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Five tips on how to be customer-centered

A recent PWC report found that, “only 36% of consumers feel that their [brand/product] employees understand their needs.” Regardless of the truth or argument, perception is reality. This indeed points to an inadequate focus on customer needs or solutions offered by businesses at worst or a horrible job managing expectations and image at best. Customers aren’t receiving what they need and don’t feel wanted or valued by the business. Could that also be said about your dealership? 

There’s no doubt that psychology points to a renewed focus on self during difficult times. Fear causes us to insulate and become protective. It also causes us to focus on our needs at the exclusion of others’ needs. However, businesses don’t have that luxury. And, if anything, you should be hyper-focused on your consumer and customer. People want to know that someone cares, and once they find that person, they won’t let go. And they’ll tell others.

We’re going to give a few tips on how to be consumer-focused so you can turn those thoughts to others and be successful in the months ahead.  

1. Research your customer 

Getting a baseline on your customer’s needs and problems should be your first step on the road to addressing and solving them. You need to check on everything from automotive trends and reports to what is going on in your local community. For instance, if there are lockdowns, providing concierge services is a nobrainer. It solves a need. By checking on these things, you can connect the dots on what cars and services can sell best. 

2. Listen to your customer 

As good as email blasts and surveys might be, having a one-to-one conversation with your customer or even with your friends on what is affecting their life is invaluable. It’s an excellent time to ask questions and listen to what they have to say. Bring up some things on what you see as valuable to them and get their response. Ask them how they would like to be treated when looking for a car or service at your dealership. They’ll tell you. And see what their examples of excellent customer service would be.  

3. Empathize with your customer 

When a person walks into your door or calls you on the phone, they want you to solve a lifestyle problem with your service department or sales department using your product. And it’s entirely possible that you will immediately launch into the car’s features or how you do business without ever asking and listening to what needs they want to have met. It’s time to step into their shoes. 

If the customer has needs beyond the features and specs, then you’re going to lose them. If you’ve done your research on your target market, listen to why they’re visiting and let them talk; you’re well on the way. 

Ask yourself each day, “What would I want to hear if I were talking to me?” You’ll understand their problems much better and help them to become a long-term customer of yours.  

4. Think about value and not about margins 

It can be challenging, especially when you’re looking at sales and profits, not pushing sales on a higher margin car or service when it’s more than the person needs. 

However, if you sell based on margin, you run the risk of ruining the LTV of that customer. If they’re pushed into something they didn’t want or was too much – or too little – for them, they won’t be back. And they’ll also let everyone else know about it on social media. 

While your margin goals might take a short-term hit, your customer satisfaction ratings will go up because of the value you placed on your customer’s needs instead of your dealership margins. 

The same can be said for cutting costs on customer benefits and hospitality. Product and service quality are ultimately what makes your customers come to your dealership. Cutting back on those things and pushing higher-margin cars and services is going to damage your reputation in the long run. Cost-saving measures will translate into a bad user experience and goes against and defeats the principle of customer-centricity.  

5. Getting what you want 

Focusing on your consumer’s problems helps you to find ways to help them meet their needs. A big part of these steps requires listening to them, asking for feedback and doing something about it.

Although this may not always get an immediate sell, you’ll generate future value for yourself and the dealership by being customer-centered. Helping others get what they want will always get you what you want.

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Steve Mitchell
Steve Mitchell
Steve Mitchell is a contributing writer and reporter for CBT News. He earned bachelor's degrees in Marketing and Television from the University of Texas in Austin and a Masters of Theology study from Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas. His passion for automobiles lead him to become a creative director for automotive marketing ad agency. Most recently, he was the manager of interactive marketing for Mitsubishi Motors, NA.

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