Dealer InLine

Resources

  • Everyone who buys a car from you is a potential service customer, and therefore, a potential life long customer. But what is going on to drive customers to your service department? For example, how easy is it to book a service appointment online? Is someone pro-actively helping this happen? Although the manufacturer may be providing general messaging, because the customer has a closer relationship with their personal dealer, they’re more likely to respond to the dealer’s messaging. There should also be a confirmation, with perhaps a calendar invite, and a reminder the day before—maybe from the Service Advisor. If your dealership has a drive-thru, it’s a pillar of your service department. Your messaging needs to address that, including communications like fixed AdWords campaigns. These should always go back to your service pillars. But what are these pillars? There may need to be a brainstorming session with the owner and fixed Read More…

  • Let’s face it, the service experience shouldn’t start when a customer comes in for their first check-up. It should start the minute they take delivery of their vehicle. Here’s a golden opportunity to introduce them to your service department. That sales to service hand-off – how is it done? Do you give the customer a card with some contact info for the service department? Or does a service advisor or manager come out at the time of delivery and promote their department by providing a tour? There’s a better, more customer-centric way, because when a customer is taking delivery of their new vehicle, they’re not thinking about servicing it. But why not invite the customer to your store for a car care clinic? There will be refreshments, presentations about their vehicle and service, and they can meet the managers, maybe owners. It’s something you can do through a third party, Read More…

  • You already know that the customer who walks into your dealership has probably spent a lot of time online. In fact, according to Google’s Think Auto, people are now visiting 2.7 dealerships when making a new car purchase. When you consider that this number used to be 1.2, what does it mean? It means that as customers are visiting more stores, dealers have to be more on their game to ensure they are chosen from the other 1.5 dealers that the customer is visiting. They have more online areas to analyze before they become your customer. They’re not just looking at standard review sites, but also looking at your reputation on third party consumer forums. They may also be checking to see what people are saying about you on places like mommy blogs. This isn’t the kind of feedback a dealer can get through a review or a survey! The Read More…

  • What has your CRM done for you lately? Or perhaps, a better question might be, what have you done for your CRM? Your CRM can only help your team if you’ve programmed it to do so. For starters, how is it talking to your DMS? These systems need to be talking to each other back and forth. Think of your DMS like a tree, and your CRM like all its branches, with the leaves taking in water and feeding the tree. If you’re implementing a new CRM, you may want to talk to your DMS provider. Have the rep come in and explain what their offering is. You want to ensure that there’s good integration, that these systems are not working in two separate silos. Also, take into account all the peripheral systems that are reliant on your CRM. Your next step is your IT department. Advise them of the Read More…

  • In any business, and the car industry especially, you need to cover your assets. Especially when challenging times are on the horizon, you have to ask yourself, “Do I have an understanding of where my competitors can get some insight into my operation and steal things?” That may sound harsh, but it’s true. What aspects of your store are vulnerable to sabotage and even espionage? Let’s start with vendors. In most cases, the vendor holds your data. And in some cases, that data can be accessed. Suppose you have an employee that’s left your store, someone who held a high level position, maybe a manager or a general manager. That person had, and probably still has, access to a lot of your data. For example, they may have had log-ins and passwords to your inventory. They had access and passwords to your online profiles and website where they could make Read More…

  • In our industry, it’s not uncommon to experience peaks and valleys. That’s just the nature of the beast, and we’ve all had to roll with the punches. Even better, it’s a good idea to prepare yourself and your store for the inevitable slump. Let’s face it, we’ve had about four years of consecutive growth, and many manufacturers have forecasted a decline in sales. Already, there’s been a dip in new car sales in Canada over the last couple of months, year-over-year. So it would be proactive to look at constricting some of the peripherals you have in place and making sure they’re generating the maximum ROI. Secondly, many of those peripherals are supplemental staff or vendors. Are you fully utilizing those individuals? For example, if you have someone who’s merchandising, and their duties include taking photos, making sure you’re online and the details are accurate, your merchandiser could take it Read More…

  • Every day, it seems there’s a headline about another security breach at an organization like Facebook, or a bank, or Equifax. Fraud is everywhere, from hackers to “phishing,” and dealers are vulnerable. How can a dealer make sure they’re guarding certain areas where people can breach and take money or request money? That can mean physical money, or data, where someone takes your data hostage and holds your computer for ransom. In some countries, like Ukraine, Russia, North and South Korea, China, there’s an infrastructure which is very powerful in terms of pulling and pushing data. They have fibre optics and 5G, so they have the infrastructure for speed, and are more efficient as hackers. When their economy isn’t doing well, people in those areas may go after some easy targets overseas, like sending an email to a car dealership, where someone innocently clicks on a link and the hacker Read More…

