Zen and the joy of deep job satisfaction



chang kee tong toyota

KT Chang has sold cars for nearly four decades, but why he does it might come as a huge surprise to you

SINGAPORE —  In this series of special features, we’ve explained everything from choosing a car to wrangling a Certificate of Entitlement (COE), and how to do it all with maximum grins and minimum sobs.

To put a human face on the entire thing though, we’ve peeked into the world of people whose sole job it is to make you smile to begin with. Like any big investment, buying a car isn’t easy – but here’s an example of someone who can make it even easier.

If you’re going to have something done, it pays to have a professional do it. How does 36-years of experience sound? That’s enough to become a master of anything. Chang Kee Tong, 62, has been a car sales representative for the Toyota brand for that long.

Kee Tong, or KT as he likes to be known, began his career as a salesman with Borneo Motors in 1980. If being in the same job for that long has been boring, it surely doesn’t show. KT looks much younger than his 62-years, and it’s easy to see why: He’s easy going as they come and always smiling.

“I haven’t moved because all this while, the company has been good, and Toyota is a strong brand. Even 30 years ago, if someone wanted to buy a Japanese car, the first name they’d think of was Toyota,” he says.

Over the years, KT has seen the industry change dramatically, and has sold countless cars to many happy customers. “It’s not a boast! I’ve really lost count a long time ago,” he admits with a laugh. KT even had the honor of serving ex-Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, in 2008.

“In 1980, a Corolla KE70 cost $21,000, of course everything was totally different, there were nothing like COEs or any of that, so buying a car was more simple,” he says of his early days in the business.

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Is there any ‘secret’ to selling a car? KT says there isn’t, as his approach is quite simple. “An important thing is first impressions, so we always greet the customer first and make them feel welcome and free to browse,” he says.

From there, it’s all about serving needs. “Usually customers do have a strong idea of what they want, so we try to advise them on a car that suits their needs best. A family, for example, might want a multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) first and foremost. I always try to ask them, ‘What is your need?’ and proceed from there.”

And we might think of a salesman’s job as merely getting customers to sign the dotted line, but in fact, that’s just the start of it.

“In Singapore, the process takes anywhere from ten days to maybe three months, as you need to get a COE, register the car and so on. We handle the entire process and update the customer on what’s happened each step of the way,” he says.

In his job, KT sees customers from all walks of life and all ages too. He relates a recent story where a young couple was buying their first car, an exciting experience, but also a possibly stressful one: “I could see they were very happy to be able to buy a car, but it’s a big purchase – it always is – so they were a bit nervous too. So we went through the entire process carefully.”

“Actually, I think of my job as one that involves a lot of assurance, one that takes away the hard parts of buying a car,” he says, “and that’s what I did here. They were asking lots of questions, which I answered, but in the end I told them: ‘Ma’m, sir, you don’t need to worry, let us do the worrying for you! We’ll take care of it,” he recounts.

He says one of the reasons he’s been in the job so long is not numbers and meeting sales targets (naturally) but making customers happy.

“Sometimes customers will be pleased with the whole experience, and when they tell me about it, that really makes my day. The young couple for example, said they wanted to see my boss — but it was so they could tell him how pleased with the service they were,” he says with a smile. “I was really touched by that.”

For someone like KT, the real reward for long service is the joy of service itself.

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