There has been a lot written lately about the customer experience and meeting customers “where they live.” You don’t have to look far to find research on the customer sales funnel, stats on how quickly sales teams should respond to emails, and even details on the best time to meet digital shoppers. But one simple way dealerships can ramp up customer satisfaction is so simple it’s almost easy to overlook — inventory.
With the advances in online research and tools, customers come onto the sales lot today knowing exactly which vehicle they want. So it’s a surprise to them — and many managers — when the salesperson helping them can’t find the vehicle on one lot, or even worse, across multiple lots. The simple solution to this customer satisfaction issue is to put in an inventory tracking system. I’ve detailed a number of things to look for when considering an inventory tracking solution for your dealership:
While cost is always something to consider, the costs associated with inventory tracking systems aren’t always easy to spot — for instance, the time needed to install each unit. Beyond the initial cost of the units themselves, factor in the time it will take your service staff to uninstall each unit if the solution is not a good fit. Another area of hidden costs is in the software needed to make the system work. Is the system Web-based or does it need costly software to run it?
Simplicity of Use
Does the system update information per vehicle automatically or does it need to be manually entered? Not only does manual entry take more staff time, adding to cost, but it also increases the occurrence of human errors. It’s also important to take a look at the infrastructure and parts needed. The more moving parts, the more chance of things breaking down. Many systems will drain the vehicle’s battery if left in a vehicle for an extended period of time. Look for something that has low battery usage and gives an alert when the battery is low. Nothing is worse than getting the prospect to the test drive stage, only to have the car not start.
There is really no excuse for technology not to be integrated into other systems in your dealership in this day and age. Regardless of the way you track your inventory, it should always be a fit with your current process and tools.
Time to Install
Beware of free trials. Yes, they sound good upfront, but the amount of technician time to install a tracker in every vehicle is lengthy and it’s not worth the overall effort unless you have fully vetted the solution. Do your research to ensure the cost, installation and integration makes sense, and then commit to installs on your lot.
There are several benefits to tracking vehicles while they are off of your lot, but unfortunately compliance is not one of them. The details on what constitutes breaches in privacy are still murky. Do yourself a favor and sidestep this tricky issue all together by only tracking the inventory that sits on your lot. It will keep you out of hot water with customers and could help reduce compliance issues that might arise from tracking vehicles as they leave your lot.
Inventory tracking solutions are a great way to make your lot “customer ready.” They decrease customer wait times, increase employee efficiency and can even point out potential problems before they arise, such as fuel issues, dead batteries or error codes. Next time you’re looking for ways to take your customer experience to the next level, don’t forget one of the most important aspects of the sale — your inventory.