Surf Motor Group is an automotive retailer dedicated to taking care of all their customers’ needs. At each of their convenient locations on the Gold Coast, they have professionally trained experts in the fields of service, spare parts, finance, insurance and aftermarket to ensure a hassle free motoring experience. When it comes to quality new and used cars, they are “the best of the best,” says Managing Director Simon Murphy. For proof, he invites anyone to come to a Surf dealership and see for themselves.
The group started in June of 2000. At the time, Murphy had been a Toyota dealer in Sydney for five years. In that role, he learned the intricacies of the business and observed the importance of growth and multi-franchising to achieve success in that industry. When the opportunity to start his own business on the Gold Coast arose, he jumped on it.
All about professionalism
Murphy credits professionalism as being the main thing that sets Surf Motor Group apart from the pack. Murphy’s father was a dealer, so he grew up in the business. He also later went on to obtain both law and commerce degrees, so professionalism is something that’s incredibly important to him.
“One thing I really stand for is ensuring professionalism comes to the fore,” he explains. “It’s imperative that we offer a friendly and relaxing atmosphere for customers to experience the cars that they will potentially buy. That’s the thing we strive for above all else.”
Car salespeople are often the subjects of negative portrayals in the media, and Murphy has worked hard to combat that perception. “There are only two groups of people called dealers. One of them is car dealers, and you know what the other is.” That’s why Surf has invested heavily in having professional, clean facilities and providing friendly service – it lets customers know that they are dealing with reputable people, and facilitates a good experience.
“We offer that fair service, that professional service that’s sometimes lacking,” Murphy says. “While we’ve seen an increase in internet trade and commerce, there’s nothing better than showing up in person and driving the car.”
Surf operates in the “mom and dad” market, which Murphy thinks is the most sustainable demographic an auto retailer can cater to. “It’s more immune to the vagaries of property and share markets and all the calamities we faced subsequent to the global financial crisis,” he says.
The key to servicing that market, Murphy says, is the same as servicing any market – it’s “delivering on the promise, and exceeding expectations.” That sounds simple, he adds, but it’s something they are diligent about doing at all times. One thing they work hard at is ensuring customers receive exactly what they have ordered. Whereas at many dealerships, customers are asked to settle for more immediate alternatives that are not what they wanted, Surf Motor Group is focused on working with manufacturers to get customers precisely what they ask for.
Impressing, exciting, delighting
Directly, Surf Motor Group employs approximately 70 people. Recently, the company underwent some very significant facility renovations, including introducing brand new showrooms. Those upgrades have not only improved the company’s perception with customers, but they have also led to increased staff morale.
“It’s an interesting phenomenon to observe as an employer,” Murphy says. “Same people, same remuneration structure, but as soon as the facility has been renovated, the behaviours of not only customers but staff change. It’s important to come to work in an environment you’re proud of.”
“The more you do for your staff, the more they will do for the customers,” he adds. “When we were planning to improve how we presented ourselves, it wasn’t just about changing the positions of cars on the showroom. It was about the benefits we were offering not just to our customers, but our staff.”
In general, the group’s renovations came about as part of a commitment to reinvest their profits into “future-proofing” their business, Murphy explains. In addition to their showroom upgrades, they completed a total refurbishment of their parts and services facility off-site.
Like every business, Murphy explains, they have to be very conscious of e-commerce, and the profound effect it has had on brick and mortar businesses. At Surf Motor Group, they have responded by “pulling our socks up, and improving what we do.” The goal is for Surf Motor Group to be the best it can be, and their recent improvements all go to that.
“It’s not vanity – it’s not ‘Let’s build a bigger building just for the sake of it,’” Murphy says. “People are attracted by sight. Sight is the first thing that any of us respond to. We have to make sure visually there is attraction, both in the building and the cars that we put out there. That adds to the aura and the experience, and that’s what it’s about. The internet doesn’t give you that.”
“It’s about raising the bar,” he continues. “It’s not accepting that ‘we’re beaten because the internet is going to take over the world. The internet has just raised standards and raised expectations, and we’ve got to live up to that.”
Looking forward, Murphy says his plan is to grow. The key to that, he explains, is continuous improvement.
“The customer controls your livelihood,” he concludes. “If you’re not impressing them, if you’re not exciting them, if you’re not delighting them – then guess what, there is no 15 year plan. The here and now is what counts. The only way we’re going to get better is to look at ourselves and review what we do every single day.”