There is a change happening in the automotive industry. Many dealers are beginning to embrace the concept of Digital Retailing. In simple terms, they are providing tools on their websites to allow customers to begin their shopping experience online by self-selecting payment terms, incentives, valuing their trade and other options. The key is, they can send this information to the dealer with the purpose of saving time when they arrive at the dealership.
This all sounds fantastic, easy and fast. However, without rethinking the current customer process, there will be problems. Just as the handoff from quarterback to running back in football is key, so is the handoff from website to employee and employee to customer.
Current Customer Relationship Management Software (CRMs) does have problems sharing some of this information in an easy to read manner for employees. We will address this in a later article. The focus here will be on the journey from CRM to employee and then to the interaction between employee and the customer.
There are usually two ways dealerships are set up to interact with online consumers. The first is a Business Development Center (BDC). This is where employees’ sole focus is to interact with customers in order to answer their questions and set up an appointment. The second is to have salespeople interact with customers themselves and handle the interaction from start to finish.
Both of these can be successful with the proper process, training and accountability. Yet there are also many pitfalls, especially with a BDC type setup, where the handoff can be fumbled. For example, a customer has been interacting with an employee in the BDC and an appointment is set. When the customer arrives, the manager on duty looks out onto the sales floor for a sales person who is not currently busy and says “You’re up. Go take that customer”. There is no time for the salesperson to review any notes from the interaction between the BDC and the customer–they just greet the customer and begin their sales process, asking what brings them to the dealership, then a series of discovery questions to help their search, and the interaction is no different from a customer who spent no time in the BDC.
The problem with this situation, which is all too common, is the customer had previously spoken to a BDC agent or someone at the dealership to go through some of these discovery questions. The customer had already explained to the BDC agent what vehicle they were looking for, what vehicle they were trading in, what their budget was, etc. But nothing was taken into consideration by the salesperson because the process was not designed to prepare the salesperson for the appointment. It was just “Go help and sell them a car.”
it is so important to reverse engineer your process and make changes where they are needed. In this example, when the BDC agent receives the inquiry, their interaction should be confirming what the customer already submitted, not asking questions as if the work was never done. Revisit all email, text, and phone call scripting to pivot to a confirmation process. By using these new tools, you are allowing the customer to participate more in the interaction all with the goal of saving time when they do arrive at the dealership. Once the appointment is set, the process of the handoff to sales is even more important. The sales person must be prepared with all of the information written down before greeting the customer.
When they greet the customer it should continue the process of confirming the information the customer has submitted without going backwards to repeat steps the consumer had already accomplished online. The dealers in the future who focus on saving customers time will win more business. As the Digital Retailing tools mature and as customers begin to feel using these tools help their buying process, they will become more commonplace.
The situation I described happens every day in dealerships. If this seems familiar or if your process resembles this, change is imperative, especially if your dealership is considering a modern retail approach using Digital Retailing tools. As you review your processes, remember to build the customer experience with the customer in mind. If not, you will lose in the marketplace.
I would love to hear your feedback on this.
Please join me in November for the Automotive Analytics & Attribution Summit in Florida. I will be sharing specific ways to rethink your customer interaction with my workshop,
“Updating Your CRM and Showroom Processes to Maximize Digital Retailing” Information and tickets can be found here.