Dick Barker — Where Customers Become Family
by Terry Trahan, Jr.
A sign that reads Lincoln-Mercury towers above the speedway of cars racing down Tunnel Boulevard. At the lot’s entrance, a shiny red Mazda turns slowly on its ramp, modeling all its curves and glamour in hope of attracting a closer look. Like most car lots, rows of new and pre-owned cars, crossovers and SUVs await potential owners to adopt them and take them home. Unlike most car lots, a team of managers and salespeople look forward to a visit from their extended families that day.
That’s because at Dick Barker Inc. customers become family.
“We pride ourselves in having a tremendous customer-employee relationship,” says Sam deGeneres, owner and president of Dick Barker. “If you take care of your people, they will take care of you.”
Dick Barker has been taking care of customers since 1969, when Richard “Dick” Barker, Jr. and his son Richard “Dickie” Barker III purchased Bayou Motors in downtown Houma. The dealership sold Lincoln and Mercury vehicles, as they still do today, as well as automobiles manufactured by the American Motor Corp., which also owned Jeep.
Having married into the Barker family, Sam joined the young business in 1974, becoming general manager the following year. Five years later, Dick Barker terminated sales of AMC vehicles and moved to 1100 W. Tunnel Blvd., a road that then ended at St. Charles Street. Mazda joined the dealership’s lineup in 1979, completing the roster of automobiles still sold in that same location over 30 years later.
The cars have not remained the same. Sam remembers when the Mazda RX-7 was the popular sports car and the Mercury Comet cruised American roads in style. Today, crossovers like the luxurious Lincoln MKT and the sporty Mazda CX-7 and CX-9 are all the rage for their improved fuel economy and car-based platforms.
The new technology in Dick Barker’s lineup doesn’t hurt their appeal, either.
“All the features of vehicles expand and become more attractive to customers,” Sam says.
James Relan agrees. He has been with Dick Barker for 18 years and now serves as the dealership’s business manager. James is especially excited about the advancements being made by manufacturers in response to customers’ requests. Microsoft’s SYNC technology revolutionizes hands-free driving, while Lincoln’s Blind Spot Information System alerts drivers of surrounding traffic when in reverse using sensors, lending an extra pair of eyes when needed most.
If having a sixth sense on the road isn’t enough, the Park Assist feature enables equipped vehicles to parallel park themselves. And there’s no need to worry about the unpredictable. Post Crash Alert dispatches a call to 911 when airbags deploy, as long as the driver’s cell phone is integrated into the vehicle’s computer system
For now, MyLincoln Touch steals the spotlight. Borrowing a few notes from Apple’s design tablet, this new feature wipes out the buttons and knobs in vehicles of old and replaces them with touch screens. The technology will make its debut in the 2011 Lincoln MKX, due out this fall.
“It’s the same technology used in iPods and iPads,” James says. “This is going to be the future of all cars. We’re really excited about it.”
Dick Barker knows that selling quality cars is their business, but customer service is their priority. Beyond the well-trained sales floor, 13 mechanics ensure that those who have invested in their vehicles remain satisfied long after they take that first drive out of the lot. In fact, Dick Barker was one of the first dealerships in the Memphis region to win Ford Motor Co.’s prestigious President’s Award for three consecutive years. The award honors dealerships rated highest in customer satisfaction for sales and service.
“We’ve been blessed to be one of the top dealers in the Memphis region,” Sam says, as dealerships across the country continue to face challenges in wake of the economy. “We’ll continue to grow in a difficult environment. The value of the dealership will never change.”
That’s one principle James and the rest of Dick Barker’s team are prepared to stand by.
“We’re here to help you,” the manager says. “The reason why we’re still here is because our customers know they will be treated properly. Everyone is treated like family.”