Becoming or staying a leading dealership in your community, while is about sales and customer satisfaction, starts with attracting and retaining valued customers. And just how do you bring customers to your dealership, again and again and again? By giving them what they want. Dale Carnegie in his world-renown book “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” gives an example of two men who are trying to get a baby calf to move to the inside of the barn, but that calf won’t budge. They are standing behind it trying to push the calf, but if you know anything about stubborn cows then you know that strategy wasn't gaining them one inch. What ended up working? Their visitor saw the situation, came out in front of the calf, and stuck her finger in its mouth. Babies like to nurse, and she knew what this baby cow needed. Walking backwards with finger in mouth, she easily led the calf inside the barn.
What does nursing baby cows have to do with being a market leader? If you can make buyers WANT to come to your dealership instead of only focusing on how to sell them a car (people resist being sold to), then you can unlock a winning combination that many successful, leading businesses have figured out. Get people to want to come to your dealership, not only because of price and selection — although extremely important factors — but because it feels good to shop at your store and interact with your staff. As a matter of fact, in a recent study performed by American Express, it was found that 73% of survey respondents would be willing to pay up to 12% more for product if accompanied by excellent customer service. I am not advocating to raise your prices 12% higher than competitors, but rather am pointing out that if you make buyers enjoy their shopping experience, you are likely to receive less price haggling, fewer complaints, and more recommendations to family and friends (which is no-cost, highly influential advertising!).
To further demonstrate this point, let’s think about Barnes & Noble bookstore. I love to shop there, but let’s face it, it’s not because of their rock-bottom prices. And they don’t always have the book I want in-stock. So why do I continue going there instead of just ordering online or going to a discount or used bookstore? Because it is a peaceful haven for me to go to during lunch, not just to buy the book I am looking for, but to hang out, sip an iced mocha, peruse other books and topics, and to see what’s new.
Is that how your customers feel when shopping your dealership? Or is it a fences-up, hurry-up-and-get-out mentality because they don’t want to be pressured or intimidated by the “well-trained sales sharks?” Even if your sales people are not the oh-so-often-rendered “sharks” indicative of the car industry, that is the impression many have about going to a dealership. It can be intimidating, especially for those who tend to avoid confrontation or negotiation.
You are at the advantage… you see them walk in, you already have a process in place for “handling” them, and you are trained and familiar with the likely outcomes of the visit. The buyer, on the other hand, especially a new customer, may not know your processes, your sales peoples’ personalities, if they are commission or salary (pushy? professional?), if the information they are being told is true, if they are required to bring any needed documents with them, or if they can come back later for the same deal, etc. Nowadays they can research pricing online before shopping dealerships, so they can at least come armed with that knowledge, but does that mean they will enjoy the shopping experience? Will they want to do business with your dealership again? Will they recommend you to family and friends?
SOOOOO……. What can you do? Start by making your dealership a desirable place to shop.
1. Get outside opinions. Determine your target demographic and then pick some people that fit this description. This can be simple with just a few people to start, or you can hire a survey company to help bring this to a larger scale, whichever fits your motivation level and budget. If going small-scale, try to refrain from asking your family and close friends, as they may be biased and/or not want to disappoint you. College kids as an internship or with a gift card motivation could make great, out-of-the-box thinkers for this, depending again on your target demographic, but mix up the factors like age groups and genders. For something different, instead of just shopping your competitors, also ask your selected group of participants to shop your dealership as compared to their favorite stores and restaurants, and to provide a detailed description of their experience to you… either by email, letter, or video, whichever is easiest for them.
2. Think about some leading national favorites in other industries, like TGI Fridays and Barnes & Nobles, for example.
TIP: Keep in mind whatever goals you set need to line up with your dealership’s target demographic, your product’s demographic, and be an achievable personality for your dealership. Making changes half-way could just confuse your brand image, and ultimately be a waste of time and effort. Maybe branding yourself as “fun” isn’t the best option if your personality and that of your staff is super-serious, for instance. In that instance, improving your dealership’s brand image by focusing on how serious you are about providing quality customer service would be a better fit. You know your personality and goals the best, so make sure you are being realistic about the changes you want to make, your budget, and your motivation level.
3. Create a winning strategy to implement these changes in a seamless, positive direction for your employees and customers alike. Bring key leaders and influencers from all levels of your dealership in on the planning process to encourage buy-in from your staff, since after all, they are the face of your company and are responsible for your customers’ overall experience.
Following these steps will get you started on the road to objectively evaluating your dealership from a customer’s perspective. I hope you found this article useful and inspiring. No matter where you are in the process, please contact us… we love hearing from various dealerships and can share some additional resources to help you on your drive for improvement. Simply click here to get in touch or enter a comment below. Stay tuned for additional tips... Thanks and have a outstanding day!
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