Many dealerships have provided excellent service and a fair deal to their customers for decades. However as an industry, we’ve historically been given a bad rap for providing just the opposite, with the vast majority of consumers saying that buying a car is an unpleasant experience.
The fact that a car is the biggest or second-biggest purchase of most people’s lives does make buying one inherently stressful. When you’re shopping for a pair of socks, not getting the best deal equates to pennies, and service is of little importance. A car is a different story.
Plus, it wasn’t that long ago when consumers had to drive from dealership to dealership for pricing and other information on the cars they were interested in. They probably weren’t always treated as well as they should have been, and they worried that they weren’t getting a fair deal. When internet pricing came along, it wasn’t always transparent and could feed into consumers’ negative feelings about dealerships.
Whether the fault lies with us or not, there is a lot we can do to turn the tide and make car buying easier and more enjoyable. Most of us who operate dealerships recognize that continuously striving to improve the customer experience throughout the buying journey is key.
Here are a few things we’ve found success with at Fenton Family Dealerships for showing our customers that we care about their experience as much as our bottom line:
ABC (That’s “Always Be Coaching”).
Consumers visit an average of 1.5 or fewer dealerships before purchasing. So basically, as soon as somebody walks through your door they’ve already chosen you. One of the best ways to live up to their expectations is to have a friendly, educated staff. We continually train all members of our team to ensure that they know what’s expected of them, how to follow processes, etc. “Always Be Coaching” (versus “Always Be Closing”) might seem to take the focus off closing deals, but having the help of knowledgeable, efficient Sales Consultants is so important to our customers that it often amounts to the same thing.
Keep in Touch – Make All Communication Relevant.
One of the best things that today’s technology does for us is give us great opportunities for keeping in touch with customers and starting a conversation. Our CRM tells us when a birthday or anniversary is coming up, and our Sales Consultants send handwritten notes. And then there’s AutoAlert, which analyzes a wide range of data to tell us exactly when to reach out to specific customers about a deal personalized just for them. This might happen in the service lane, with a customer who can swap keys on a new car for a smaller payment today. It gives us the perfect opportunity to say “hi” to every customer and start a conversation about something relevant and helpful to them.
Differentiate and Add Value.
Personalized deals by AutoAlert are one way we stand out from the competition and create value for our customers, but we also offer a lifetime powertrain warranty and high-quality CPO used cars. Our store is clean and welcoming, and we regularly modernize the showroom and waiting areas. We also have a policy that all employees wear a uniform so that customers know immediately whom to approach with their questions. This gives our team a professional look, but more importantly, lets everyone who walks through our doors know that we care about them – that we’re ready to help.
Be Involved in the Community.
At Fenton Family Dealerships, giving back to our community is just a part of living here. We do donate money, but we also make it a point to get involved personally. Staff members go out to various local organizations like the local food pantry and Big Brothers Big Sisters for volunteer days. One really fun thing we do is donate a car to a deserving high school graduate every year, based on academics and the student’s own involvement in the community. At the end of the day, it comes down to building real relationships.
One advantage to having a relatively negative reputation as an industry is that it gives us a lot of chances to stand out in our customers’ minds as memorable. This will become even more important as car-buying continues to evolve – for example, it might not be long before cars are sold online, and then delivered to buyers or picked up at the dealership.
Evolving with our customers, and focusing on providing them with consistently excellent service and experiences to build strong relationships, will help ensure that their journey continues with us.