Like many other businesses, dealership owners now have the task of keeping customers engaged while also accounting for their safety during this COVID-19 crisis.
Years from now, customers will remember the companies who were able to creatively meet their needs successfully while also being a source of support during this challenging time.
As a result, the current desired customer experience will shift due to the nature of the situation. So, how can your dealership still provide exceptional customer experiences while addressing the unique challenges posed by COVID-19? We have laid out some steps to get you started.
Meet Customers Where They Are
This step is where social media, email newsletters, and online forms are going to be a big help. Whereas customers may have started their search at the dealership, they are now likely leaning on your inventory dealership webpage, Facebook ads, and email notifications. You are going to need to ramp up these mediums. Offer relevant notifications about changes in hours, potential discounts, and even after-sale suggestions. Make it easy for your customers to find out how you have changed your operations, as well as any new developments.
Make Appointments Mandatory
You likely do this already, but in the past, it may have been optional. However, considering how crucial social distancing is, you may want to make scheduling an in-person consultation mandatory. A southern California dealership owner, Ronald Perez, told Consumer Reports about the fear his customers have of coming in the showroom. As a result, he made dealership visits appointment-only. Ultimately, this tactic will allow you to control the number of people coming into the store and ensure that customers and staff can continue to practice social distancing.
Only Allow a Certain Number of Staff in the Showroom
Today, customers increasingly care about the way staff members are treated. You can improve or solidify your reputation while also enhancing their experience by limiting the number of staff in the showroom. The online scheduling feature will allow you to see how many customers you have coming in for the day or week. You can then plan out the number of staff that need to be there to help those customers while also making potential car buyers feel safe by decreasing the number of people in the showroom.
Alter The Test Drive Process
Even though things are uncertain because of COVID-19, many customers still want to test drive vehicles. Fortunately, there are a few methods you can take to ensure this happens safely. Some dealerships and automakers are offering solo test drives. Others are experimenting with vehicle delivery, which allows customers a limited time to test drive a vehicle on their own time. Whatever you decide to do, make sure to make it known that you are disinfecting cars after each use, and will ensure that customers come into limited contact with staff.
See About Setting Up an Online Auto Sales Process
In places like Michigan, where COVID-19 cases have significantly risen, dealership staff is declared critical workers. However, team members are only allowed to facilitate emergency car sales (for individuals like first responders) or work to establish an online sales process. Even if your state is not under a shelter-in-place order, it may be worthwhile to offer customers the option of ordering their car online. If you have an IT team, see about setting up encrypted online forms that allow individuals to apply for car loans, and complete the F&I process. If there are additional concerns about identity theft or ensuring that you have all the information you need, consider having staff work through the F&I process over an encrypted video conference with customers.
Offer Servicing Pick-Up
In a recent article, David Smith, president of Sonic Automotive, discussed how their dealerships offer a pick-up and delivery option for individuals who need servicing and maintenance. This step is a great way to prevent customers from having to come into the dealership, protect service workers from possible exposure, and enhance the entire experience associated with servicing. While many of your customers may be home, some may be essential staff who need working vehicles to get to and from work. So, offering these services will definitely help your customers during these difficult times.
Tighten Your Cybersecurity Practices
Most people are working from home now. Unfortunately, hackers also know this and may use it to their advantage. This situation makes it crucial for you and your dealership team to develop established rules regarding the handling of car buyer data, and make a plan to follow these policies. For example, ensure that all staff has strong and secure passwords. Also, remind them that they should not work on shared networks (where data can be compromised). Lastly, make sure that all customer data is stored on encrypted systems, and that only employees who need to use this information can access it. Data breaches can cause a business’ reputation to fall. So, take these measures and ensure your customers know their data is being handled securely.
You Can Still Thrive at CX During COVID-19
The dealerships who adapt and embrace measures that offer convenience and safety to their customers—and staff—will strike a chord with potential car buyers. Today, a customer reaching out to you for a car not only has to worry about the car buying process, but they are also concerned if they can do it safely. Fortunately, the steps above allow you to develop a plan to support your customers, offer an exceptional experience, and protect everyone involved.
Did you enjoy this article from Chanell Turner? Read other articles from her here.
Car Biz Today, the official resource of the retail automotive industry.
Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date or catch-up on all of our podcasts on demand.
While you’re here, don’t forget to subscribe to our email newsletter for all the latest auto industry news from CBT News.
This has been a JBF Business Media production.