The average car buyer in 2004 visited five dealerships before making a purchase. By 2014, buyers visited only 1.6 dealerships. This change happened largely because buyers started completing their research online before setting foot in a dealership. In fact, one study found that customers spend 60 percent of their time researching third-party sites.
As more buyers use online resources to make decisions, your dealership must develop a standout online brand or risk falling behind. Your online brand is the perception buyers have of your business based on your Website, sites like Kelley Blue Book, social media and reviews.
Some aspects of your online brand are easy to influence — for example, your Website, prices and offerings. Others are more challenging — particularly, your online reviews. Today’s customers place a lot of stock in online reviews, with 66 percent reporting that opinions posted online influence their buying decisions. This makes it incredibly important to provide a great customer experience that will result in positive reviews for your dealership. The best and simplest way to do this is by hiring quality employees to provide your customers with superior service.
Hire the Right People
Online reputation management is becoming a focus for brands across industries, but can quickly suck up the time of dealership leaders, and hiring a full-time professional to manage it is costly.
Most negative reviews or social media comments are a result of a customer service breakdown. This means employees with strong sales chops and automotive knowledge but minimal people skills are a thing of the past. As customers visit fewer dealerships during the buying process, there is little room for error. Once customers are in the door, they need to receive fast, gracious service at every step.
Create the Right Roles
Reorganizing roles at your dealership also can help improve your online brand. New technology and a greater focus on digital sales and marketing create the need for employees with nontraditional roles and skill sets. For example, some dealerships have reimagined the traditional, auto-savvy “Service Advisor” role as a “Project Manager” with strong communication and conflict resolution skills. Others have added tech-heavy roles to streamline the process. Other potential new roles include:
• Talent Acquisition Specialist (Recruiter) — Finds and retains top talent
• Human Resources Director — Facilitates feedback and communication among employees and teams
• Product Specialist — Educates customers on a vehicle’s tech features with no sales pressure
• eCommerce Coordinator — Analyzes the dealership’s digital advertising, business analytics and online perception
The auto industry is changing rapidly, and your dealership needs to change with it. However, with this change comes opportunity. As you build a team with excellent customer service skills, you will be positioned to make a great impression.