Each day, as leaders we all seem to be both focused on our day to day activities as well as walking into a fog of the uncertain. Employee safety, regulations for reopening, as well as new processes for customer engagement are just a few items on our never-ending to-do list. One task facing leaders as they begin to bring back staff is the concept of a blended workforce. This is more than simply a combination of remote and in office workers, but within the organization. Will roles adapt to be more dynamic and fluid than before?
Many of my clients work in the automotive industry so I have been strongly connected to their struggles. Certain states closed all dealership business, then opened up service lanes and then for sales by appointment only. I have written a great deal about how Digital Retailing, or the adoption of an online sales process, will forever change the car buying process for consumers.
There are other new challenges for these owners which are common not only in our industry, but across multiple industries. These are a few of the main structural changes I feel these owners must address.
1. Outsourcing Certain Roles
For some dealerships, they have employees in place to interact with email inquiries from customers as well as handling phone calls. This department is commonly referred to as a Business Development Center (BDC). The purpose of this department is to interact with the customer, answer questions and ultimately set an appointment for the customer to visit the showroom.
There continues to be a debate regarding the value of this department. Some managers feel it is necessary to respond quickly to online inquiries since salespeople may be involved with other obligations. Others feel it is wasted expense and salespeople should be able to do all of the duties from email to phone to in person sales.
What leaders will have to address is the potential scenario of outsourcing these types of interactions or positions to an outside company, saving salaries, health care costs and other overhead. There will have to be discussions and planning for how to train and monitor performance to ensure these outsourced employees match the company’s customer experience. While some dealers may balk at this, I feel it is a conversation that must be had.
2. Blended Roles for Employees
For most dealerships, reductions in staff levels came pretty quickly. Some of these employees were furloughed with promises to return while others were laid off. As dealers or business owners begin to bring staff back, a there needs to be a certain level of forethought into how much staff you need as we slowly reopen our businesses.
Many of my own clients went down to a skeleton crew to keep whatever business they had moving forward. What was interesting to see is that some of these dealers shared they were selling 75% of their previous volume with only 35% of the previous workforce level. This has led to conversations of the need for those previous staffing levels. Discussions led to a deep review of previous job descriptions, employee training and accountability. For some owners, they realized they were hitting sales goals but not in an efficient manner.
For some, this shutdown was a blast of cold water to show them where their P&Ls were bloated and failing to generate a worthwhile return. Now the discussion has moved to review all store processes for waste. Can each employee do more or handle different parts of the sales process? For instance, can salespeople handle F&I (Finance & Insurance)? Can salespeople handle the process from initial interaction through delivery? Will the new Digital Retailing tools and technology save time so salespeople can handle more customers?
I wonder if dealers will be happier now with 85% of previous sales but more profit in the end. I am sure every dealer I know wants to sell more, but I feel they will be looking for all employees to handle more responsibility. I see the divisions between certain roles beginning to blend together to make the overall dealership more efficient.
3. Digital Retailing is Here to Stay
I would be remiss if I did not touch on this briefly. Dealers are hearing from customers and salespeople alike, that having the ability to do part of the sales process online is both effective and appreciated. There are still issues with stores adapting to the technology as well as marketing and internal process challenges. The key is that customers overwhelmingly prefer this simpler, easier way of shopping for a car.
The shutdown gave dealers time to see the new online process in action. For many it was the only way to sell a vehicle. I feel strongly that customers will work with dealers through this process, bumpy as it may be, versus going back to previous sales processes. Those dealerships who create a solid marketing plan to amplify their new process, create a more streamlined website experience, and deliver an in-store process that pick up where the customer left off online will be the winners in the coming years.
Workforces will be changed forever. Businesses who never thought their employees could work as a remote workforce have seen they can. Customers are understanding and willing to adapt if companies are willing to as well. In these next few months, we will see a shift of jobs out of dealerships or traditional roles will be more blended. Efficiency will be the driving factor for future success. For many dealerships and companies, they will look back on this time of struggle to realize they are in a better financial situation a year from now.
I would love to hear your thoughts.
If I can help in any way, please let me know. I am always available for a call.
If you need help implementing a strong Digital Retailing process for your dealership, then please click here for more information on our 60 Day DR Consulting Program. Brian and I personally work with your store to help you create a brand message, marketing assets, streamline your website and create more engaging customer sales processes.