Today’s car buyers are increasingly diverse and complex, which means dealers must constantly refine their customer service practices. On this episode of Inside Automotive, host Jim Fitzpatrick heads to Ocean Cadillac to join general manager and veteran car salesman Matt Wahnon, to discuss emerging trends in customer service. Wahnon is also the corporate trainer and recruiter for The Murgado Automotive Group, run by legendary dealer Mario Murgado.
In Wahnon’s eyes, employee retention is reliant on multiple factors. Education, training and leadership, he argues, are each necessary to keep staff engaged and passionate. Dealers looking to keep team members on board should take the time to lead and invest in their people. “You give them all the tools they need to be successful, you train them on the tools that they need to be successful, and then you coach and mentor them…they’ll stay with you for the long term,” Wahnon remarks. These principles are especially important to keep in mind for sales managers, he adds. Given the ease with which automotive sales professionals can burn out, it is vital for their leaders to make sure they are properly equipped to face any customer service situation they may encounter on the floor.
Wahnon has witnessed many customer service trends defining retail automotive evolve throughout his thirty-year career. One of the most significant events to affect the car business was the proliferation of digital retailing. E-commerce has become so prominent that many consumers would rather pay for a vehicle from the comfort of their homes than drive to a store and sit through hours of negotiations and paperwork. Despite this shift, Wahnon believes dealers should still prioritize their in-store customer service experience. “I still think, at the end of the day, that brick-and-mortar is never going to go away,” he explains, adding, “I think people love to come and shop. Sure, some people would rather jump on that laptop, but I believe that…the showroom says a lot.”
The COVID pandemic proved to be a learning experience for many in the automotive community, upending the industry’s perspective on how the car business worked. But for Wahnon, the period instead served as validation for the dealership community’s guiding principles: “…treat people with respect, give them what want, don’t lie to them and do the right thing.” Managers need to take the time to demonstrate their professionalism, customer service skills, product knowledge and dedication towards helping buyers find the right vehicle or service for their needs.
Customer service has always been the car business’s strength, and has proven to be resilient even if the face economic turmoil. By learning what car shoppers really want from their dealers, the automotive industry can continue to find success well into the future.