Building Relationships : Roll Out the Red Carpet

Roll Out the Red Carpet
David Sharma is the founder of Dealer InLine, a company that provides full service online development and management for automotive dealerships by creating and implementing innovative online approaches that align with dealerships brand, goals and targeted sales strategies. The company delivers the most current and effective methods to enhance all avenues in which a dealer engages consumers online and in-store.

A top-notch customer experience will set you apart from the competition.

Previously, we discussed how you can close more online leads by rolling out the red carpet for potential customers. That leads to a higher lead-to-sale ratio!

It’s important that your customers’ online experience translates effectively into their in-store experience. So let’s analyze the red carpet treatment, by not only looking at customer engagement but also how you can foster the right relationship with your staff and vendors.

In Canada’s modern digital era, 60 to 70 percent of initial transactions can come in the form of a phone or online enquiry. Both can be improved to really “Wow!” a customer, making them feel more at ease and likely to purchase from your store. So your first step could be to “secret shop” your store. Send in a lead or make a call, and gauge how the technology and staff react to that lead.

Fluent transition

How does the website present the information you’re looking for? What is the on-hold messaging? Break down each of these customer experience phases, and you’ll notice that the interaction starts with technology, then to a human, then back to technology, and then back to the human. With this many handovers, is there a fluent transition?

Review the website and elements outside of the norm that can make this most engaging. Start with the manufacturer website, and ensure that the elements within that website are duplicated and customized to your customer base. That includes:

• Current rebates

• Future concepts

• First time car buyer/graduate program

• Hybrid/hydrogen vehicles

• Competitive comparisons

• Know your car videos

• Safety technology

• Warranty/recall campaigns

• Partnerships/points program

If your store works with third party services, be sure to mention them. This would likely pertain to preowned vehicles, where your descriptions can contain mentions of the used car portals, vehicle history sites, and trade sites, as an example. This will assist you with the ever important search engine optimization (SEO).

The next place where you can roll out the red carpet is in handling leads up until the sale. Ensure that each interaction is unique and transparent. Provide your customer with the opportunity to learn from the interaction, allowing the business to be a knowledge hub for them.

Forward videos, pamphlets, competitive comparison articles and history reports, where relevant. Once your customer indicates that they want to come in to preview the vehicle at a confirmed time, send them a calendar invite with additional attachments.

If you’re operating a business development centre (BDC), provide an intro to the sales rep with a personalized video or link to their online profile. This should include a good photo, bio, contact info, video and any accreditations.

It’s important that your customer’s online experience translates effectively into their in-store experience.

Ensure you’re a contender

On the day of the appointment, your customer may not know what to expect. Why not contact them beforehand to explain what will happen during the visit, and what they need to bring?

When they arrive, ensure that a manager greets them. If your store has an appointment board, add the customer’s name to make them feel special. One dealer rolled out an actual red carpet right to the car with the customer’s name hanging from the rear-view mirror!

From this point, both the experience and follow-up should make that customer feel special, and ensure that you’re a strong contender for their business. Even if your vehicle is priced higher, they could be more inclined to do business with a store that provides this red carpet service.

Vendors

You can also apply the red carpet treatment to vendors. It will improve the relationship and perhaps allow for trial periods, behind the scene access, or just a representative who cares that their service/product is improving your business.

You can accomplish this by understanding the service or product thoroughly and asking questions periodically. Have a monthly review of metrics and changes that can be made on both ends, also suggesting a quarterly review of their invoices submitted.

Make a point of regularly informing them of changes in the industry that are relevant to their service/product. And invite them and their managers/ owners to a car care clinic or product launch, especially if there’s an opportunity to mention their service/product and how it is positively affecting your customers directly.

Make the effort internally to maximize the service/product so that when the vendor is on the road speaking to other clients, they’ll mention how your business optimizes the usage of that service/product.

Open door policy

Apply the red carpet treatment to your team, making them feel valued and special. It’s wise for owners to have an open door policy with their staff, allowing them to have a discussion with you.

Send emails regularly with encouragement on a personal and professional level. Note work anniversaries, work/ personal accomplishments, customer feedback and future staff outings. Some businesses will have a draw based on customer feedback and award monthly prizes to encourage positive ongoing customer interactions.

Your staff are the first line of communication with your customers. Make them feel comfortable and appreciated. It will show in those interactions and encourage your customers to provide and speak highly of your store and your staff, providing powerful direct referrals.

By implementing just a few of these items you’ll experience better external relations and increase in internal morale, thus improving your business environment.

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