Dealerships must refocus on personal attention to cement customer relationships. BY GLENN PASCH
If you stay current reading about business in general or marketing specifically, you cannot avoid the pundits discussing the “new face of business.” Technology! Connectivity! Speed! Customization! Are you getting customer connection?
The on-demand economy is most obvious when it comes to media such as Netflix, Hulu, HBOGo and other channels that now offer their content that way. But, other industries also are edging into the next generation of on-demand, which I call the “customization economy.” With services like AirBNB, Open Table, car configurators, customized training programs, and so on, there’s concierge service for all! Everyone gets to feel special by designing his or her own experience.
So, in a world where technology is taking over so much of the interaction between automotive dealerships and customers in the name of customization, how can dealerships retain a critical and more personal connection?
4 Ways To Enhance Connections Now
Here are some ways to humanize the technological tether:
1) Ask each customer his or her preferred method of communication, make an entry of such in the customer record. Connecting with your customers in the way they prefer helps cement your image of helpfulness.
DON’T FORGET TO ASK IF THAT CUSTOMER WANTS TEXTS. Many of us now text more often than we call. But, remember to check with your legal counsel about the rules regarding commercial texting, so your dealership stays compliant.
2) Salespeople should never abandon a customer anytime during the process. Too often, they walk away if the customer is starting to talk with the F&I staff or with a manager about a trade-in. If a salesperson is really serious about helping a customer decide on a vehicle, stay personally connected during the whole exchange.
3) Stay connected online with customers after the sale or repair. Do your sales and service teams send LinkedIn invitations and congratulatory messages about birthdays, job changes, etc.?
Now, before you think I have lost my mind or am a stalker, I am talking about those customers you have serviced and rely on, not potential customers.
4) Share helpful information with your customers that based on their previous purchase. When was the last time your staff e-mailed a useful article to a past client? Maybe the vehicle that customer bought two months ago just received an award for safety. Maybe you found a great blog about taking car of their car during winter or summer, or a video service tip. That is connecting.
Don’t Get Lazy About Keeping Up With Customers
My point is, dealerships tend to do a poor job staying connected with customers after the sale or work, because they know a new group of leads is coming next week or month. Despite the demand for technology and DIY applications, you still must strike a balance between expedient, high tech interactions and the personal touch that will always be important in a dealership transaction.
Consumers still need human interaction in their car buying experience, especially when something goes amiss or they need help with implementation. If a dealership wants to keep a customer for the long term, then service will be the deciding factor, not your ability to make their finance form work on an iPad.
Leverage Personal Attention To The Max
What customers really need is access to the dealership team. Taking my point a step further, the team also needs to consistently check in with the customer. But, too often, internal departmental silos prevent this from happening.
Remember that the individual dealership is not product-driven anymore; customers can get your product or service from a variety of places. Therefore, anything your team does to support your “Why buy from me” message can be a game changer. You can use technology to connect, but ultimately it’s the person on the your end of the transaction who is your most important tool.
Now, if the only time customers hear from you is when you have something new to sell, they won’t take your call or will delete your message. If you contact customers just to check in (and not only on birthdays), you come across as a dealership rep who cares about them and their success. That is connecting in a way that sending a Facebook friend request doesn’t convey.
Technology is great thing, but you go too far down the path and assume automotive customers are fully self-sufficient at your peril. Dealership teams need to be ready with information and to offer services, when applicable, to customers in a connected way. Then, you will really be an on-demand resource for your customers.