The arrival of a lead is the moment of truth. The speed and quality of your initial response and the effectiveness of your follow-up will determine whether the sale goes to you, or to the dealership down the road. Creating an end-to-end sales process that optimizes the customer’s experience is hard. It requires the right tools, training, staffing, pricing strategy and discipline. But if you can pull it off, you will gain competitive advantage. You will be operationally superior to your competition.
Becoming operationally superior is powerful in its own right. It means you are more likely to get the sale, more likely to please the customer, more likely to have high CSI and to see positive reviews about your dealership online. But that is just the beginning. If you can achieve operational superiority, you set the foundation for a powerful social media strategy.
Think about it. Social is the new advertising. What is advertising, at its core? It’s about creating awareness, consideration, opinion, and purchase intent. From an auto industry perspective, what is social? It’s about creating awareness, consideration, opinion, and purchase intent. There’s only one difference, and it’s huge. Advertising is about spin. Social is about truth.
So, let’s come back to operational superiority. If you have the best dealership in terms of the customer’s experience—if you respond to a customer’s lead in 10 minutes with a competitively priced and information-rich multi-vehicle price quote, make the first phone call in 30 minutes, follow up regularly for the first 14 days with thoughtfully scripted calls and emails, and then implement a gentle but persistent 180 day e-mail follow-up process—you will not just generate more sales, but (assuming your in-store processes are also sound) you will generate more happy customers.
If you have more happy customers, you are in an ideal position to implement a powerful social media strategy. Now you can create a compelling online presence on the 50 or so social sites that matter most. You can regularly publish content into those sites, including OEM messages, tips on buying a car, service tips, service coupons and your latest vehicle inventory. You can implement a comprehensive monitoring program, to track comments about your dealership and respond quickly and proactively every time. You can survey your customer’s post-sale, and discover which customers are happiest—and encourage them to post a positive review. In short, you can engage the social web with confidence, knowing that at your core you have a strong operation and have nothing to hide.
This is huge. Operational effectiveness plus social media effectiveness equals explosive competitive advantage. You have built the foundation for market domination.
If you’re not there yet, recognize that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Seek out the right partners, and take it one step at a time. As you continuously improve your operations, and as you begin to engage the social web with confidence, you will create a virtuous cycle. Your marketplace will tell you where you can continue to improve. Your improvements will be noted and appreciated. That appreciation will appear online. And your reputation will continue to grow, driving more leads, more sales, more happy customers, more positive reviews. How cool is that?