Bob Tasca Sr.
One of the coolest literary devices is when a writer transforms the reader from a passive participant into an active one. The most obvious example is probably “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, which were among my favorite books as a kid.
It happens in movies too. (Potential spoilers ahead.) For example, in “The Usual Suspects,” Keyser Söze pulled as much of a fast one on me (and I’m sure on you, too, if you saw it) as he did on the characters in the movie. In “The Sixth Sense,” I realized the jaw-dropping truth about psychologist Malcolm Crowe at the precise time he did, turning my view of the movie completely upside-down as the same thing happens to Crowe’s world.
Legendary automotive dealer Bob Tasca Sr.’s (1926 – 2010) use of this literary device in his book, “You Will Be Satisfied,” is just one reason why I found the book so compelling.
In chapter 4, “The Awesome Power of Simplicity,” Tasca suggests doing everything you can to satisfy the customer, up to and including offering a full refund if necessary. If that sounds crazy, he says, then maybe the customer satisfaction agenda isn’t for you.
“Take this book back to the store where you bought it [i.e., today, send it back to Amazon] and see whether your dissatisfaction gets your money back. If it doesn’t, the staff may be doing you a favor, because now you’ll know how the customer feels when he’s not satisfied. If, on the other hand, you find the awesome power of simplicity compelling, you may still wonder how you can possibly accomplish it in your own business life. Read on.”
To my surprise, the book is filled with as many fun moments as educational ones, being both entertaining and practical. And even though its lessons may be most helpful for dealers, they can be applied to a wide range of businesses.
Give My Thanks to ‘the Fat Mechanic Out Back’
As someone relatively new to the automotive industry, I wanted to read Tasca’s book to learn more about the man himself as well as his views on customer satisfaction and running a dealership in general. Tasca is well known in the industry as a longtime automotive enthusiast and visionary, Ford dealer (and good friend and advisor to Henry Ford II), and drag racing innovator.
Tasca’s character and charisma come shining through as he shares anecdotes from his 60-plus years in the industry repairing, selling, building, and racing Ford cars. (He also built and sold Lincoln Mercury for part of his career.) Although I don’t know if it was his intention, these stories provide a tangible history of the automotive industry – from the early 1940s, as the automobile put an end to rural isolation, to the increasingly electronic ’90s, when the book was published.
The book opens with a story from a hot September afternoon in 1957, three years after Tasca had opened Tasca Ford in Bristol, R.I., at the age of 27. I like to imagine him dressed in a style like John Travolta in “Grease,” in a white T-shirt and cuffed jeans with hair slicked back, as he’s repairing a customer’s car on this particular Saturday.
“As I wiped the sweat from my forehead, I looked up to see a brand-new car swing into the dealership, still going fast, tires squealing, billows of white smoke pouring out from underneath the hood,” Tasca writes.
Read the book to find out who the driver is, and what happens next. Tasca circles back to this moment at the end of the book to illustrate how always putting the customer first turned an everyday event into what could be perceived as a lucky one, or what Tasca calls “creating your own serendipitous moments.”
Yes, he did go out of his way to fix that man’s car and give him an excellent customer experience – so good that the man wrote a letter to the dealership asking the owner to “please give my thanks to the fat mechanic out back,” not knowing that the owner and the mechanic were one in the same.
Walking the Walk
Early on in the book, Tasca admits that knowing the right thing to do is the easy part – it’s putting it into practice that’s harder. He humbly admits that he didn’t always get it right. But the many practical tips for success that he shares still apply today, and the many stories from both Tasca and his employees (whom he refers to as coworkers) illustrate these business philosophies in action.
“Ford Motor’s top salesman shows you how to turn happy customers into financial loyalists and leave your competitors in the dust …” reads the book’s subtitle.
Here’s just one of my favorite tips from Tasca – I’ll let you discover the dozens of others in the book yourself: On page 82, Tasca advises that when a service customer tells you she has a problem (with her car), she has a problem. The response should never be, “Oh, that’s normal – they all do that.” What if your friend came up and said she had a problem and you denied it?
He goes on to outline the different specific types of problems she might have, and how to make sure that for each, she leaves as a satisfied customer.
A Lifetime of Satisfying the Customer
For Tasca, Ford was a customer. People who bought from him were customers. People who didn’t buy from him were customers.
As for his dedication to the customer, the proof was in the pudding.
Like how when he started out, he was the “1” of his first 1.5 employees – the only full-time (plus) employee, serving as mechanic, sales consultant, and general manager.
Or how “Tasca University,” as then-Chairman of Ford Red Poling called Tasca’s frequent training seminars, had trained 165,000 Ford employees over the years (for which Tasca didn’t earn a dime).
OR how Tasca’s laser-focused dedication to his customer made him a record-setting dealer, at one time the second largest Ford dealer in the world, and a driving force behind Ford’s “Quality is Job 1” initiative.
Or how Tasca developed high-performance Ford racecars out of a desire to beat Chevy, and then went on to win every race henceforth. He coined the phrase “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday.”
Or how he donated all proceeds from sales of “You Will Be Satisfied” to his grandson’s school to keep it open.
His business philosophy seemed to stem from strong principles that affected every aspect of his life.
Says J.D. Power III, then-President of J.D. Power and Associates, in the book’s foreword: “I’m hard pressed to think of a single car dealer practitioner who eats, sleeps, and breathes his business philosophy as convincingly as Bob Tasca.”
His book was a joy to read.