“Perfect” is not achievable in this world. We strive, we sweat, we fight towards it with all our wits and muscle—but it’s our destiny as humans that we will never reach absolute perfection. What, then, motivates us to work so hard on its pursuit? It’s because we understand that while perfection is never fully achievable, the closer we get, the more we have fulfilled our gifts and potential.
There is a special purity about perfection. It’s a simple truth that the very act of visualizing perfection is the first step towards it. When we set our mind’s eye on the end of the rainbow, our feet follow. So, let’s start by defining perfection in terms of the digital road to the sale.
In my mind’s eye, perfecting the digital road to the sale involves eight key attributes:
- Visibility. We are highly visible to all current car buyers in our market—online and offline.
- Reputation. We have established a strong positive social reputation in the marketplace.
- Competitiveness. We are competitively priced (new and used).
- Discovery. We have found all current car buyers in the market.
- Conversion to leads. We have turned the interest of these car buyers into a specific expression of interest to our dealership (a lead/phone-up/chat)
- Cultivation. From the moment of lead arrival through the handing of the keys, we have taken friction out while increasing customer satisfaction.
- Trust. At every point in the process, our price competitiveness, transparency and service levels have enhanced customer trust.
- Service. We are truly here to serve the customer. A happy buyer is our ultimate goal.
Let’s look at just a few key questions from each:
Have we taken possession of all our social assets? There are over 50 sites we can claim in today’s online world: Facebook, YouTube. Google+, Twitter, DealerRater.com, Yelp, Flickr, our blog, our dealer website…each of these sites put us in front of prospects. Each may be a source of leads.
Have we loaded our inventory everywhere we can? AutoTrader, Cars.com, Craigslist, eBay, Facebook, our own website, our blog? Have we optimized the inventory with multi-photo, sell copy and competitive pricing?
Have we pursued a lifetime relationship with our customers, through newsletters, service cultivation and special events? Are we leveraging those relationships to develop repeat business?
Have we proactively encouraged every happy customer to post a positive review? Are we quick to respond to every single review, both positive and negative, thanking when possible and apologizing/seeking to fix when necessary? Is this a core discipline, every day/week/month of the year?
Price is the leading (but not only) factor in a customer’s selection of dealer. While it is not necessary to be the lowest price in the market, the successful dealer must be competitive. That means that on any given vehicle, the price is no higher than the average price in the market. Do we use tools like vAuto every week to confirm pre-owned vehicle price competitiveness and re-set pricing? Do we mystery shop new car pricing on a routine twice-a-month basis?
Have we optimized our leads engine, both with our own lead forms and with third party leads? Do we have multiple sensors in place—our social sites, our SEO page rank initiatives, our SEM campaigns, behaviorally targeted campaigns to woo back non-converting leads, etc? People move in and out of car-buying mode. We must catch them when they’re “in”—which means constant visibility and engagement. Then, when they are ready to express interest, we must catch them—either through our own lead form, chat window or phone number, or via our third party lead partners.
The arrival of a lead is the “moment of truth”. We must get a multi-vehicle, information-rich price quote to our customer within 10 minutes every time. Then we need to make a call to the customer in no more than 30 minutes. Then we must follow up with a vigorous but respectful 14- day live follow-up process. Then our automated follow-up needs to engage the customer in powerful new ways so as to rise above the clutter. Today it’s possible for a follow-up campaign to include:
- E-mails that are non-spam and transactional (“Sally, 22 days ago you sent us a request for a Toyota Prius. Are you still interested? Click: Yes/No/No thanks, I’ve already purchased”)
- E-mail campaigns that are behaviorally targeted (lead came in asking for a Toyota Prius, but customer has been observed looking on Toyota.com at a Toyota Corolla—e-mail indicates, “Sally, many Toyota Prius customers also are interested in Corollas—I’ve sent an updated quote on both vehicles for your consideration.”)
- Web ad campaigns that are behaviorally targeted (ad appears to consumer showing not just the dealership they visited—normal retargeting—but actually shows the exact vehicle they sent a lead in for—hyper-retargeting).
We must take advantage of the latest digital capabilities if we wish to optimize our performance.
Trust starts as a philosophy. We recognize in today’s social world there is no sense being anything other than transparent about price and availability. If we hide, we create unhappy customers. If we create unhappy customers, we damage our reputation and hinder our future success. Since our pricing is competitive, we are free to be transparent.
Once we’ve made that philosophical shift, we need to train our people and arm them with price sheets and talk tracks. Then from the moment of first engagement through the entire process, every communication is about building trust. As we do this we create a virtuous cycle of positive customer experiences, improving CSI and ever-improving star ratings on review sites.
At the end of the day it’s all about our people. If we have people that share our passion for perfection, then at every touch point the customer will experience people who care. That, more than anything else, is what impresses.
In each of these eight domains, we can visualize perfection. It can be clearly defined. It’s about making the process of buying a car friction-free and service-rich. No, we will never achieve the purity of absolute perfection. But by striving for that rainbow, we will catch glimpses of perfection’s beauty. Those glimpses will inspire us onward. And along the way we can take great satisfaction that we are on a noble path, and the journey is its own reward.