As a seasoned road warrior, I don’t always look forward to the next airport, cab ride or hotel destination. There are definitely some aspects of traveling that are forgettable. However, over the years I have developed a list of favorites, as in favorite restaurants and hotels to visit.
When I walk into these places, I am immediately greeted like an old friend. They know my name, they know what I like and everything is ready for me. The service is authentic, meaning it feels real. I believe the employees in these establishments are genuinely happy to see me (if they aren’t, they sure do a good job pretending).
When I have a great experience somewhere, I will also sign up for its email list. Not only do I sign up for it, but I will actually open the emails to see if there are any special offers being promoted the next time I visit that hotel or restaurant. If there aren’t, that’s okay. I choose to go there anyway because of the experience.
Think about your service experience. When a customer pulls into your service lane, are they immediately greeted like an old friend, or are they ignored for several minutes because your service advisors are too busy helping other customers?
When your customers are greeted, do they feel like your advisors are genuinely happy to see them, or do they feel that your advisors are stressed and hurrying them through the process?
On the sales side, when a customer arrives on your lot, do they feel like your salesperson is there to help them make the best decision, or do they feel like your salesperson doesn’t care what they buy, as long as they buy something, now.
In this industry, we so often focus on technology and all of its benefits. While technology can help to improve the customer experience, it can’t replace the human touch.
To create a truly memorable customer experience, you need to set clear expectations with your managers and staff as to what that experience should be like, every time. Mystery shoppers are a proven way to ensure these expectations are consistently met and determine if additional coaching is needed.
What your customers like is not a big secret. Here’s what you should shoot for:
Become a Trusted Resource
As we all know, earning your customers’ trust is still a major obstacle for dealerships to overcome. The way to accomplish this is with transparent pricing, honesty and taking the time to answer your customers’ questions and provide information quickly.
Your customers want options, not obligations. Instead of pushing a specific vehicle or service repair, present several options and let your customers choose.
Provide an Authentic, Friendly Atmosphere
As much as possible, create a comfortable, open and inviting space. However, the key to an authentic experience really lies with your staff. Hopefully you have created a culture where employees are happy to come to work in the morning and they like what they do. If your employees are happy, your customers will be happy.
Additionally, once or twice a day, managers should take a “walk around” and try to observe their work space from the customer’s point of view. Is everything clean and organized? Are your employees relaxed and open, or do they look grumpy and impatient to go home? If the latter, you may want to try complimenting them for the effort they’ve put in lately. A little acknowledgment can go a long way in re-invigorating an employee’s attitude.
Become a Product Expert
Haven’t you heard? “Selling” is out and “guiding” is in. Most car buyers do substantial research before deciding on which dealership to visit. So, it’s really critical for your staff to be at least as knowledgeable as your customers are when it comes to presenting your product line. The customer wouldn’t be there unless they wanted to buy something. Their biggest question is which vehicle is right for them?
That’s why I believe 80 percent of sales training should be product and presentation training. Coach your staff to take an advisory or consultative approach, rather than pushing the hard sell.
When you customers take the time out of their busy lives to visit your dealership, it’s really important to be genuinely appreciative. These days everyone is busy, so acknowledge and respect your customers’ time.
This is where technology can help. In sales, mobile tablets enable your sales force to spend more time with customers viewing and evaluating vehicles, instead of being attached to a desk. In service, mobile tablets can streamline the check-in and MPI process.
Also, remember to always thank your customers for their business.
Your customer communications should be timely and relevant. Within 24 hours of a customer leaving, send another thank you.
Use multiple channels. Many younger people don’t open their emails, and prefer text or phone so make sure you have compliancy processes in place and that you are able to track this from your CRM, rather than personal devices.
Also, review your messaging. Is your verbiage direct, friendly and relevant? Or is it impersonal and look generic? Try to infuse your brand’s voice, image and personality into every communication.
Creating a memorable customer experience isn’t rocket science. However, it does require that you set clear expectations with your employees and provide them with the necessary training, so that they can be genuinely friendly and appreciative of your customers’ time.
Author: Bill Wittenmeyer
Bill Wittenmeyer has over more than 20 years of experience in the automotive space and currently manages multiple divisions within his organization including sales, marketing, OEM relationships and large-client accounts. He speaks at several prominent automotive forums each year. Before joining ELEAD1ONE, he spent several years in dealership operations management.