How many times in life have we asked for a do-over. A chance to ditch everything we previously did or were known for and start completely over.
We have that opportunity in our dealerships right now. With vendors lifting confining contracts and dealerships evaluating what is needed to move forward, many have been put into a position where people were let go, budgets were cut, and superfluous solutions were cancelled. And you are left with an almost blank page to write on.
This is not a completely bad thing
The pandemic forced us to jump ahead, re-evaluate our process, learn what is truly best for the dealership, and dive into off-site engagement technology. This technology is not new, but for many, we ignored it because we knew our process and thought because it worked in the past, it will work today.
We are now in a place of transition, of re-norming, and of accepting and adapting new ways to communicate, engage with, and create relationships with consumers.
CEO of Carvana, Ernie Garcia stated that "Maybe 10 years of progress will be jammed into the next 18 months," during an Automotive News Congress Conversations.
And that is what is happening. Consumers have been looking for ways to communicate, experience, and purchase a vehicle online, and now we are being forced to move forward with new digital technology or lose market share.
In a survey by Cox Automotive, nearly two-thirds of franchised respondents said they were just as likely or more likely to expand digital options in the future. But where do you start? Digital Retailing is obviously a big topic right now, but I believe the most important element is engagement first.
Focus on Engagement
What do you want to focus on? What do you want your dealership to look like moving forward? Now is the time to jump in and make those changes.
We need to be more creative with our customer engagement. The up-bus is no longer stopping in front of your dealership, customers are wary of too much in-person social interaction, they are looking for reassurances, and the dealership to provide this in the best manner possible will win all day.
We all know customers are online, doing research, interacting with 18+ digital touch points all before ever stepping on-lot. We need to make sure we are creative with our initial engagements, providing value, and building relationships to ensure we are the dealership the customer chooses to visit or purchase online from.
There must be consistent engagement across all platforms for customers
Transparency is key with engagement, and the more transparent your staff can be, the more likely you are to win over the consumer. Think about all the possible ways you can communicate with customers or platforms on which you provide information:
- Social media
- Lead generation from your website
- 3rd Party Leads
Are all the messages consistent? Are your offers the same from Facebook to Google to your website? Make sure that your partners are working together to create a cohesive message--whether through advertising or direct engagement.
If you are partnering with a vendor who provides both inbound and outbound engagement for you, are they reflecting the messaging you desire? Are they automotive based and understand and can navigate the landscape?
It only takes one bad interaction to have a customer leave you for the competitor down the road. Ensure your customer engagement is transparent, that the messaging is consistent, and that the agents are the absolute representation of your dealership.
1.Be Creative--Stand Out in a Noisy Space
Once you have ensured that your messaging is consistent, it is time to get creative with your engagement with customers. One of the best and simple ways to do this is through personalization. There are many ways to personalize messages creatively in both Sales and Service which engage the customer, provide information and value, and create relationships that will last.
2.Use People to Personalize
AI is an incredible, cost-saving way to do many things in automotive. One thing AI does not do, though, is create a relationship with the customer. If you are using autoresponders as your First Quality Response, you are missing your opportunity to stand out against your competition. Think about first impressions--they can and have dictated the way a customer will react.
If I am shopping for a new SUV and interact with a few dealerships and 3rd Party Endemics trying to get information, the one who responds fast, with answers to my questions, and is not a “Hold please until our normal business hours” will win every time. In these competitive times, you need to position yourself as a leader and a winner, and an auto response does not do that at all. I suggest turning them off or trying to work on the wording so that it sounds more personalized.
There are also solutions that will respond to your customers via email/phone/text 24/7 with live automotive agents. If this is a solution you need, reach out and we can help you get this started.3.Use Video to Humanize
Video is another aspect of engagement that we have spoken about and ignored for quite some time. In an area of Digital Retailing, Pick Up and Delivery Service, and At Home Test Drives. Video should be at the core of what we do as an industry.
What better way to introduce yourself virtually, share the value propositions of the dealership, and position your dealership as the leader in the market.
Ways to Utilize Video
- As a first response to a customer’s lead. Send a quick video stating the status of the vehicle of interest and share some of the elements that make your dealership unique.
- Follow up an appointment with a video thanking the customer for coming in, test driving, talking to you--however the appointment went. Use this with “Be-Backs” to encourage a next visit.
- CSI--Post sale, send a customer a video thanking them for their business and ask them to complete a survey if they have not already (include link in email).
- SERVICE: Use video to update customers on status of vehicle.
- If additional work is needed, send video of what needs to be completed--build transparency and trust with customers.
Video is a fantastic tool to connect with and create relationships with customers. There are some incredible technologies out there that make this easy and scalable for every dealership. Reach out if you would like more information on some of the best video tools to use and best practice tips for dealerships.
The element that ties everything together
The one specific element that ties everything together is people. People are why customers come to your dealership. People are the face and voice and reputation of the dealership. Don’t get me wrong--technology is incredibly important. Without the data and technology, we would not have the opportunities we have to connect. But we must connect authentically with the customers. People and Technology = The Best Relational Selling.
- Evaluate all of your correspondence. CRM cadence, and 3rd parties responding for you. Make sure the messaging is authentic, informational, and not just a filler.
- Look into a video engagement solution if you do not already have one. This is a game-changer for big and small dealerships alike.