  • talk to me dealer inline

    These days, dealers may get so focused on texting, messaging, emailing and chatting that they may be overlooking that staple of person to person communications, the phone system. Let’s start by looking at your actual phone number. Is it a local number? Or is it a 1-800 number? Most Canadians are apprehensive about calling that type of number. It just isn’t friendly. Now that almost every phone package allows you to call Canada-wide, toll free numbers aren’t necessary, and may even hurt your brand both visually or through online organic gains. But depending on your marketing efforts, a boutique number would be beneficial. For a monthly cost you can purchase the rights to a toll-free number that “spells” out a word for easy communication, for example, 1-888-LAVALVW. Make sure your local phone number is everywhere—within the website, on your business cards, on the floor mats, etc. And make sure your Read More…

  • employee experience at dealer inline

    It’s one thing to hire an employee, it’s another to keep that employee satisfied. And still another to make him or her a good brand ambassador! How can you make that happen? For starters, as an owner, you cannot build a good brand ambassador if you’re not a good brand ambassador yourself. It works from the top down. It doesn’t matter who you put in place. You need to lead by example, and if you can’t, maybe you should stop reading from this point on! There’s no question that you have to start with the basics. In the last column, we talked about the best ways to hire the type of candidates that have the right personality and skills to represent your brand and your dealership. A big part of that includes harnessing the cool technology that has been developed to make your job easier. That includes human resources software, Read More…

  • When was the last time you took a good look at what goes on in your dealership’s human resources department? Your HR department wears a whole wardrobe of hats. They have to act as compliance police, do payroll, training, employee relations, change management, compensation analysts, and, of course, recruit and hire employees. Their work in your store makes them a consequential and key force. That’s especially true when you consider that, according to research, anywhere above 50 employees requires one formal HR manager. So at 100 employees, you would need two. And with 1,000 employees, you’d need 15 plus. Even smaller mom ’n’ pop stores generally have about 50 employees in total. Dealer groups with multiple stores would easily have 1,000 employees, if not more. Recruiting top talent When it comes to hiring those employees, there are an infinite number of ways to go about this. Some imaginative dealers have Read More…

  • Did you know that according to Statistics Canada, by 2031, 28 percent of the Canadian population will be foreign born? And the number of visible minority groups will double? That means there’s likely a significant ethnic market not far from your doorstep right now! So what are you doing about it? To start with, the team at your dealership may already be made up of some of those ethnic groups. That’s particularly true if your dealership is located in a major metropolitan area. The dealer principal needs to understand what brands are favoured by certain ethnic communities. For example, Ford is popular with the Sikh community in the Greater Toronto Area. The Ford dealers there have a mixture of Sikh staff, and sell many Mustangs and F-150s. It may take some soul searching for the dealer to find who and what the market is, and putting the right ratio of Read More…

  • From computers to home furnishings, consumers see environmental fees in every aspect of the retail sector. So why do car buyers get frustrated when dealers charge green fees? It doesn’t have to be that way. Not only can you, as a dealer, help them understand what these fees cover, you can also make it a positive part of your brand! As you know, these fees cover the important steps you are taking to help the environment. Consumers want to do business with organizations that care about the planet. They want to know that the places where they spend their hard earned dollars are doing their share to be kind to the environment, but conversely, don’t always recognize these efforts. You’re probably already doing some good work to reduce your carbon footprint, and simply need a leg up to package it properly. For example, do you have a carwash? It’s likely Read More…

  • By now, you’ve realized that the customer experience doesn’t just start and end with selling someone a car. It’s not only selling a customer once, but providing the kind of continuous service that has them talking about your business and how well it works. You want to have that customer for life! And their kids and grandkids. So how does that work? How do you continue that relationship? How can you leverage it? And how do you turn a customer into your brand advocate? You need to create touchpoints that are two-fold. One for incoming sales, an important part of any dealer’s business. But also, for servicing and the customer experience. For example, think about areas of possible disruption throughout the vehicle ownership cycle. That means situations like flat tires or anything that might inhibit a customer from getting to the dealership. How can that customer get to you and Read More…

  • Every dealer knows the ins and outs of delivering a vehicle – but what about the digital aspect of that delivery? And that can apply to new and used! Simply put, the consumer is likely well aware of the technology within the vehicle itself. But what do they know about the technology at your store that can enhance their overall vehicle experience? Has this been discussed during the vehicle’s delivery? How is this being reinforced? That includes booking service appointments online, or being added to your database so the customer can receive your newsletter and reminders about their vehicle’s service intervals. These days, the dealer’s CRM is able to calculate a driver’s service intervals – then, as it was programmed to do, send that customer a correspondence with that notice in their desired communication preference. That’s taking a proactive approach. Then there’s video, which is one of the most user-friendly Read More…

  • How does what your potential customers see online about your store, its culture, its environment, its products and staff reflect what they can expect to see, hear and experience when they walk into your store? Your store should have a robust online presence that crosses over and dovetails precisely with the actual experience you’re offering customers, old and new. This consistency will pack a marketing punch, by seamlessly reinforcing all the good promises and promotion that you’ve worked so hard to present online. So when customers walk into your store, your message should be broadcast in every part of it. That message needs to be delivered uniformly, from what your staff are saying, to your POP materials internally and externally, to what your value proposition is. Position your vehicles How can you do that? First of all, your merchandise should looks its best, and your staff should be well trained Read More…

