In owning a car dealership, there is a necessity of providing consumers with a high quality customer experience each time they visit your dealership. In a very noisy marketplace, where competition is at it’s best, there’s always room for improvement and never a chance to slack off. In today’s new economy, as I so call it in doing business these days, it’s important to constantly come up with fresh ideas to gain a competitive advantage over other car dealerships competing for business from the same customers.
For the past few years, local business owners have started to really embrace the social media world of getting their business online. However, many get their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn set up but have no plan of how to execute real true customer service leading to revenue back at the dealership. There are so many ways that a local dealership should be embracing consumers these days but I find they are still stuck on old traditional methods and haven’t embraced to new. Consumers want new and innovating ideas that are cool and fun yet meet their needs of customer service. Marketing and advertising to them while maintaining high level of quality customer service, in this “new economy”, is so vastly different not just for dealerships but for all local business entreprenuers. There is so much learning to do, not to mention the overwhelm and frustrations it creates for the entrepreneur in learning this new “stuff”.
In the online world of customer service it can be so much fun. Customers have gadgets now and one of the ways your dealership can win the “new consumer” is by offering them on-the-go specials. At the same time you must blend both online and offline marketing arsenal strategies to work well together. We all hear this a lot these days, “Well it is all about consumer engagement.” Yes, this is true. Building a solid relationship with consumers looking for a solution to a problem in their location is critical to the marketing mix.
However, where the real problems comes for a local business is how to earn revenue from that online. In the old traditional ways it was pretty much a given that if we sent through a graphic to the local newspaper to advertised with a certain percentage off or we ran a radio ad with a percentage off or we hired a marketing team from the local radio show to have a “radio promo day”, consumers would come. And yes, that was effective back then as that was where consumers where hanging out. Today the masses are hanging out online or with their mobile devices and how do you take that consumer service to the next level.
When you depend on technology things chance fast! Digital online marketing changes constantly and it can be extremely overwhelming and frustrating to local business owner especially if they haven’t started getting their business online. So it is important to ensure you are taking that customer service to the next level. Your customers are expecting it so don’t send them go to your competitor. Let’s help you get on board.
Perhaps it’s time for a changing of the guard and start considering what will appeal to your potential new customers. Here are a few ways to get started.
Taking Customer Service to the Next Level
Try these ideas to improve the customer experience at your dealership and gain a competitive advantage over your competition in your area:
- Track Everything: We are in the “new economy” and just about everything can be trackable online. If your dealership has 20% closing ratio, put systems into place for the 80% and track them. Engage those non buyers and turn them into buyers. ROI’s can mean increase revenue if a dealership engages them with customer service. With mobile and online digital marketing just about everything is trackable for the consumer’s activity. This could be a GM’s best friend. I would say that these ROI’s will soon be the included in Up’s and Wrench’s weekly reports. Manual customer support issues were so unmeasurable and are part of old traditional marketing methods.
- Increase Follow Ups: I don’t know how many times I go to car dealership and leave without them knowing my name and critical information that would allow the dealership to keep in touch with me. There’s a good chance I would simply head over to another dealership that does provide a follow up call. Design a checklist or subscribe option to help you plan follow-up procedures. If someone buys a new car, for instance, follow up with a phone call a month later and a questionnaire after six months. You also may never know who they will refer you too. Keep customers informed of upcoming sales, new car arrivals or special deals. Don’t fill people’s in-boxes to overflowing with every new development at the dealership, but make your customers feel as if they’re getting insider information before it’s released to the general public. Very inexpensive auto responders for email campaigns and free online surveys are just many of the suggested tools we provide for our clients.
- Maintain your online reputation: Your customers talk about you all the time. Whether you think they do, like it or not, the internet is so easy to shot off steam. We provide our clients with a measurable review system. It sends good reviews online and bad reviews to the GM. Customers are able to review the car dealership experience as well as upload photos of their cars etc. Be well versed in online reputation management via sites such as this. If a customer has had a negative experience and expressed that, a good car dealership will apologize and make it right. Then feed them back into your review process to leave a good review. Always provide them with a coupon for their next visit. Perhaps you want to increase your Wrench’s so by putting a coupon on your review system that you are willing to give each month can have a great impact on increase sales. Online feedback is to be embraced, utilized and leveraged; not feared. Never argue with a customer online. Never enter into any debate. The simple and most effective thing you can do is apologize for the customer feeling that way and continually offer to assist and fix the problem offline. Take note of your presence in online directories. Remember Google gives great SEO rankings to a higher score dealership with good reviews. The above ideas are just skimming the surface. Of course there are loyalty programs and other programs to assist in customer satisfaction. We get into them more with our clients. Maybe your dealership does all of the above, either way it is always the little things that lead to big impressions with your customers. Most of all, be different and separate yourself from the majority.
