COVID Changes Drive Sweeney Dealerships to Mark of Excellence Award

BOARDMAN, Ohio – Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC has earned General Motors’ Mark of Excellence Award plenty of times before, but their recognition for 2020 has a different flavor to it. 

The award came after a year when the two Boardman dealerships had no choice but to limit contact with customers. For an award that’s largely dependent on customer service, the recognition shows that staff at Sweeney Chevrolet and Sweeney Buick GMC rose to the occasion, said President Alexa Sweeney Blackann.

“It’s really about the team that didn’t take their focus off serving customers every single day and didn’t take their focus off their sales goals,” she said at Thursday’s award ceremony. “When I think back to March and April [of 2020], I was nervous about what the rest of the year would look like, but the team came together and took care of each other and took care of customers. I’m so proud of the job they did.”

Among the offerings Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC added to its suite of services was contactless service that allowed drivers to drop off their vehicle for maintenance and pay online and the launch of Sweeney Fast Pass, which moved the buying process online.

Sweeney Chevrolet executive manager Bobby Stackhouse, Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC President Alexa Sweeney Blackann and Sweeney Buick GMC executive manager Derek Snyder with the dealerships’ Mark of Excellence awards.

“We put it in the customer’s hands to decide how much [they did in the store],” Sweeney Blackann said, noting that General Motors was supportive throughout the entire year. “They supported us in everything we tried to do, from helping us figure out where inventory’s coming from to our efforts to be as close to customers as we could.” 

It marks the 15th time the dealerships have been presented with the Mark of Excellence, a streak going back to 2004. The award was not presented last year because of the pandemic.

That kind of longevity, representatives from the automakers said, was an encouraging sign that Sweeney was prepared to weather the storm.

“The level of excellence at Sweeney has always been impressive, but even more so in these challenging times,” said Kevin Sheehy, zone manager for Chevrolet. “The fact that they can step up and take care of customers is huge, despite all the curveballs that’ve been thrown their way. To be able to have partners like this, myself, Chevrolet and General Motors are very fortunate.”

The changes instituted at dealerships like Sweeney will likely be sticking around throughout the industry, he added.

“When a great dealership like Sweeney adapts to a challenging environment, we can all learn a lot,” Sheehy said. “It’s been successful for them and the customers appreciate it, so I’d expect that we’ll continue to see that work continue into the future.”

As the pandemic began to wane, the auto industry was hit by another crisis – a shortage of microchips crucial to building fully functional vehicles. Through this still-ongoing challenge, Sweeney Blackann said General Motors has been as helpful as ever, aiding with things like better coordinating vehicle delivery and improving communications throughout the corporate structure.

“There’s no question that inventory is light, lighter than we’re used to. What we’re seeing is that they’re selling before they even show up. If you’re interested in a vehicle, we can track one down and let you know when it comes in,” she said. “In many ways, GM is making it easier for us. There’s more communication than ever about what’s coming in to make sure customers are satisfied.”

Through the challenges that have arisen since March 2020, Sweeney’s attention has always been on customer satisfaction, said Dean Ciccoritti, zone manager for Buick GMC. The leaders of the dealership are used to adapting, making them well equipped to stay on their toes.

“One of the things they’ve excelled at is changing with the times. When business changes, certainly with COVID and the microchip shortages, they’ve overcome it,” he said. “Their management team always looks for a way to win, so with any roadblocks in the future, I think they’ll be able to come out successfully.”

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.