After more than 20 years selling luxury cars and running dealerships, former pro athlete Bill Morton traded the Philadelphia Phillies for Lexus of Peoria, going the extra mile to give customers “the real Lexus experience.”
Bill Morton is taking the reigns and leading the nation’s finest luxury vehicle into the most competitive, prestigious automobile race in the world. And he’s not intimidated. Having labeled himself “a luxury guy through and through,” Morton is confident in his own sales and management experience and in Lexus’ ability to deliver.
Indeed, Morton’s track record is almost as impressive as Lexus itself. His resume confirms two decades of selling cars and running Lexus dealerships in Smyrna, Georgia, just outside Atlanta, as well as Birmingham, Alabama, just as Lexus dealers were becoming influential, following Toyota’s unveiling of the Lexus model in 1989. Under his leadership, Morton increased sales at the Birmingham location from 60 to 70 to 200 cars per month and even snagged the attention of The Wall Street Journal due to his improvements regarding customer care and satisfaction.
In an effort to move closer to his hometown of Peoria, Morton spent a few years running Toyota dealerships in Quincy and Alton, Illinois. But Lexus was always on his mind. When a sales position opened with Lexus of Peoria a few years ago, Morton saw his chance to return home. In January of 2012, he was named general manager.
“I really wanted to get back into the general manager’s seat here in Peoria,” he says. “And it’s easy to work with an automotive company that does it right from the start. Lexus has a philosophy called the Kaizen philosophy, meaning continuous improvement. The philosophy is taken from the premise that if you build us a great facility and bring us great customers, we’ll give you great cars. And when we do all three of these things, we are successful.”
Running a dealership in his hometown is ideal, Morton says, and claims it “feels really good” to be home. “One of the things on my bucket list for years was to come back home to do something special and meaningful. And to me that means giving customers a true luxury experience. I’m really excited about what we’re doing here. There’s no other brand I’d ever want to be with.”
Making Good On a Promise
In a competitive automobile market, a customer’s experience can make all the difference, especially when racing against top sellers like BMW, Mercedes and Audi. Lexus promises to give customers a memorable experience—an experience, Morton says, that helps push Lexus over the top in terms of customer satisfaction and sales.
The focus on customer service that first intrigued Morton to become involved with the brand began with Gary and Jack Pearl of Pearl Automotive, owner of local Lexus, Toyota and Autohaus dealerships. Morton says Lexus of Peoria has grown since Gary and Jack Pearl began placing the focus on doing it right. “The Pearl family has taken care of customers from the start and has made it happen over the years. And we are fortunate to be a part of such a great team. Our sales department is top-notch. We have made some great strides.”
From the time they walk through the front door to the time they drive away in a new Lexus, customers are employees’ top priority. “We have such great customers. And it’s because of them that we’re willing to provide that special service or spend that extra time with them. Whatever is needed, we have you covered.”
Lexus makes good on its customer satisfaction guarantee. For starters, every car serviced at Lexus receives a complete detailing free of charge and all cars are serviced in a timely manner. The company also offers courtesy cars for customers in need of a temporary vehicle. “When customers leave, we place a napkin with chocolates in the car that reads: Thank you. We appreciate your business,” says Morton. “The smallest details are what make our service unique, like the type of turndown service a guest would receive at a resort hotel.”
Indeed, the similarities to a fine hotel’s service are striking. Lexus customers have access to a full-service coffee bar with smoothies, shakes, lattes and fresh-baked cookies. They can also relax in front of a fireplace and a big-screen television. “It’s important to do all you can to engage your customers and make them feel like a guest in your home. At Lexus of Peoria, we create an atmosphere that really feels like home.”
As a special treat for his customers, Morton brought the LFA to Peoria for the Central Illinois Auto Show last spring, the Lexus supercar with a price tag of $400,000. The car was produced in limited numbers, and production stopped this year.
