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 truth is, people are being more diligent. Our industry is levelling out, and consumers want a deal. When the market was on fire, they’d just come in and grab whatever was in stock. Now consumers have done their research, they know the market is a little softer, and there’s lots of inventory. They want a business that displays a very positive value proposition.
So what can a dealership do to make that segue from a user into a customer… because if they’re still online and haven’t walked through your door, they’re still a user. And the user experience is separate from the customer experience. The user is shopping and researching and doing a number of things to eventually become your customer.
And according to Google, one third of Canadian shoppers will pause in that car-buying journey, for maybe three months. So that’s one-third of your leads in phone calls, emails and walk-ins. If you’re not doing due diligence in following up after a three month point, you could lose that opportunity.
But in our industry, we’re always looking for the lowest hanging fruit. Not any more. Follow up is essential today, not just for three weeks or a month, but for three months. If someone sends in an e-lead, and they don’t respond to your initial follow-up, make sure that there’s a three or a two-and-a-half month follow up schedule in place.
First, you give them about a week-and-a-half before following up with a comment that pertains to their inquiry—perhaps about the new 2020 Corolla that just landed. You’re giving them options, looking after their best interest and informing them about your brand along the journey.
After the three month point, there should be some kind of final touchpoint. With modern CRMs, you can gauge that. After all, you don’t want to be stalking anyone.
Longer sales funnel
Phone calls or a store visit can be considered in the same bucket, because it’s personal and there’s an opportunity to create a rapport. If you have a conversation with them, and they either miss their appointment or come in and don’t buy, make sure you keep in touch. Go back in time to the three month orphans, and touch them again with a phone call. Remind them of when you met, perhaps invite them to a new vehicle unveiling and talk about the safety features, if that’s what they were interested in.
So now, there’s a longer sales funnel, and the conversation becomes more customized. You know what your customer is interested in, the model of vehicle, and what features are important to her. Perhaps she’d like to visit the upcoming car care clinic. Even if she didn’t purchase, she can learn some tips, enjoy some refreshments and tour the facility, to see how it’s a family run business.
Because the market is softer, this type of work is even more important. When business is a little more scarce, dealers are more attentive.
From the top
And it has to come from the top. It’s what owners instil in their general managers, down to their sales managers and their product advisors, and service advisors—to look after the customer. It doesn’t just apply to someone who’s been your customer for 15 years, but everyone. Bending over backwards applies to all customers.
Now’s the time for owners to invest in more resources like greeters, customer care representatives and assistant managers. Hire extra bodies. Don’t pressure your current employees and make them do 100 different tasks when their day only allows for 90. You might be able to subsidize by investing in technology—CRM needs to be customized, modified, analyzed, and overviewed weekly, daily if possible. The employee experience is just as important as the customer experience and the user experience.
As a dealer, you can differentiate yourself with a truly customer-centric approach. Make sure all the experiences—the user, the customer, the employee—are aligned with your vision and goals. Perhaps now is the time to launch an employee appreciation program. That not only increases employee morale, but also shows customers that you value your employees. And when you make a difference internally, it’s bound to be reflected with a better user and customer experience.