Out with the Old Mindset, in with the New
Rob had already noticed the impact that the internet was having on the auto industry before leaving college. By 2016, the shortcomings surrounding his dealership’s traditional approach to car sales became too obvious to ignore.
“We could see then that things were changing,” he said, “so we began transitioning our sales force to handle more phone calls and online leads.”
Vehicle acquisition was also something Rob wanted to address. “I was going to three to four auctions a week just to buy inventory,” he explained. “But we’ve seen more people bidding online over the past 10 years. We knew that also needed to change.”
The Pandemic Speeds Things Up
Like many dealers, the pandemic caught Rob completely off-guard. His dealership ended up being shut down by the government for 40 days. Rob was forced to lay off most of his sales staff as in-person deals came to a screeching halt.
Before March, Bob Ruth Ford had been taking a slower approach to its digital transition. But with no traditional model to work with, it was forced to rip the band-aid off and go completely digital.
Rob kept his customer service agents on in order to facilitate deals online and over the phone. That small decision led to an important realization. “We learned that, even though we weren’t there, the customer still wanted information,” he said. “Providing it to them remotely allowed us to sell cars without them ever coming down to the dealership.”
This process taught Rob that his customers were willing to do business differently. In fact, according to him, “They prefer it.”
Finding the Right Digital Partner
Bob Ruth Ford was ready to dive headfirst into its all-digital processes. However, it still needed to get everything in place.
Rob and his team started searching for a partner to help them navigate their digital transition. Eventually, they found VinCue, an all-in-one data platform built to streamline the process for dealers.
Now, three months later, VinCue has helped Bob Ruth Ford capitalize on its online success.
“Our website traffic has increased 51% this year,” Rob said. “Not only that, they’ve helped us put the pieces together to figure out how to handle that traffic and guide each customer through the process.”
VinCue’s unique private party acquisition system has also helped the dealership find better deals on expensive inventory — something Rob didn’t anticipate being an issue at the beginning of the pandemic.
But the best part of the partnership, Rob said, isn’t just the results. It’s the relationship.
“It’s nice to work with small companies that aren’t stuck in their ways,” he said. “Larger companies tend to have a cookie-cutter approach. VinCue is willing to listen and work with us.”
Going All In on the Customer Experience
It’s clear that diving headfirst into the digital realm hasn’t just helped Bob Ruth Ford survive the past year — it’s allowed them to thrive.
“Our customers are happier. They like the hybrid approach between traditional and digital,” he explained. “Being able to act more efficiently and streamline the sales process has caused our customer satisfaction to skyrocket.”
Customer satisfaction isn’t the only area where Bob Ruth Ford has seen dramatic increases. It’s leveraged its smarter sourcing and faster sales process to almost double its annual inventory turn — from eight times per year to 13.
Those results, Rob said, have encouraged them to double down on the customer experience.
Case in point — when Rob re-hired his sales staff, he only brought back those who were willing to adapt. “Our decision-making when it came to bringing people back was: ‘Bring back the people who have open minds and are willing to go through this shift with us.’”
Above all, Rob hopes that dealers take the lessons of this year to heart. “We’re more than capable of competing against the disruptors and big companies out there,” he said. “We can do the same things. We can do them better. And our customers would rather do business with us. So, I would keep an open mind to new ways of doing business instead of going back to the same-old-same-old.”
For Bob Ruth Ford, the dealership will be taking its own advice as it heads into the future.
“We’ve survived and maintained this past year,” Rob said. “And now we have a structure in place to really take things to the next level.”