Businesses across all industries have been weighing in on COVID-19 and how the pandemic may or may not affect its operations and their ability to serve customers. Specifically for dealerships, many locations have closed temporarily, and service centers may be seeing diminishing revenue as car owners put off maintenance until shelter-in-place orders are lifted. Despite these limitations, many consumers are turning to digital channels to interact with dealers and purchase vehicles or find open service centers.
During this time, it’s essential to implement reputation and CX management best practices, to communicate relevant information and changes to customers and your local communities, to build trust and to maintain loyalty.
Here are three best practices for building brand awareness and consumer trust during the challenges of the pandemic and beyond.
1. Make Social Engagement a Top Priority
It used to be that a brand’s public relations (PR) firm would announce news about the business on the air, in print or on a company’s website. Although these traditional channels are still useful, people now look to social media for news and updates about a business. Instead of simply broadcasting a message and leaving the public reaction to chance, businesses can leverage social channels to join in and even influence conversations about them. They can steer the narrative in a direction that better supports brand messaging and combats any misinformation.
Social media is a critical channel for dealerships to communicate changes to business operations during the pandemic, as consumers flock to outlets like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for updated information. Social listening can also help them keep a pulse on customer sentiment and react quickly to customer needs.
What to do now:
• Use social channels to inform your audience about the precautions you’re taking at your dealerships.
• Promote new services such as virtual sales appointments and home delivery.
• Content not pertaining to COVID-19 is acceptable as well. Be cognizant of the intent and how it can be perceived. For example, share acts of service and kindness you’ve seen to inspire positivity during this time.
2. Manage Your Google Presence
Google plays a huge role in the customer journey and how people look for a dealership or place to have their cars serviced. In fact, it’s your new digital front door. Near-me searches on Google for automotive businesses have increased 200% over the past two years. Most of these searches are on mobile, and 79% of car buyers will click to call, get driving directions or message a dealership after a mobile search.
And over 50% of all Google searches are “zero-click,” meaning people find all the information they need in Google search results — address, driving directions, phone numbers, business hours, star ratings and reviews. In fact, Google listings and knowledge panels drive up to 10 times more traffic than a dealership’s website, and Google found that regularly updated business profiles get 500% more views across search and maps.
As Google is a primary source of high-quality leads, it’s critical to optimize your listings to capture search traffic, especially now, as consumers are hungry for information about how your business is handling the current situation.
What to do now:
• Update your business hours, as they may change a few times throughout this time.
• Update your business description to include details about the extra precautions your dealership is taking and what services you’re offering to the community during this time.
• Create Google posts frequently to share information about how your dealership is available to the community during and after the pandemic. For example, share updates and special offers to get attention from customers searching for vehicles and service.
3. Stay on Top of Online Reviews
Reviews are critical for collecting valuable feedback from customers about every aspect of your business and gaining a deeper understanding of customer experience. By analyzing reviews, you can learn where to focus your efforts to make improvements to your sales and service operations. Responding to reviews — the good and the negative — provides opportunities to engage in meaningful ways with customers. Reviews also help you get found and chosen in search: 61% of Google’s ranking factors are attributed to listings and reviews.
What to do now:
• Request reviews following customer interactions. Now’s the perfect time to collect feedback about new channels and services.
• Monitor review sites and respond promptly to all reviews and feedback to demonstrate your commitment to exceptional customer experience.
• Look for trends that emerge in reviews, identify any issues that need attention and take action.