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What Secret Shoppers Look for at Your Dealership and How to Win!

You may get a warning when a member of the corporate OEM team decides to do a walkthrough of the showroom. This scenario can understandably bring about much pressure, but what happens when an OEM rep is not so easy to pick out? It is well known that OEMs will solicit the help of secret shoppers to get a taste of how dealerships are interacting with customers. What are these individuals looking for? How can your dealership get high marks? It all comes down to creating a consistently impressive customer experience. Read on for tips of what secret shoppers are looking for, and how to exceed their expectations.

Professionalism – It may be that a secret shopper starts the experience by giving a call to the dealership to check the customer service skills of representatives. Are customers being met with a warm greeting? Does the rep do a great job of mentioning the store name and asking the customer how they are doing? This is the first interaction, and as they say, “first impressions go a long way.” Reps should always respond politely and inquire about ways they can help.

Acquiring Information to Follow-Up– Secret Shoppers want to see how well a dealership does in securing leads and obtaining contact information to follow-up. This can happen over the phone, but also digitally. Digital Airstrike, a social media, and digital engagement company released a study based on their secret shopper findings. Sixty-four percent of the 1,000 dealerships that participated in the study did not respond to leads on Facebook Messenger. It is vital that reps go through information gained on chatbots or Facebook messenger to ensure they do not miss out on a lead.

Doing Everything to Get Shoppers in The Door – Has the rep done everything in their power to get the customer to the dealership? Whether on the phone or through email or chat, reps should attempt to invite the customer in and schedule a consultation and test drive. Major bonus points for reps who can schedule a time when they will be in the showroom so the shopper can meet with the person they spoke with on the phone. This step is also a great time to start asking questions about what the customer is looking for, and offer up incentives and discounts to engage them further.

Response Time – If a customer sends an email, Facebook or chat message, how long does it take the dealership to provide an initial response? Secret shoppers want to know that customers do not have to wait a prolonged period to receive correspondence. Not only does this reflect poorly on the dealership, but it also negatively impacts the brand. Dealerships should have a response time policy. According to the Digital Airstrike study, only 16 percent of dealerships responded in 15 minutes, while 18 percent never responded at all.

Helping Customers Get What They Need – Once the secret shopper enters the showroom, they will likely try to see how staff help customers navigate to the car they desire. Here it is crucial that reps ask questions to get to the heart of what they need, and then offer alternatives and promotions. Today’s customer enjoys being a part of the process, and probably has a car in mind when they walk into the door, so it makes sense to ask about budget constraints, what they will need the car for, and features desired. This not only helps customers feel their input matters, but it also speeds up the process.

Discuss Financing – Secret shoppers know this is probably the most daunting and overwhelming part of the car buying process for consumers. It is often long and stressful. They want to see how financial reps handle these situations securely and professionally. Can customers check their financial eligibility for certain vehicles online before they enter the dealership? Are customers aware of their options? Are they shown cars they can afford (including used ones)? Secret shoppers want to make sure customers are not being scared off during this process, so reps should be upfront about what the F&I process entails and they should even discuss finances first before showing automobiles to customers.

The Wrap Up

It may seem overwhelming to know that OEM’s are testing the dealership experience by enlisting the help of secret shoppers, but dealers can easily ace this test by offering excellent customer service at every turn. If providing an impressive customer experience is a core value for the dealership, then staff should have no problem coming out on top.


Sources: Digital Air Strike, Marchex
Chanell Turner
Chanell Turner
Chanell Turner is a contributing writer and investigative journalist for CBT News.

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