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Driving for Equality Cathy Droz makes buying cars easier for women

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alking into a car dealership to purchase a vehicle can be an ordeal. Shiny cars sit in rows, brightly lit and smelling of that classic, new-car smell. The sales people circle like vultures, and questions are fired off. Financing? Trade-in? Coffee? Even that last one can feel overwhelming to a potential new buyer. Business owner, author and entrepreneur Cathy Droz recognizes buying a car can feel like an immense task, and this is especially true for half of the population often overlooked at dealerships: female buyers. Droz believes one bad dealership interaction can make or break the car-buying decision for a woman. That’s why she created a program to help. She wanted to represent three core principles: honesty, excellence and respect. So, HER Certified was born. Droz likens her program to that of a J.D. Power award: A certification of dedication to customer service. However, her program focuses entirely on the treatment and customer satisfaction of female clientele. The Scottsdale resident stands at only 5-foot-2, but her fire-engine red shoes, lipstick and nails give her away at once. Though she’s always loved the vibrant shade, it’s all a part of her marketing strategy. “I would love someone, someday to say, ‘Are you that woman with the red shoes?’ because then you associate it with HER certified.” The program started in 2013 and trains dealership staff and salespeople how to interact with, and cater to, women. Some dealerships aren’t interested, but most of the participants understand their clientele is reliant on the salesperson’s ability to relate to the customer. “Now the smarter dealers, the ones that do have HER Certified, got it immediately because they know every woman who leaves doesn’t buy from them,” Droz says. “If you add in service and how many women they tell, you’re looking at thousands and thousands

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of dollars walking out the door and going somewhere else.” For example, she received a call from a Scottsdale Porsche dealership that was seeing a discrepancy in their customer service index. The manager asked her, “If you can tell me why a man and a woman go into the same Porsche dealership, same time of day, same salesperson, buy the same vehicle, pay the same amount of money — both are elated when they leave. (But when) the customer service index comes out, the man gives a 10 and the woman gives an eight?” Droz could answer him right away. She believes women care more about the dealership interior and customer service than men do. “I know right now either the woman walked into the ladies room and there was soap just lying there, or there was no soap, or she saw dust behind the stall, or she went to have coffee and the creamer top was off,” she says. “They loved the par, the price was OK, but they look at the big picture, women (do), and the big picture was they’re out of toilet paper — forget the car!” Droz does not consider herself a feminist, but instead more of a “humanist,” as she explains. “It’s not because one is better than the other or smarter, but when you know that a woman is more sensitive, maybe to smell, color, lighting, then your dealership and your salespeople — how they approach them is important,” she says. “Women don’t have time for BS. The minute they say, ‘Should we wait for your husband or boyfriend to come?’ I tell women, get out.” Droz says dealerships are working with female clients who are more educated on vehicle purchases, thanks to her book, “A Woman’s Guide to Buying a Car with Confidence and Street Smarts … Don’t Let These High Heels Fool You.” If women do not purchase their vehicle from that dealership,

By Katie Sawyer

they are sure to go somewhere else with their money. This is why Droz believes her program is effective. “I want dealers to know, I’m telling women to leave your place,” she says. “If you don’t treat them properly, if you say to them, ‘Oh, if you want coffee it’s over there’ and you’re not going over and getting them their coffee, they’ll go somewhere else because I’m telling them to.” Through HER Certified, Droz hopes to instill confidence in women when they enter a dealership, something she says her father, Vinny Hoffmann, helped her with as a child. She got her start in the auto industry at the early age of 10 in her home state of New York, watching her father haggle for a new family car almost every year. Droz started out in the backseat, quietly watching him beat down the salesperson to a price he liked. By 17, she was in the driver’s seat and getting ready to purchase the family car with her father waiting outside to sign the paperwork. An entrepreneur by trade, she went on to explore a multitude of fields, starting in Manhattan on Fifth Avenue at Avon. Eventually a modeling agency asked her to work with them on a commercial. Since then, she has written more than 200 commercials. Droz says the advertising industry at that time was mainly around the automotive field, so she worked closely with auto dealerships in a time when few women were working with cars. Over her career, she noticed how many women were uncomfortable in the dealerships, and both witnessed and experienced sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Contrary to the #MeToo movement, however, she believes in handling it individually. “I’ve never hashtagged metoo. Was it because I was a sassy New Yorker? Was it because no one ever hassled me? Not true. But I handled it with confidence. I knew what I was talking about and (I was) not afraid. I’ve

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North Valley Magazine August/September 2019  

North Valley Magazine August/September 2019  

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