3 Key Communications that Drive Customer Pay
By Darrel Ferguson
There are two constants I’ve found in my 30-plus years in the auto sales and service industry that have persisted.
First, the world is ever changing. Customers, trends, and tastes change. Employees (even entire dealerships) come and go. And technology is constantly evolving.
Second, despite this constant change, the auto industry, as a whole, can be stubbornly slow to keep up. When I started in the 1980s, advisors were still using clipboards and hangtags during the vehicle check-in process.
In some respects, we haven’t moved too far past this bygone era of car service. Some of this is understandable and much of it is harmless, but when it comes to customer communication, failure to adapt to change can have competitive consequences.
Use Preferred Methods of Communication
Even if you don’t remember a time when rotary phones and telephone books were used to reach out to customers and pursue leads, you know that communication has come a long way over the years. Today, customers avoid phone calls altogether, if they can help it. And they especially don’t like to talk to anyone selling anything over the phone. Instead, they prefer to communicate via text messaging. Texting is easy, non-confrontational, and it’s the way consumers prefer to do business.
In fact, 89% of consumers prefer to communicate with businesses via text messaging and 78% of consumers say receiving a text message is the fastest way to reach them for service updates and purchases.
On top of that, 98% of all text messages are answered within two minutes.
What do all these numbers mean? It means service recommendations get approved faster with texting than through a game of phone tag. And especially when you coordinate your texting strategy through a reputable technology provider, your dealership stands out in your customers’ minds as one that speaks their language.
Technology Assists in Communication
Today’s consumers love to communicate through photos and videos. From social media to the latest news coverage, a picture or video can often tell a story better than any other method. These messages also have a remarkable way of making the interaction more real and relatable. Bringing the conversation back to the auto industry, when a customer receives a multipoint inspection from your dealership, complete with a quote and pictures of their vehicle they can view online, they feel confident they’re making an informed decision. They also feel your dealership is being upfront and transparent with them, which increases their trust in your repair recommendations and in your dealership as a whole.
Rick Zellers, Fixed Operations Director with the Gurley Leep Automotive Group, shared his dealerships have seen up to 20% growth year-over-year by sharing inspections and media electronically for service recommendation approvals. “We invested in technology to improve our communication and processes, and ultimately profits. We noticed a difference in dollars per RO almost immediately. Customers appreciate communication that doesn’t involve putting a phone to their ear, where they can clearly see in pictures and video the need for any additional service recommendations.”
When you communicate with your customers in familiar ways, using the technology of their everyday life, your customers will appreciate it, and they’ll buy because of it. A picture paints 1,000 words. An investment in technology can help your dealership communicate better and quickly adapt to changing expectations.
Internal Communication is Key
Proper communication is never just customer facing. You must communicate as a team before you can present a message that will speak to your intended audience. Once again, you have to take your customers’ preferred methods into account.
In this case, educate your team on how to sell consultatively, rather than using a traditional, pushy sales approach. Meet with your team to go over manufacturer recommendations that they can pass on to the customers. And as the name “consultative sales” suggests, train your team to treat customer relationships as consulting opportunities.
Teach them how to focus on answering questions, diagnosing problems, providing options and a recommended path moving forward. Once you’ve communicated this new path with your team, check back on a regular basis to talk about results and hold your team accountable.
All of this can be accomplished with the right service lane technology that empowers both your sales team and your customers. More importantly, it gives your customers the opportunity to make decisions for themselves based on the best information possible, presented in an easy to understand way. Again, communication is key, and it starts internally.
Bring Technology and Communication Together
Technology is important, and communication with customers is key. Bring them together in the way your customers prefer, and your dealership can sustain a real competitive advantage. As the director of performance management, my team helps dealerships like yours leverage technology to improve communication and increase revenue. In a changing world (and an industry that sometimes resists change), performance management can help your dealership stay ahead of the curve and stay in touch with your customers.
Visit with Darrel and his team of performance managers at Xperience, an Xtime online user summit October 23-24, 2019.