4 Ways to Improve the Dealership Customer Experience Amid Inventory Shortages - AutoSuccessOnline
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4 Ways to Improve the Dealership Customer Experience Amid Inventory Shortages

Engaging, transparent and constant communication with customers, both in the digital and physical worlds, sells cars and grows loyalty.

Ian Grace is the director, partner performance at automotiveMastermind. Mastermind helps dealers generate success in their loyalty, service and conquest portfolios through a combination of turnkey predictive analytics, proactive marketing and dedicated consultative services. Learn more at automotivemastermind.com.

Many car buyers are aware of inventory challenges dealerships are facing and the correlating impact on car prices. This perfect storm of awareness, expectations and inventory challenges presents a unique opportunity for dealers to engage and retain their audience. 

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For dealers, short-term success requires finding new ways to acquire in-demand, pre-owned models. Regardless of current supply, it’s critical to focus on customer experience to secure success now (and in the future) when the market normalizes. 

The following are four ways to improve the dealership customer experience amid inventory shortages and beyond.

Meet Customers Where They Are

In an IHS Markit survey of vehicle buyers during the peak of the pandemic, 64% of consumers who bought a car online cited convenience as the primary reason. 

While many dealers adopted digital retailing options out of necessity in 2020, by 2021, this became commonplace. In a recent study by Roadster, 86% of vehicle buyers had some portion of the transaction take place online, increasing by 20% over the previous period. 

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With inventory shortages pushing some buyers to look to online-only retailers, it’s critical dealers offer convenient buying options online and in-store to simplify the process.

This starts from the first touch point, with proactive dealers creating personalized messaging and tailored paths toward sales, as well as analyzing customer complaints and sales metrics to identify opportunities to improve the customer experience. 

Roadster also found online customers were more than 50% more likely to add F&I to their deal compared with in-person shoppers. By allowing buyers to fill out applications online, dealers can reduce repetitive data collection and cut transaction time. 

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Proactively Engage Prospects

As chip shortages delay new vehicle deliveries, dealers must seek out proactive sales opportunities by identifying and engaging prospective buyers before they’ve decided to start shopping around.

Leveraging dealership-level marketing technology that integrates with data from your CRM and DMS, look for opportunities to sell in-bound units to customers who would have otherwise started shopping down the road (like those approaching the end of a lease, finance term or warranty).

By using insights pulled from this technology, your team can meet customers where they are in the buying cycle and also establish trust.

Champion Transparent Selling Practices

As production increases and dealer loyalty dips, dealers must think long term and build customer trust through a transparent buying experience.  

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Transparency builds trust, and trust sells cars. Amid historically high prices and predatory sales practices, offering transparency and peace of mind empowers dealers to stand out and fuel future business.  

Establishing transparency must become part of your dealership’s culture, from the porters to the general manager. Interactions that speak to customers’ concerns about waiting for vehicles or buying something sight-unseen will leave them feeling assured and help turn them into loyalty customers.

Communicate Consistently

Whether it’s via SMS, email, phone or social media, your customers expect to hear from your dealership in specific ways. It’s critical dealers do not stop communicating amid inventory shortages.

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Look for opportunities to keep your audience engaged with personalized messaging through their preferred platform.

Confirm your external messaging is consistent and on-brand, addressing the topics your customers care about most. Consider creating FAQ pages that your team can point customers to.

While tightening vehicle inventories has increased consumer demand in the short term, it’s critical dealers think ahead to meet customers’ needs in the long run. Amid competition, dealers have an opportunity to cut through the clutter and deliver an exceptional customer experience.

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