez explains, didn’t meet its requirements. “It did help us find some good people, but it wasn’t a good predictor of how well they’d perform in these roles, or even if they’d like what they were doing. And our turnover was still high.”
Sonic’s VP of Talent Management, Doug Bryant, suggested they speak to SHL, which he had worked with before. After a review of the market, the company asked us to define and roll out a series of assessments of skills, competencies, and for company fit to support “One Sonic, One Experience” across the organization.
“Because what we were trying to do was so different from everybody else in the industry, we wanted a partner who could customize the assessment to exactly what we needed,” says Perez. “We felt the SHL offering was simply the most comprehensive, the most reliable, and the best for providing support.”
Sonic and SHL then worked together to define the new job profiles more precisely, and the specific attributes that would support the new sales model. The result was a series of weighted pre-hire assessments mapped to key Sonic competencies, enabling the company to quickly and easily identify the right talent.
Throughout, Perez particularly valued our close partnership, which was very different from his previous vendor experience. “SHL listened to our goals, provided its insight and then worked with us to make sure it gave us just what we needed. I’ve even been able to use similar ideas and data in other areas not directly related to the assessments.”
Sonic now has a more efficient, engaging, and precise hiring process. That in turn is driving increased car sales and higher customer satisfaction. A validation carried out jointly by SHL and Sonic found that, on average, high scorers on the assessments sell 48 more cars each year than low scorers. This translates to a projected increase of $79 million in annual revenue. Top scorers were also 1.5 times more likely to be customer focused and reliable.
The new process also has reduced the number of candidate interviews, helping hiring managers focus more on customers, and has contributed to a reduction in time to hire from almost 100 days to fewer than 70 days.
The assessment process gets high marks from candidates, too, who most recently gave it a high net promoter score (NPS) above 80. Perez adds, “In fact, we were only 0.3 NPS points away from winning an industry award for candidate experience!”
Employee turnover rates have started to fall. Of those who were hired in the previous year, only 1.5 percent turned over, compared to an overall company figure in double digits. Sales managers who scored high on the assessments were also 22 percent less likely to lead teams with high turnover rates.
Perez comments, “By partnering with us to drive higher sales, higher customer satisfaction, and a better candidate experience, SHL is helping us be the best place to work and shop. I wouldn’t use anybody else.”