“When you’re dealing with a luxury dealership, there has to be a distinct difference. You must make customers feel they are the priority. Because Lexus has such strong relations between the dealer and the manufacturer, Lexus will go further than we have ever seen anyone go to make a customer happy. And customers feel it. They see it. We want nothing less than the very best for our customers. And this attitude has brought Lexus tremendous success.”
In addition to the unique services offered in the showroom, Lexus models are equipped to keep customers serviced on the road. The Lexus Enform provides customers with eDestination, allowing them to plan trips from home using an online search tool or via their mobile phone with the Lexus Enform App. The Lexus Enform App Suite uses customers’ smartphones to give them access to mobile applications like Bing, iHeartRadio, Movie Tickets, Open Table Pandora, Facebook Places and Yelp. Special safety features like the Lexus Roadside Assistance App, Lexus Emergency Assistance Button, Stolen Vehicle Location and Automatic Collision Notification are all part of the Lexus Safety Connect feature, designed to ensure customers remain secure on the road.
“Our sales team is ranked number one in the country for customer satisfaction out of 233 stores. Our high customer satisfaction scores show us we are doing what needs to be done.”
Driving with Benefits
Becoming a Lexus driver opens doors of opportunity—and not just on the road. The Lexus Drivers program provides exclusive offers at luxury hotels, resorts, vineyards and retailers across the United States. From coast to coast, hotel partners include the Post Ranch Inn in California, where guests will enjoy a complimentary four-course dinner at the award-winning Sierra Mar Restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Closer to home, the Waldorf Astoria Chicago offers the Lexus Bed and Breakfast package. Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm Inn, California’s Terranea Resort, Oregon’s Allison Inn and Spa and the Bardessono in California’s wine country are just a few of the luxury hotels that provide an extraordinary travel experience. In addition, Lexus owners can reserve special tours, tastings and discounts while exploring Napa Valley, California, the state’s premiere wine growing region. They also receive special benefits to participating restaurants, discounts to Lexus-sponsored events, and exclusive access to purchase premier outdoor concert seats to featured shows.
In addition, drivers can go online to receive special discounts and offers from Lexus retail partners, including Figi Water, Napa Style, Frontgate and the Lexus Collection. Finally, for those who love to golf or want to learn, the ANNIKA Academy, a boutique golf school at the Reunion Resort near Orlando, Florida, offers everything from one-hour lessons to three-day programs. The academy is a Certified Callaway Performance Center that provides individualized golf instruction, personalized fitness and nutrition programs.
Having worked hard with his team to redefine extraordinary customer service, Morton says he is encouraged by the progress he has made over time. “I think one of my biggest accomplishments is starting out as a sales associate, then having the opportunity to run two large Lexus stores in the greater metropolitan area with great service and high customer satisfaction.”
Morton is continuing his reputation for success in Peoria, bringing new cars to the Lexus of Peoria showroom with the state-of-the-art Lexus LS, which features the new spindle grill, as well as the Lexus IS. Meanwhile, the all-new Lexus GX will arrive in late fall. “I think these cars are very well built. Lexus has always been at the top as far as liability.” Morton says Lexus technicians have been coined the “Maytag techs.” “Our cars just don’t break. The car, the look, the feel—there’s nothing like it.”
Staying in Touch
Not only does Lexus shine in the showroom, the automotive business also brings true meaning to community service. Locally, the company is involved with the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary Fashion Show and also presents sponsors for the Peoria Promise Ball. In the annual St. Jude Memphis to Peoria Run, Lexus provides a car for drivers to cheer on the runners.
“We participate in the St. Jude Telethon and raise money ourselves on behalf of Lexus of Peoria,” says Morton. “In addition, the Pearl family gets involved in Maui Jim’s golf outing. Lexus is also presenting the sponsor for the Bradley University golf outing.”
What does extraordinary service mean to Morton? “It means the words: Absolutely. My pleasure—with sincerity. It means truly caring about your customers’ and your community’s needs and creating the best service environment you possibly can. If we all live this every day, we’ll have many years of success.” iBi
Lexus of Peoria is located at 7301 North Allen Road in Peoria. For more information, visit lexusofpeoria.com or call (309) 689-3000.