  • Where you spend your digital advertising budget, and how well you cater to the needs and wants of your target demographic, will make or break any online campaigns. What have your digital advertising dollars done for you lately? Chances are, these dollars could be working a lot harder. But it’s up to you to point them in the right direction. How can you get a piece of Facebook reach in your dealership’s pocket? Actually, there are lots of online portals like Facebook where you should consider investing your ad dollars. A few additional Canadian examples are Yelp, N49, Yellow Pages, 411, Instagram, RedFlagDeals and also ethnic portals consumers feel comfortable interacting in certain environments or portals. It’s where they go to source information, ask for referral business, feel confident in voicing an opinion, looking at business reviews, and so on. You want to invest in a community platform targeting a Read More…

  • Previously, we discussed how you can close more online leads by rolling out the red carpet for potential customers. That leads to a higher lead-to-sale ratio! It’s important that your customers’ online experience translates effectively into their in-store experience. So let’s analyze the red carpet treatment, by not only looking at customer engagement but also how you can foster the right relationship with your staff and vendors. In Canada’s modern digital era, 60 to 70 percent of initial transactions can come in the form of a phone or online enquiry. Both can be improved to really “Wow!” a customer, making them feel more at ease and likely to purchase from your store. So your first step could be to “secret shop” your store. Send in a lead or make a call, and gauge how the technology and staff react to that lead. Fluent transition How does the website present the Read More…

  • So you’ve received a online review, now what? I get many questions about developing the best mechanisms to respond to reviews. Let’s recap. At this point you’ve reviewed your competition and their standings, you’ve outlined monthly review targets and timelines. Your team has mapped the processes, created tools and knows how to use them. You’re updating the team on when reviews are received and acknowledging them via email. But how do you respond to a review? Should you be direct and start a conversation? Or just be casual and offer thanks? And what about the dreaded negative review, when panic mode sets in? Who’s responsible and how do they proceed? Here are a few best practices that have helped clients successfully respond to all types of reviews, whether it’s shared on Facebook or even YouTube. On these portals, any review with comments can go viral. Both the business and the Read More…

  • In the last issue of AutoJournal, we looked at online reviews and how you can “Outrank Your Rivals.” This month, we’re focusing on analyzing the strength of your dealership’s web presence. I would argue that your dealership’s website is the most complex of all websites on the Internet – even more complex than some of the mainstream e-commence websites. That’s because your dealership’s website is multi-departmental, and has been thoroughly analyzed by the vast majority of the potential customers who walk through your dealership’s doors. They expect the online experience they had on your website to translate into a similar experience in your store. If it doesn’t match up, you may lose them as a customer. Analyze each department How can you avoid this? Start at the top, with the manager of each department. During your next managers’ meeting, ask each manager to review the section of your website that Read More…

  • Are you ready to take the next step in sweeping your rivals under the digital rug? If you’ve taken the steps to identify your competition by charting their performance in online review portals, you’ve got a good start! Take a look at how that hierarchy is shaping up – where does your dealership rank? Take into account how each portal is unique, and how they can be used to help market your store. As you document the situation, you’ll get a picture of where you should be focusing your review efforts. Now, all you need is a plan. Your two most valuable tools are your staff and technology. For example, how can your staff help you get better online reviews? What technology needs to be in place to achieve those reviews? Gather your team, review your competitive review chart and ask them – who can they “ask” to give your Read More…

  • In the last issue of AutoJournal, we started a conversation about “Unique Selling Propositions,” or USPs. We made the point that when your customers look out at the automotive retail landscape, they should see a clear difference between your dealership and your competition. If they don’t, why would they buy from you? What makes you stand out from the rest? At this point in time, I hope you’ve taken the idea of USPs to your management meetings, and that you and your team have started looking at ways to uniquely represent your store. Branding is a hot topic today, and no doubt you’ve heard industry experts talking about the importance of creating your identity – your brand – one that customers can both recognize, as well as feel compelled to do business with. Reading about branding, or hearing others talk about it, is one thing. Actually sitting down and putting Read More…

  • Do your customers know what sets your dealership apart from the pack?   When your customers look out at the automotive retail landscape do they see a difference between your dealership and all others? If they don’t, then why would they buy from you? What makes you stand out from the rest? If you’re not setting yourself apart from the competition, it’s time to start thinking about your USPs (Unique Selling Propositions). In other words, you need to make sure consumers see you as different, and offering more than your competition, and one of the ways to do so is by advertising your USPs. Solid USPs are vital. Are people visiting your store because you happen to be a convenient option, or are they doing so because they actually want to do business with you? Strong USPs can make all the difference.   Defining your USP If you’re not sure Read More…