There are many ways to stay connected with your customers: face-to-face, phone, direct mail, and multiple digital platforms like Google AdWords and email. The common dominator is to stay connected. Why is staying connected important? Because you want to be the first dealership that potential customers think about when they are looking for products and services you provide.
Yet, not all connections have similar emotional value. A Facebook friend that you met in high school and found a few years later on Facebook only to “stay in touch,” will not have the same emotional value as a real friend, with whom you share your values and memories. You may track your Facebook friend’s life events on a constant basis and talk to your real friend only a couple times a year. However, you feel loyal and happier to get in touch with your real friend.
Staying connected with your customers just to stay connected is similar to tracking what your Facebook friends are doing by scrolling on your phone and clicking ‘like’ once in a while. Yes, receiving likes on Facebook is nice and will make others notice you but when it comes to taking an action to talk or meet in person, they will think about their real friend first. The real friend simply has higher emotional gravity.
Companies, especially new companies, like new employees at the dealership, have to spend an enormous amount of time, money, and effort on searching for new customers. This process feels like searching for a Facebook friend. You are trying to reach as many people as possible in the least amount of time.
However, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that the most financial stability and productivity for the dealership comes from repeat customers. Repeat customers are your real friends. Repeat customers are easier to work with because they are familiar with your organizational process, they do not require large spending on advertisements, and they are more willing to buy your product/service with fewer objections.
The question then becomes, “How can the dealership become a real friend, rather than a Facebook friend for their customers?”
Sales and service people are a dealership’s frontline employees. They are the face of the company. Everything they do represents the company they are working with. For customers, their emotional connection to the service advisor or salesperson at your dealership is a reflection of the whole company.
The customers can stay in touch with the dealership as with their Facebook friend, but the customer will make a decision about whether to obtain products and services from the dealership based on their relationships with their real friend, a service advisor or salesperson.
The real friendship looks different for everyone. Different customers will be drawn to employees with different relational styles. Some customers would work better with someone who likes to share personal stories. Others may look for someone who is very knowledgeable and able to go into detail in response to every question, whereas some may work better with someone who does not say much and is very direct.
At the same time, there is something common among all our friends, something we appreciate in every relationship; that is being validated.
We feel validated when:
- We are welcomed. When we know our friends are happy to see us no matter how busy they are. Are your customers greeted with a smile and handshake?
- We feel safe. We can share with our friends our good, bad, and ugly while not feeling judged. Can your customers share their financial struggles without getting that look of disappointment?
- We feel understood. Our real friends are able to listen and let us know they heard us in a way we intended. Can your employees remember a customer’s story that they heard 10 minutes ago? Can they remember their customer’s face?
Helping customers feel welcomed, safe, and understood is a quality of a real frontline employee. It is more than just a skill. It is an ability to be human with another individual.
It is hard to find and maintain real friends because it requires time, effort, and emotional energy. This is especially true in business. Everyone understands that and no longer expects real friendships. We learned to be satisfied with a Facebook-style friendship. This is why when we experience being validated, or real friendship, we notice it and put our energy on maintaining those relationships. This is why being able to provide real friendship will make your dealership unique and easily noticed.
Another huge benefit to the dealership that builds relationships with customers as real friends is that those customers will begin to actively pursue how to get in touch with your dealership. This means the dealership will be able to retain their customers with little or no effort.
Stories of a frontline employee, whom customers view as a real friend, will include having a customer who:
- Bought a car at one dealership and then brought that car to another dealership, where their real friend works at the service drive
- Searched online for the best deal and still paid 15% more with their real friend, who they know will take good care of their car
- Called their real friend to make sure he or she was working, because if not, the customer would bring their car for service another day
Customers feel loyal and happier to get in touch with their real friend.
Author: Dr. Katia Tikhonravova, Ph.D., LMFT
Dr. Katia Tikhonravova, Ph.D., LMFT is a business and relationships coach who specializes in automotive sales and service relationships. She is an owner of Corporation Clinic. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org