Our industry is clawing its way back to some sense of normalcy. But there are still significant hurdles to overcome on our way back to stability. In this blog, I share strategies to combat challenges head-on by:
- Leveraging outsourcing options to overcome staffing shortages.
- Taking a proactive approach with your BDC.
- Mining your service drive for sales opportunities.
- Selling vehicles when there’s nothing new on the ground.
Leveraging Outsourcing Options to Overcome Staffing Shortage
The majority of dealerships are currently not fully staffed. You likely have one employee doing the work of two or even three employees. You can’t outsource techs or salespeople on the floor, but you do have options to get those ringing phones answered.
If calls are being mishandled or not picked up at all, it’s time to consider outsourcing to a BDC and/or implementing a Digital Voice Assistant (DVA).
An external BDC is cheaper than hiring more employees, covers your shop after-hours, can scale up or down to meet your needs, and is adept at both inbound and outbound call handling.
If answering inbound calls is your biggest concern, a DVA is an even more economical option. A DVA ensures that every inbound call is answered and handled in an average of three minutes (compared to six for a human). Today’s DVAs tie into your online scheduling tool so can make service appointments, answer FAQs (like service hours and location) and transfer calls when needed.
The average dealership doesn’t answer 20-30% of inbound calls, and of those callers, 68% never call back. They move on to the next shop. If we just answer the phone and interact with customers, we’ll drive ROIs through the roof.
Taking a Proactive Approach with Your BDC
Another major hurdle right now is swamped service departments and not enough techs to turn wrenches. In this situation, pivot your BDC from outbound campaigns to proactive CSI calls to recent customers. Expect that many of these customers had extended wait times to get in for service that may have affected the experience. Craft a script that perfects the art of the apology so your CSI and customer retention numbers don’t take a hit.
Another idea is to conduct outbound campaigns to customers needing a service in three to six months. Most shops are booked out that far. Stack your books now so customers aren’t disappointed and frustrated that they can’t get in when they call a week in advance.
On the variable side, enlist your BDC to take the burden of outbound calls off your salespeople. But, make every call count. Instead of using a call list, email or text leads a link to the digital retailing tools on your website. Then, only call those customers who engage with the tools. This brings down the number of calls that need to be made, and automatically ensures you’re picking up those low-hanging fruit first. When you have fewer people doing more, talk to the people who’ve demonstrated they want to talk to you.
Mining Your Service Drive for Sales Opportunities
In lots across the country, people are buying up used vehicles as fast as they can be resold. Sure, you can go to auctions to restock. But when you crush it at the auction it just means your used car manager paid more than anyone else. Instead, rev up equity mining in your service department.
Take a proactive, data-driven approach. Designate one salesperson as a service-to-sales liaison to identify service customers in your CRM who purchased a vehicle at least one year ago. Create a phone script or email template with specific messaging that motivates them to come to you before they enter the buying cycle. You can mention highly competitive prices for used vehicles, the ability to pre-order a new vehicle now and go to the top of the list, and more. The point is to continually engage customers with personalized messaging and nurture these leads through their buying journey — before they even think of going to a competitor.
Selling Vehicles When There’s Nothing New on the Ground
Customers still want a new vehicle, but you have nothing on the ground. Now what? You can pre-sell or take deposits on vehicles you know are in transit. I recently heard of a dealer expecting nearly 40 Kia Telluride’s to arrive over the next three weeks. All were sold. Customers either signed the papers or put down a deposit.
Remember too that customers buy vehicles other than originally intended all the time. For that reason, invite every new car buyer down to your showroom. Tell them you can pre-order what they want, or explain you have these other used options and they’re welcome to stroll around and check out everything. Car fever is real. So is instant gratification. Some buyers get that itch; to scratch it they will snap up what’s new to them and fits within their original wants and needs. It’s a smart way to position what you have, and how you can help them right now. Some will bite. Others won’t. But it’s always prudent to demonstrate that you’re willing to do whatever you can to get them into a new-to-them vehicle.
Of course, inventory and staffing shortages will end. It’s just isn’t clear when. These strategies can bridge the gap between now and when some state of normalcy returns.