Trips Abroad: Paul Masse Buick/GMC South Kingstown

Thu, 10/31/2013 - 2:00pm

Bob Masse is General Manager of the South Kingstown Paul Masse car dealership. Bob is fun to talk with. An easy smile emanates from a pleasant, open face that rests atop a fullback’s body (actually, he was a linebacker at Hendricken High before he went on to Bryant).

The fun part is that on a laid-back/enthusiastic continuum, Bob’s at the enthusiastic end. He doesn’t have a laid-back bone in his broad-shouldered body. And he’s undeniably excited about cars. So you might think he’d fit the high-pressure salesman stereotype. He does not. Not at all.

“For us, haggling is history,” said Masse. “We believe in the One Price approach. Base price, rebates, discounts, warranties, all those kinds of things are clearly listed. What’s on our website is what’s in our showroom and we get the very best price.”

Bob is quick to point out that the One Price policy applies to all Paul Masse dealerships. “My dad opened the first dealership in Woonsocket in 1991. Now we have full- service showrooms in Woonsocket, East Providence, South Kingstown and Wakefield,” he said. “We can stick to the one price because we have the availability of more new cars and pre-owned cars at those four locations.”

Masse emphasizes, though, that although sales volume and the very best deal is obviously important, the critical factor in the automobile business is service. “Our sales staff understands a fundamental principal we learned a long time ago. Sales sell the first car. Service sells the next ten. Sixty percent of our sales are the result of referrals and customer service is a big part of that.”

Customer service has been the mantra of companies since the 1960s when company call centers mushroomed. So at Paul Masse dealerships, how is the “How May I Help You?” strategy any different from countless other companies?

Bob Masse leans forward, impatient to answer that question. “Effective and sustainable customer relations begins before the sale, not just after the sale. When our customers walk into our showroom, they’re met by one, just one, salesperson who is thoroughly knowledgeable about every General Motors car or truck we sell. That’s a fact. In this technological age, sales people have to be savvy about recent innovations and be able to use computer models to explain them.”

And once the customer decides to buy the car, the thorough explanations continue. “We know that with a new car, or a pre-owned car for that matter, the customer doesn’t always know what questions to ask,” says Bob. “So our folks will spend easily an hour and a half going over various features. We want that driver to know the car, really know it.” Masse grew up in the car business. In his early teens and throughout high school, he was a “Lot-Boy,” making sure everything was “lined up, cleaned up and squared away.” In college, at Bryant, he became more involved in management. He nods and smiles. “No question I could lead a discussion in my business classes.”

Those classes were good, but I’ve probably learned more from my family and the people I work with. My dad, Paul, still visits all four dealerships regularly and always has good advice. My mom, Donna, too. She’s been incredibly supportive over the years, not only for my dad, but me as well. I could write a How To manual from all I’ve learned from people like Scott Wellington, the company VP and Rick Mignanelli, our General Sales Manager. It’s a great group, even better when my sisters Michelle and Julie join us in the summers.”

One especially important aspect of the business he learned from all those years and those discussions was that “you’ve got to look after the small things. Sure, the new car is shiny, but how about the car you brought in for service? Well, of course we fix it, but we also hand wash and vacuum it. And while you’re waiting there’s fresh coffee [Starbucks, by the way], donuts, snacks, fresh sandwiches daily from Roch’s Market and bottled water.

Chevrolet, Buick and GMC cars are highly rated these days, but Bob got my attention at the fresh coffee and donuts.

Paul Masse has two stores convenient to Block Islanders. Paul Masse Buick GMC South showroom is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Closed Sunday. It is off Route One close to the traffic light at the intersection of Routes One and 138. Telephone: (401) 783-6700. The other is on Main Street in Wakefield at the intersection of Main Street and High Street.

Paul Masse Chevrolet South showroom is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Sunday. Telephone: (401) 783-3396.

The service hours at both locations are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.