Posted November 16th, 2022 by Arnold Tijerina
Good business practices don’t change with pandemics. They don’t change with market issues like low inventory or supply chains. Good business practices are good all the time and they are constant. And the dealers that have those solid, good business practices are the ones that are going to survive, and perhaps even thrive, once the dust settles and the “gold rush” ends.
There’s not a lot of pushbacks from customers. There is no real “trend” that you can find in the market. It’s simply a matter of dealing with the supply chain issues and inventory shortages to make the same amount of money on fewer units. Riding the wave is all well and good, but when this period ends, will you be ready to continue the trend of selling units without even having to try that hard?
Delivering a premium customer experience starts with getting rid of all the bad habits and lines of thought that are plaguing you. It also means understanding that the market right now is a fluke—it has nothing to do with your years of dedication and effort finally paying off. Eventually, the market will shift and when there are fewer customers, the customer experience will become that much more important to your dealership.
You can guarantee that you’ll be ready by delivering a digital-first customer experience for your dealership.
Digital-First Customer Experience
What is a digital-first customer experience? This is planning for a customer interaction that takes place in the digital space, first and foremost. Imagine that every transaction is going to be an opportunity. It would make sense that dealerships would want to emphasize the digital experience that people have, whether they just want information on a unit that a dealership has or they’re ready to start a transaction online.
COVID pushed many businesses into the digital space or pushed them to be more present in that space in order to deliver the experience that customers want in a forum that is safe and still delivers all the information that they need. Dealerships need to own the customer experience in the digital space and embrace all the ways they can enhance their own sales team with various online tools. This includes everything from appraisals and inventory searches to financing applications, a tour of the virtual showroom, and even access to trade-in offers that are guaranteed just by inputting a few key facts about their vehicle.
The Internet is not going away. Customers are going to continue to look first to digital spaces to find the solutions that they want and need. If they’re in the market for a new powersports unit or vehicle, they’re going to perform 95% of the work online, probably before they even reach out to the dealership.
The dealership’s job is to facilitate that demand by delivering an online experience that puts customers first and makes sure that they get the attention and assistance that they deserve. As consumer buying habits evolve and look more to the digital space for as much accommodation as possible, the dealerships that provide that experience will find themselves among the most successful.
Communication is Key
How many times have you reached out to a business only to have to wait days for a response? Especially now, when we live in a world full of instant gratification (thanks to the Internet,) customers expect a near-instant response. The response time they anticipate also varies depending on the avenue of communication, so that’s something to keep in mind. While people might not mind waiting 24 hours for an email response, they aren’t going to wait that long for a reply to an online chat or a text message.
How fast should you respond to emails? Chats? Text messages?
The simple answer is as quickly as possible. The more complex answer depends on customer expectations. Make sure that you know what each channel means in terms of interactions. Some dealers don’t realize that engaging in text and chat means that they must be present. Unlike email or a phone call that needs to be returned, text messages and chats are ongoing conversations. The salespeople aren’t going to engage in a conversation with someone in the dealership and then just walk away when they ask a question— If they do, chances are they will be fired quickly. Dealerships can’t do that with other means of communication, either.
Honestly, the best option is to overcommunicate. Overcommunicate when issues arise, when you’re unsure of what a customer wants, and any time that you want to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Overcommunication, to a point, is better than no communication at all. Make sure that you are open and up front with your customers, from the very first interaction through the closing of the transaction and even into their next deal down the road.
Dealerships should overcommunicate so that customers know that you’re committed to delivering the ideal experience for them.
The Benefits of Improving the Customer Experience
Some dealerships want a reason for making these changes. They want proof that things will, in fact, work out in their favor even once the pandemic rush slows and we return to business as usual (or slower business than usual as the market readjusts). So, what do dealerships get from improving the customer experience besides happier customers?
Customer experience improvements can boost retention rates. It can also increase the word-of-mouth business that you get from referrals and people who want to share their experience with their family, friends, or even the entire world. You’ll notice that you’re getting better online reviews, better CSI and, if you haven’t already seen it, you’ll have customers who are willing to pay more for the same inventory they might find elsewhere, or willing to pay more because the inventory shortage.
People are willing to pay for good service. They expect a certain level of experience as a customer when they come to a powersports or car dealership. Even in these times, when things are selling themselves, people may occasionally look the other way but most are still putting their experience at the top of their list of buying factors. At the moment, price is not first in customer’s buying experience.
When customers are happier, sales are higher, retention is better, and dealerships can work on creating a dealership that will not only survive the market adjustment, but thrive in delivering a better experience for customers.
Bringing it All Together
The process and pieces of the transaction all come together outside of the store in many situations. Getting too focused on the lead aspect of things can result in a total miss of this. That’s why we talk about facilitating transactions, not just leads. Leads are great but the ultimate goal is a sale. What is your dealership doing to facilitate the best chances of getting that sale?
You might say not much now, and that’s probably to be expected. If you’re one of the many dealerships still collecting the easy business from the pandemic, you shouldn’t rest on your laurels. Make sure that you’re taking advantage of the good business now to create a better customer experience for the future, when it will matter because business won’t be as easy as just existing.
And if you can, try to casually incorporate the concept of “if you’re selling, let us buy it.” It doesn’t have to be a huge process change or effort on the part of your dealership or your sales team. Even just a casual mention can go a long way in giving your dealership the chance to buy more units from existing customers and selling more to the potential ones. If you start now, you can get ahead of your competition and deliver the best customer experience from every angle.
PSX Digital has the tools and features to help create the best customer experience both inside and outside of your dealership. Find out more about managing customer expectations and delivering a higher level of service with our other eBooks and resources found on our website.