The Customer Experience — The Power of Touchpoints

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 not be re-routed to the manufacturer or a competitor? It’s as simple as placing a sticker on the inside of the vehicle that reminds them where they bought the car, with three phone numbers they can call in case of an emergency:

  1. the direct service line to the dealership
  2. the number for the dealer’s chosen tow truck service provider
  3. the number for the manufacturer’s roadside care.

Touchpoints

Those three numbers are touchpoints that you can even translate into an app that’s set up on the customer’s phone when the vehicle is delivered. These numbers should also be on a sticker on the cover of the owner’s manual or on the inside of the hood. In fact, why not provide your customers with a safety kit, like a small zip lock bag containing a disposable camera, these phone numbers, and some instructions on what to do in case of an accident?

Another touchpoint can be when the delivery actually happens, having the delivery co-ordinator or product advisor program the numbers into the car’s system, or right into the customer’s phone. When emergencies happen, no one’s thinking logically, so make it easy for the customer to contact you.

But it might not always be an emergency for the customer to want to get in touch. Maybe it’s just an inquiry. It could be a customer service question, like a wiper not working, or a tire valve cap fell off, or some kid vandalized the car.

So don’t stop with phone numbers – provide email addresses with your domain name as well. For example, info@dealership.com, sales@dealership.com, and customerservice@dealership.com.

Distribution

Distribution is key to success. These inquiries should go to trusted people, whose responsibilities cover these issues and are part of their sphere of duties. And who gets these inquiries? You need to decide with an internal conversation.

And where do you put this contact information? Everywhere, such as on your website, your invoices, the front door of your dealership, in every single car that gets delivered, on those paper floor mats that you leave in the car after service, in voicemails, on-hold messaging, AdWords, etc.

Have a discussion with your IT staff to ensure the emails are created correctly, that they are being funnelled properly to those people who can deal with them.

Make sure there’s a 15 minute meeting every month on this topic. That meeting should include anyone who has their finger on the business. That’s the principal, the controller, the owner, the general manager, the sales manager, the service manager – they should all be involved. You need to review your processes and make sure they’re effective. How have these inquiries been resolved? What’s outstanding?

Broadcast

Broadcast these touchpoints – the phone numbers and emails – on your social media as well, and ensure that people like your chat operators know about them. You can put them in your profile or “about me” page. They can go into an entire paragraph about how your dealership not only provides sales and service, but if customers have questions, inquiries or emergencies, they’re more than welcome to contact you.

Don’t forget about texting! You can’t talk about customer service if you’re not talking about texting opportunities. And the opposite, good old-fashioned snail mail. Encourage customers to send you a letter and tell you how you’re doing. That’s just how some people still feel most comfortable communicating. Give them the opportunity to express themselves, be it positive or negative. It doesn’t have to be in everything you talk about, but maybe in the “contact us” section of your website, that you welcome any type of correspondence.

Because as good a job as you can do selling a vehicle to a customer, you should be doing three times better at servicing the customer. That’s where you want to impress the customer. Let’s face it, you didn’t build that vehicle, you’re facilitating the transaction. If a customer has a problem with the car, it’s up to you as the dealer to help them. And you’re going to service that customer like they’ve never been serviced before, making it an awesome experience. That’s going to differentiate you from everyone else.

Article originally published in Canadian AutoJournal, February 2018.

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