As a leading Dealership in the South Portland area, Pape Chevrolet wins a lot of awards. While awards are important to the company, it is the customer satisfaction numbers that generate the most pride. “You don’t stay in the business as long as we’ve been in it if you’re not focused on your customer,” says Fred Pape III, President of the Pape Dealerships in South Portland. “And things come pretty easily if you just stay that way.” While most customer perceive price is an important concern, customer satisfaction actually involves a much broader set of expectations that Pape Chevrolet carefully accounts for in providing full service.
Pape Chevrolet consistently is among the highest performers for the brand in New England, and was among very few dealers in the nation to win the Chevrolet Genuine Leaders Award in 2000. The four factors on which the award is based are sales volume, sales satisfaction, service satisfaction, and overall profitability.
The companion Mitsubishi franchise has been recognized as top in the country in customer rating among 550 dealerships. In contributing to the rating, customer responds to a 30-question survey that covers a complete rundown on service and sales satisfaction beginning with the initial contact in the dealership.
Pape Chevrolet opened at Cash Corner in South Portland in 1969, when General Motors (GM) asked Frederick W. Pape Jr., the current President’s father, if he would be interested in taking over a vacant dealership. Fred Pape Jr. had been working with his brother, William, in the latter’s Chevrolet business in Huntington, New York.
Fred Pape Jr. came to Maine to take a look, and never left. Pape Chevrolet moved to its present location on Westbrook Street in 1972. Land had become available, and the original building was not particularly suitable. At the time, there was no Interstate 295, and no Maine Mall. The highway, the mall, and the Pape building all came into being at the same time.
Since that time, numerous automobile dealerships have come and gone, but not this one. In reflecting on what it takes to be successful, Fred Pape Jr. passed on to the current president two important factors to the idea that customer focus must come first: “You have to be incredibly consistent, and without employee loyalty it is very difficult business to do.”
Pape’s consistency shows in both internal and external marketing. There is not, as Fred Pape III says, a crazy carnival atmosphere in which employee incentives are changing all the time, along with incentives to customers. The secret is a fair and solid way of doing business, which pleases customers and removes employee anxiety.
Pape Chevrolet certainly got the employee loyalty part right. It has virtually no turnover among key employees. Its managers, have been with the company a minimum of 15 years, and some for more than 25 years. One technician has been on the job since the Papes arrived in 1969.
The results are there to be seen. No longer has a small company, the Pape organization posted annual sales exceeding $60 million. It has fully developed departments for parts, service, body work, finance and insurance, the new car dealerships, and used car sales.
In keeping with the way the Papes operate the business, the company has been very involved in the outside community and the industry itself. The senior Pape has been a director and a longtime supporter of the Cerebral Palsy Center, a trustee of Maine Medical Center, campaign chairman for United Way of Greater Portland, and chairmen of the board of the Greater Portland Chamber of Commerce. He received the Henri A. Benoit Award of the Greater Portland Chamber for outstanding leadership in the private sector, and the Spurwink Foundation Humanitarian Award.
Fred Pape III is on the board of Maine’s Children’s Cancer Center and the Cerebral Palsy Center. The corporation serves on the General Motors Advisory Board. Fred Pape Jr. has long been involved in countless community organizations and events.
For the future, The Pape Organization added Subaru to its Chevrolet, Mitsubishi franchise, and pre-owned businesses. As the Pape family says, “As long as you’re focused on the customer, they’ll keeping coming back. We truly believe, if you like people and are interested in satisfying a need, this is a fun business.”
With a commitment to quality service and an employee team that is second to none, it is clear that Pape will continue to be successful well into the future.