Automotive retailers have always played a major role in shaping the lives of the average consumer. After all, buying a car isn’t an everyday event and to most people this purchase is a milestone! Auto dealerships, therefore, by very nature of their business sell a lifestyle and not just a car. They have the power within their showroom to revamp the lives of their customers given that almost every household has a car or two in their driveway.
With such power & responsibility vesting in them, auto dealerships have recognized the growing need to deliver an extraordinary customer experience to not just their customers but also their prospects. Keeping this in view, we’ve compiled a list of 9 strategies that will redefine the way your auto dealership engages with customers and other prospects.
1. Sell an experience, not just a car
We’ve already spoken about how the arrival of a new car is such an event in most households. You need to cash in on that very sentiment that makes this purchase so important to your customer. Embrace the excitement and apprehension behind the purchase and make sure they cherish the journey with your brand. Do away with age-old traditions of intimidating paper work and endless follow ups. A few ways to enhance the experience would be to:
• Make all necessary details available online. The models you sell, the prices, the features, the necessary documents, the perks – everything. Whatever info they could receive by walking into your showroom, must be made available for the customer to access from the comfort of their homes.
• When a prospect walks in, make sure he feels like he is in safe hands. Let there be complete transparency in terms of the pricing, etc without being made to feel pressured to upgrade to another model.
• Make sure the showroom experience is a positive one. Build a waiting area or lounge as it adds to the leisure, and provides a sense of comfort to customers when they walk in. And if most of the visitors are parents who bring their kids along, design a small children’s play area. This is one simple yet effective manner to drive engagement and gain the complete attention of the customer.
• In case of a prospect, collect information which might help you customize your future interactions with them. Ask them questions like “why they opt to go for this brand, this model, etc” as it could help you understand them better to deliver the most appropriate experience for them. This report also says that 1 in 4 customers is not satisfied with their dealer experience in the car buying process! This is quite a grave number, if you think about it!
2. Innovate, Innovate, Innovate
To quote Henry Ford’s words – “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses ”. Great leaders don’t just meet expectations of what their customers want, they understand the need and deliver much more than what the average customer can verbalize. It isn’t rocket science when you break it down and look at it objectively.
By collecting specific responses from prospects through an auto dealership survey, you have the chance to intelligently approach them without appearing too pushy. For example, if you know your prospect-family owns a dog, you could customize a collar and send it across to the family by adding a note that says “he is going to love taking family vacations in *whatever car they were interested in buying* ”.
This is a great way to connect with them emotionally. Best case scenario, they will come back to your business and tell the world about the awesome surprise you gave them! Worst case scenario, their little doggy will walk around wearing the collar you sent in – subliminal branding messages are being sent anyways. This is a win-win innovation!
3. Take lessons from the Japanese
The Japanese philosophy of Kaizen can change the face of your business if you truly understand what it means. In a nutshell, this is the philosophy which preaches constant improvement in business, personally and wherever you choose to apply it. By being receptive to feedback, you increase your chances to improve on your mistakes constantly. Auto dealership customer feedback is of utmost importance when it comes to delighting your customers because it is only when you seek to make a change that you stand a chance to be perceived differently. And the more open you are to perfecting your game, the more things you will notice are being compromised on and the more changes you will make to bettering them- thereby setting the “constant improvement ” ball in motion.
4. Open up all channels of communication
According to McKinsey&Company’s ‘Innovating Automotive Retail ‘ report, more than one-third of customers would consider buying a car online. Now, are you sure whether you’re encouraging this trend for your own customers?
Like we just discussed, help the customer access all the information he needs from the comfort of his home, or office or wherever he is. Let it not be a case of him having to come to your showroom for every little query. In fact, mobilize information such that the customer feels empowered even before he walks into your showroom. While this is just one side of it, open up all channels of communication to enable a two-way interaction pathway with your customers.
Be it via emails, call centres, SMS, contact page on website, or even a call to the showroom itself – make sure that every channel is available for the customer to approach you with comments, questions, feedback or appointment requests and put auto dealership customer feedback on top priority. Respect the customers’ time and give them the means to contact you at all times with absolutely any queries. No “let me just check with my manager ” unless absolutely necessary. No scripted telephonic conversations. No fake greetings or smiles. This also involves empowering employees with the freedom to take certain decisions which will work in the best interest of the organization.
5. Streamline customer data collection
One of the most important aspects of any car dealership is pre-sales. Employees who handle pre-sales have got to be equipped with a auto dealership customer feedback collection mechanism that they will motivate the customers to fill. This data collected in vital because these are the customers who have approached you and are assured that they have made the right choice by doing so. Once they have made this decision, they will be handed over to the sales team but prior to that decision making is where most of the magic takes place.
Be sure to capture every little aspect of the conversation that takes place and leverage this data for future correspondence. Like if they happen to slip it in that it is their birthday soon, or anything at all, use this sensitively to make a positive impact on their decision. The auto dealership survey data must be made accessible to all customer-facing clients as they too could use it in their interactions. In effect, all customer-centric data must be stored on a single point of reference and made available to all client-facing staff. This helps them better understand the customers and will help them engage with customers and build conversations more effectively.
An effective CEM platform will not only give you the power to personalize questions for each team to collect feedback on, but also helps you store, organize and analyze the collated data on one single dashboard. Auto dealerships that use CloudCherry have reported that their processes have benefited immensely from the insights dashboard.
6. Do not follow but study your competition
If everything is in fact fair in love and war, then this is a case where it is both love and war! Your love for customer retention & acquisition must be so strong that your war on your competitors has to be absolutely fierce.
Study and analyze what’s making them tick or what’s making you do better than them. See how they engage with their customers and outdo them by doing it better. Ask friends & family to visit your dealership as a third party and ask them for their honest, objective feedback via auto dealership survey. Get them to also call your call centers to understand if there’s any loophole in the customer service department that you could have missed. Every interaction with your brand has to be a knock out for your customers and if it means that you will have to test it out inside out, be prepared to do it.
Tony Hseigh, CEO of Zappos, had once made a woman friend of his call the Zappos call centre asking them to deliver Pizza in the middle of the night! And who’d have thought- they did deliver a pizza!. Although this is extreme customer-centric sensibility, you have got to sell your brand to your customer like they have never seen anything like it before!
7. Give your customers something to rave about
Last week, the Temkin group released the reports of the “Sixth Annual Customer Experience Ratings” which evaluated 294 companies across 20 industries. The report revealed that Toyota delivered the best customer experience in auto dealers, with a rating of 66%. This report was based on a survey of 10,000 customers in the US. Mercedes Benz came second in the survey with a rating of 65% .
The report also mentions that Toyota is no newbie to being on top of these ratings. This gives us some perspective into the fact that delivering excellent customer experience isn’t a question of a single incident, neither is it the task of a single customer satisfaction team. It is an on-going pan-organizational effort which might take time to translate into ROI and success.
However, when the efforts are put in place and relentlessly followed, customers will take notice and they will be prompted to reciprocate the effort by going nowhere else. Given that auto dealerships involve multiple touchpoints – showroom, repair & service, pre-sales and post-sales – you have to make sure that the experience is consistent across all these touchpoints and before you know it he’s already raving about how much easier you make life for him!