- Have you eaten?: Clients are sometime time poor. What a great way to offer a pre-packed breakfast kit to take with you to your destination. Think of the customer that has been booked in for 7am. Think of the customer that picks their car up after hours. Think of the parent that is accompanied by their children. Have they eaten? There are a few companies out there such as Travel Fare offering tailored small pre-packaged food boxes. Actually the airlines have that service as well.
- The customer who skipped breakfast to drop their car off to you and now have to get to work. Fast.
- The parent who waits at your dealership with an arm full of children. Why not provide them with a tailored “Happy Meal” style food box. Note: It of course must be made abundantly clear what the box contains in case of allergies. Have back up boxes if possible.
- The customer who has worked all day and has to pick up their car at 8pm. Wouldn’t it be nice to leave a nice wholesome snack and drink on the passenger seat for the drive home. You know how famished one can get burning the midnight oil.
- Give Coupons: Entice customers to come into your service department by giving them coupons. While it’s true that you’ll have to give them a discount on their purchase, focus on the repeat business as well. For example, if you give a customer a birthday gift (10% off ), encourage them to bring in a friend or family member with a car, which will more than make up for the money lost on the coupon.
- Keep your customers connected: Customers should not have to put their lives on hold while they are getting their vehicle serviced. Keep them connected as best as possible. I suggest providing a quiet area with workspaces for customers to use their mobile devices. It is also nice to have most popular chargers on hand and for the most popular devices. Having WI-FI is a bare minimum these days. Have a separate Wi-Fi network for your customers. There are plenty of decent inexpensive routers on the market and plenty of ISP providers with 500gb to unlimited data allowance if you are concerned about usage. Change the router password daily and separate the customers Wi-Fi network from the dealerships network.
- Be a good Host: No request is to great or too small. Be there for your customers. Accompany them from the moment they step out of their car to the service advisor. Show them the necessary facilities and the features of the dealership that will help them. e.g ask if they would like wi-fi access, ask if they would like something to drink or eat. Check on your customer every so often. The host should treat the customer as if they were in their own home. If the customer is staying in the dealership while their vehicle is being serviced, check on them after 10 minutes and every so often after that. If the customer is going to be elsewhere for the duration of the car service, give them a call 15 minutes afterwards asking if everything is ok and confirming the service being performed and any other instructions they may have given. It also could lead to an upwell. They may too have forgotten something during the check-in that they were too afraid or did not deem important enough to call you back about, but would be nice to have for them. Maybe your dealership does some of the above.
Maybe your dealership does all of the above, either way it is always the little things that lead to big impressions with your customers.
It’s your job to go out of your way to make sure the customer experience at your car dealership is a fantastic one. Stay updated on the latest industry trends and really pay attention to what your customers like and dislike to gain a competitive advantage over other dealerships in your area. I know myself I have gone out of town to purchase a vehicle because of customer service. Consumers shop and 85% of them are making a buying decision before even leaving their homes and spend on average 10 hours doing their own research online or with their mobile device. So do your dealership a favour and increase customer service by being engaged and available to them on every platform.
Most of all, be different, stay on top of technology and separate yourself from the majority. Customer service and marketing go hand-in-hand when it comes to getting your business online.
What are some of your tips to supplying better service to customers in dealerships in this new economy? Have you taken any tips from other industries and implemented them?
About Cheryl Lynn:
Cheryl and her team specialize in working with local business entrepreneurs to get their offline location set up properly online for engaging and providing ultimate customer service online to increase revenues. Their clients dominate the #1 spot online and well in the hearts of consumers looking for solutions. Helping local business owners is Cheryl’s passion and it is her mission to help them “Live Their Dream Lifestyle”. If the online entrepreneurs can create wealth than the local business entrepreneur can have double…online and offline wealth. It’s there for the takings, they just need help in getting it off the ground with our “Certified 89 Point Online Digital Marketing Plan”.