customer engagement

If there’s one thing that dealers have learned in the past 17 months, it’s how to be adaptable. Aside from a select few instances, the business of selling cars was almost exclusively an in-person process, but necessity forced change. Customer engagement no longer was all about booking appointments for face-to-face interaction but required creativity and flexibility.

Yet, customer engagement is far from a consistent process from person to person, and especially from store to store. The pandemic has reshaped how car dealers engage with sales customers, and CDK Global has indicated as much in a white paper titled “Reshaping Consumer Engagement” released June 21.

A relationship-based journey

Although the way dealers must engage has changed, the priority remains establishing a relationship with the car buyer. It’s where dealership personnel have excelled for decades, and it is still a key factor in where the shopper chooses to buy their car.

It’s undoubtedly more challenging to build that relationship without speaking face-to-face, but building a personal connection is what builds trust in the customer. Most shoppers have bought a car before and want a familiar process with the salesperson, albeit likely in a different method than an initial visit to the lot. Video calls, texting, and screen sharing are great ways CDK Global suggests engaging.

The buzzword: Omnichannel

It was thought by revolutionaries that car buyers want to purchase completely online. Traditional dealers believed it would never be that way. In reality, 80% of car shoppers start online and more than two-thirds want to finalize the deal in-person. It’s a hybrid of the two.

Omnichannel is a term that might’ve been overused and lost its meaning to you, but the intent is spot-on. Customer engagement should seek to determine what works best for them, whether that’s online, text, video, chat, in-person, or on the phone. It’s archaic to think that customers should conform to your sales practices rather than the dealership meeting the shopper in their journey how they want.

CDK Global clearly believes in this strategy with their recent purchase of Roadster. It’s isn’t by mistake.

Trimming the time to delivery

The purpose of omnichannel for many car shoppers is to reduce the time spent in the dealership. Averaging around four hours, it’s time that interrupts the buyer’s busy lifestyle. Whether it’s with tools that assist in online communication and transactions or intangible streamlining ways in the store, the promise of reducing the frustration of time spent in dealership engages the customer better.

What that means is being prepared as a salesperson. Have the test drive gassed up. Prep the documentation with the customer’s details. Offer an F&I call rather than a time-consuming sit-down in the office. Reduce the time it takes to move between steps. It demonstrates that you value the customer’s time.

Work more efficiently

The types of things that interrupt workflow vary from dealer to dealer, but they’re relatively easy to identify in-house. Just ask your staff and your customers. It could be something like an inefficient key tracking process or an hour-long Saturday morning meeting that could’ve been used selling cars instead. In large part, technology exists already to improve process that allow for more efficient selling and communication.

By improving efficiencies in the store, it engages shoppers better by disrupting the process less.

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