What was your last really great retail experience? Did it involve technology? Did you feel valued as a customer? Perhaps a better question is, what was your last awful retail experience? What made it so bad? Just like you, your customers are measuring all of their retail experiences, including those at your dealership, against a changing set of standards. In order to successfully compete, manufacturers and dealers alike must be able to give them an experience that measures up.
Retailers outside the automotive market have been able to deliver a more personalized buying experience. They are making customers feel understood, which makes them feel valued. Once customers feel valued, they easily turn from lookers to buyers, and then to repeat buyers. This kind of personalized experience is what all customers now expect.
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A personalized experience is just one of the new expectations for automotive retail. Today, technology is as much a part of daily life as breathing. We schedule appointments on smartphones, do our work from anywhere on tablets, and get real-time data and notifications about nearly everything throughout the day. As a result, your customers now expect faster, more efficient exchanges in the retail environment.
Automotive retail must adapt to stay competitive. Your bottom line, and perhaps survival, depends on your ability to deliver a personalized, faster and more efficient retail experience. Retailers in other markets have been adjusting to these changing expectations for years. So, why has automotive retail been so slow to catch up? It’s likely related these three things, what we call the three Cs: Comfort, Courage and Competition.
Combatting the 3 Cs
Comfort — Who doesn’t like to be comfortable? Most of us spend our lives trying to achieve comfort. But in business, comfort can equal death. Change isn’t comfortable, but change is absolutely necessary to thrive. Examine where you may need to make some changes in your technology, costs, people or processes, and be willing to stretch, even beyond your comfort zone, to make a change that will help you meet the new customer expectations.
Courage — As a business owner or manager, you are likely a confident person. You are also likely most concerned with cost reduction and profitability in your business. Too often, however, even confident business owners like you lack the courage to take the necessary steps to actually reduce costs and improve profitability. Don’t continue to use expensive service suppliers, providers and technology simply because you are comfortable with what you have and don’t feel confident enough to adopt new options that deliver more value.
Research your options, ask questions and be courageous. Boldly make changes where they’re needed, even if it means giving up some of that comfort we talked about earlier.
You also need a courageous team. Place people on your team who are capable of implementing changes and understanding the expected results. When you can cut costs while maintaining your day-to-day functions, you can spend your savings on additional technology and training that fills any existing gaps in your customer experience.
Competition — A highly competitive spirit is a trait shared by most business owners and managers. That drive to win is crucial to your personal success and even more important to your dealership’s success. Understand the value competition brings. Without it, you can get complacent, suffering from a false sense of security. When you are complacent, you are not at your best, which can lead to a less-than-stellar customer experience and customers who are then far too willing to jump ship.
Even if you don’t see your competitors adapting to the new customer expectations, don’t let a lack of competition make you think it’s safe to do the same. How are you making sure you win on price, service or delivery of the absolute best customer experience? Put that competitive spirit to work in these areas for big gains in profitability.
Competition and Your Technology
One of your biggest technology investments is your dealer management system (DMS). Unfortunately, the DMS business has long suffered from a lack of competition. Many DMS providers have gotten complacent, investing less in their products and focusing more on their own profitability. Most dealerships overpay for their technology, and there haven’t been enough competitive options to reduce costs or drive change.
New players are finally beginning to change that dynamic. When choosing this crucial dealership tool, look for a modern solution on a single cloud-based-technology platform. Focus on ways to automate your daily business processes so you can focus more on your customers.
The world is changing. Customer expectations are changing. Are you changing?