Experts call this the age of information and communication – and it’s how automotive groups develop their process infrastructure in response to this new world that will ultimately determine their success.
More tech-savvy than ever before, customers are demanding our industry takes account of how and where they want to do business – and it isn’t always in the showroom. Just ask the leasing companies and brokerages what increases they are seeing in the number of retail customers buying cars from them online or over the phone. Why? Because the traditional ‘must buy my car from a showroom’ model is falling far short of what anyone could even loosely describe as a rewarding customer experience.
As compliance with legislative and brand obligations requires more hoops and red tape to trudge through, some customers who dislike this level of processing are moving their business to the ‘buy online’ model – and the leasing companies and brokerages are only too happy to welcome them with open arms.
Creating a platform for retail customers to purchase cars in this way should be a consideration moving forward, and some progressive groups are already on top of this. Add to this the thousands of small businesses, wrongly categorised as retail customers, who would be delighted to avoid spending valuable earning time buying cars at dealerships, and it’s easy to see why this is a compelling additional purchasing platform for groups to embrace.
Prospective customers who do arrive in our showrooms are for the most part ‘transaction ready’; they know what they want, how much they’re willing to pay and expect a level of professionalism many retailers are geared to deliver. But the ambivalence of some Dealer Principals and Sales Managers in getting their teams skilled-up to do their jobs is breathtakingly lacking. There should be no tolerance of Sales Managers who allow their executives to be less than credible and knowledgeable in the job, unless of course they are trainees.
When it comes to communication and how customers prefer to contact dealerships, it’s undeniable that over the past 10 years people are using their phones more than they ever did. But some retailers don’t see this as a significant opportunity as they struggle to cope with the volume of calls and email enquiries into the business, many of which are handled badly or not at all.
Call centres have eased some of this burden, but the calibre of these can be inconsistent. In a recent Leading Results survey, Line Managers across 6 brands believed the number of calls into their business that were being poorly handled or not responded to at all each daywas between 5 and 15. Let’s assume it’s only 1 call per day being mishandled. If we take a conservative average retail service invoice value of around £200 and multiply this by 260 working days, this equates to £52,000, and if we assume that 30% of those enquiries may not have led to an appointment anyway, we are left with £36,400 of lost revenue. But what if it is5-15 enquiries per day being lost?
The problem is that many groups don’t measure lost or badly handled calls (to the Service Department), so this is revenue the retailers don’t even know they’re losing! Those that do have robust processes in place to cope with the volume, and sufficient people to ensure the customer experience is being maximised.
Customer buying preferences are changing and so are their expectations. We have no choice but to stay ahead of this dynamic and meet them where they spend much of their time – online and on their phones. Same old, same old businesses who refuse to step up can’t say they weren’t warned when their customers vote with their feet, or should that be fingers.
Author: Doreen Yarnold, Director, Leading Results
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