One of a dealership’s biggest challenges is tailoring its operations to fit customer needs. In January, JD Power’s Executive Vice President of Strategic Development, Tim Copacia, facilitated a meeting between auto marketing leaders at the 2021 JD Power Auto Summit. After analyzing all of their interactions, he was able to generate the following eight “pillars to a successful and differentiated customer experience,” which are all critical to marketing tactics and can be used by dealerships nationwide.

Personalize Connections

A marketing tactic that we hear about all the time is personalizing sales and connections, and that is because it is critical to sales success. Most auto consumers appreciate when a dealership remembers them and gets to know a little bit about them. If a dealership personalizes interactions as opposed to strictly focusing on the auto sales or services, customers are likely to feel welcome and therefore there is a higher probability they will return.

Transparency is Key

Buying a car is a huge decision for customers to make, and they certainly don’t want to “play games” with a dealership. Along with comfort and safety, price is one of the top factors that consumers look at when making a decision. Being transparent with consumers about what they are getting for the quoted price makes the car buying process a little less stressful for consumers and can help dealerships build trust with them.

Assure Customers They’re Being Taken Care Of

As mentioned, buying a car is nerve wracking for most. It’s a huge investment and the decisions that have to be made can be scary. Customers, many of whom are hesitant and unsure about their choices, are seeking assurance that they are making the best decisions. Dealerships should always reassure their customers that they are going to be guided through the car buying process and, if applicable, through future service and maintenance needs.

Connect with Customers

While digital marketing and mobile technologies have done an excellent job of expanding the reach of information, it has also changed the way dealerships can (and must) connect with customers. If possible, hiring a Customer Experience Officer or similar employee can help a dealership transition from the old-school marketing tier standard to a more digital process that today’s customers prefer.

Protect Privacy

We’ve all heard “scary” stories of people having their identities stolen or their personal information being “leaked” during a hack, and auto customers are becoming increasingly worried about it. Customers want to be reassured their personal information isn’t getting distributed in any way without their permission, so they need to feel confident their personal information is protected. If customers are hesitant to provide pieces of information such as a phone number or email address, they should be reassured that these won’t be distributed without permission and are beneficial to sharing important information with them quickly (e.g., an email notice about a recall).

Act Human

Copacia noted that “data is useful but earning trust through an authentic human relationship is even better.” Dealerships want to leave an impact on customers, and utilizing robot-like sales pitches and cliche marketing phrases aren’t what customers are drawn to. One way many dealerships gain exposure and a positive reputation is by hosting events such as food drives or car washes for charitable causes.

Emphasize Efficiency

A common complaint of auto customers is that the car buying process takes way too long, which only adds to the stress of it all. Many marketing strategies include some form of “Know Your Customer,” which works towards personalizing sales and involves having insight into what specific customers are looking for. It is important to attempt to make accurate projections without assuming. For example, parents of several children are normally more likely to be shopping for an SUV as opposed to a two-seat sports car, so they won’t want to waste time looking at vehicles that don’t suit their needs. While initial predictions are not always right, they can normally help save a lot of time and therefore increase customers’ satisfaction.

Offer a Loyalty Program

In general, most companies know the importance of a loyalty program when working towards retaining customers. Many people are the type who like to try new products and brands, but promos and loyalty cards can keep them coming back to the same place. Dealerships are no different, and offering discounts on routine maintenance or special sales deals for established customers can keep them loyal and deter them from straying to another dealership.

Copacia’s panel discussion found several crucial aspects of providing an excellent experience to customers. Transparency and honesty are key, especially with customers who are nervous about the whole experience, but offering them incentives to keep coming back is also important. Ultimately, dealerships can thrive in the industry by making sure customers feel valued and remembered.

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