As inventory shortages linger on and consumer buying behaviors change, it’s more important than ever that dealers focus on their customer experience (CX). In the past, pricing and selection played a major role in buyers’ purchasing decisions; however, as new and used vehicles costs reach record highs, the dealership experience is playing a progressively bigger role.
To build customer trust and offset any sticker shock, dealers need to identify ways to build value into every step of their sales process. In today’s hyper-competitive market, this requires an intentional approach to proactively improve the dealership customer experience.
How Do Successful Dealers Manage Customer Expectations?
While some factors prefer a limited inventory and high prices can be out of a dealer’s control, there are numerous ways dealership teams can proactively improve the customer experience at every step across platforms.
It’s important to view the dealership customer experience through the buyer’s perspective, looking for opportunities to proactively improve the efficiency of their process. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, to proactively improve the dealership customer experience and achieve higher CSI scores, dealers must first:
Do you know how long the customer is waiting while information is entered or retrieved from a system? Do you know how long they wait to interact with a cashier or service representative? Do you know how long they are waiting for information to get from one of your employees to the next, or for their vehicle to be pulled around?
This information can be critical in determining what steps are necessary for solving your unique challenges for your unique customers. Find ways to make the entire experience process at your dealership as short and efficient as possible, and then make a point of telling your customers what you’re doing.
Don’t wait for them to notice that you’re finding little ways to make things move faster, but rather train your staff to share that information: “We’re doing things this way now because it lets me get you out of here faster.” The more your customers believe you’re making a sincere effort not to waste their time, the more they’ll be willing to entrust you with it in the future. A reputation for respecting your customers’ time is a powerful relationship marketing tool to drive future sales.
Are your CRM rules still reflecting the way you want your customers cared for at your dealership? Are they reflective of current market demands? Too many dealerships “set and forget” their CRM rules, and too few get dealership leaders in sales, service, and F&I together to go through the rules together and ensure they reflect reality and best practices.
Your CRM is a critical engine for dealership sales and the overall customer experience and, given the low cost of retaining an existing customer compared to the cost of acquiring a new one, profitability. Take the time before the end of the year to revisit those CRM rules about who gets contacted, how often, for what and by whom, and make sure that they’re leveraging your CRM investment to its maximum potential.
Keep your team connected to the digital world. While social media platforms are great for sharing special offers, news, personnel info, and other information with customers, they’re also a source of potential friction if your customer-facing staff don’t know what’s being said.
Do you have a process for making sure your sales and service teams know what’s being posted on your social media channels and website? Do they all know what digital coupons and offers are out there, or what vehicles are being featured today?
With today’s customers virtually always starting their shopping online, it’s critical for dealerships to connect the (often off-site) digital team with the people who will be the next point of contact for those customers, ensuring there’s no confusion about the featured deal or coupon of the day.
How Can Proactivity Meet Customer Experience (CX)?
Historically, relationships with customers began when they walked through your showroom doors. Today, thanks to the Internet, sophisticated marketing campaigns and increased consumer research practices, the customer experience journey begins long before they ever set foot in your dealership.
Auto dealers can design and structure their operations to ensure they’re making the right first impressions and convert prospects into customers, using:
Predictive marketing delivers the right message, to the right prospects, at the right time, through the channels that are most likely to get their attention. This data-driven process includes the production of personalized offers and marketing materials designed to engage customers or prospects and drive them through the sales funnel to purchase.
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Predictive Marketing for Dealerships 101
Modern consumers expect this level of personalization in so many other facets of their lives and have come to view personalized marketing as a benefit they value from a company. By communicating through messaging that is relevant to their unique needs, you can show prospects they matter to you, establishing a great starting point for the dealership customer experience.
Data Drives Personalized CX
What makes a real difference in the effectiveness of your analysis and the CX on which it depends is the inclusion of information from critical proprietary databases. Mastermind’s proprietary automotive marketing data partners include S&P Global Mobility, TransUnion, and CARFAX. Ensuring our dealers have access to extensive customer insights, such as household demographic data, personal finance information and social media interactions delivers the most relevant and profitable offers possible.
Effective salespeople rely on traditional sales skills and on digital sales platforms to deliver all the information and insight they need about a prospect. A dealer sales platform also ensures your customers know that your dealership understands them as an individual and wants them to be satisfied through every step of the car-buying journey.
Mastermind offers not only introductory CSI car sales training for new salespeople, but also ongoing refreshers for veteran sales team members, at no additional cost.
How Can Dealers Enhance CSI Post Acquisition?
As market conditions are rapidly changing, it’s more important than ever for dealers to take a data-driven approach to improve the customer experience and build customer loyalty. By powering your internal and external processes with predictive analytics, dealers are empowered to deliver an enhanced customer experience that’s bound to increase your dealership’s CSI.
Customer demands are challenging dealerships to quickly evolve their strategies. Here are a few simple and effective ways any car dealership can improve its customer satisfaction index (CSI):
Make it an enjoyable dealership customer experience. There are hundreds of customer touchpoints, and it’s important that all of them are based on a dealer’s shared mission of consistency and service. Autotrader reports 54% of consumers would buy a car from a dealership that offers their preferred service experience, even if it didn’t have the lowest price.
Check the metrics of your own sales results; chances are you’ll find the highest grossing sales often come from customers who have a good experience.
For the customer, it’s all about how long the process takes, how personal the experience is, and whether the dealership is transparent enough in its approach. They demand a faster process because they just don’t have the time to wait around. They also have become accustomed to a personalized process, which they respond better to in general. You can take immediate steps toward dealership customer retention by implementing amenities that make waiting more bearable for your customers and by reducing idle time in the showroom.
When the time is right, walk the customer over to the service department and introduce them to a service manager or advisor. Most dealers used to mandate the ‘service walk’ as a part of the sales process, though many have fallen off in recent years. The service walk is a great way to improve your CSI score and overall service loyalty.
Remember, consumers generally look at dealership service departments as the primary source of expertise when it comes to vehicle maintenance. The service drive is a great place to talk about trade-ins, especially when you have a deep well of information about the customer’s driving history and the customer faces an expensive fix.
Chances are the customers who bring their vehicles to your dealership for post-warranty work are more willing to buy their next car from you. Mastermind’s Service Conquest tool automates the drudgery of the service conquest process and empowers our dealer partners to convert service customers into new car sales.
How can automotiveMastermind help?
Mastermind empowers dealers to engage prospective buyers with tailored messaging and offers that proactively set the stage for an excellent dealership customer experience. Plus, when equipped with intelligent buyer insights, dealership sales and service teams can build upon every previous touchpoint to convert high-potential new and pre-owned car buyers faster.
Contact us today to learn how we can help you improve your dealership customer experience.