It doesn’t matter if you’re the only dealership in town—you still have competition.
Out-of-town buyer’s promotions and reasonable cross-province shipping arrangements are encouraging people to expand their search areas. And due to so many different options on the market today (and with drivers holding on to their cars longer), people are spending more time researching online what type of vehicle is best suited for their needs.
Consequently, shoppers are better prepared than ever before. Instead of wandering around several dealerships to gather information, consumers are focused on just 2 or 3 models—and visiting, on average, only 1.3 stores.
So how do you stand out from the competition? It’s in the details.
Like a superhero movie with subtle winks and Easter eggs for comic book readers, small surprises make devoted fans.
Nowadays, having the largest inventory in stock or the most convenient location isn’t at the top of the priority list for buyers anymore. Instead, shoppers will make the trip or wait the extra few weeks to get their new car if it means that they will have an enjoyable car buying experience.
Here are several ways your dealership can surprise and delight your customers.
Cater to Newbies
For a first-time car buyer, walking into a massive dealership can be intimidating. Chances are these new customers don’t know how (or where) to begin.
Great customer service begins with a friendly greeting and simply asking, “How can I help you today?” For someone submitting a form online, you need to respond in a timely manner and actually answer their questions. No auto-replies!
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Do you have a standardized greeting for when guests walk into the dealership or call in?
- Do you have a process in place for responding to leads?
- Can shoppers use text message for vehicle inquires?
- When booking a service appointment, is there a set of questions that need to be asked first?
- Do you “read in between the lines”? For example, if you are entering someone into the system for the first time, they probably haven’t been to your dealership before. Have you asked them if they need directions, or told them where they can park?
The Custom Treatment
Those in auto sales tend to get a bad rap for being pushy. Shocking, right? This is a tactic that may have worked in the past, but car buyers are evolving—and distinct shopping preferences are moving to the forefront. Some want the freedom and space to browse on their own, while others want their hands held though the entire process.
(For a detailed look at how Millennials—now the largest consumer demographic—prefer to buy cars, check out our survey results and summary here.)
Discovering what kind of shopper has walked through your doors and facilitating his or her shopping experience is the first step. This is what’s next:
- Are you trying to get them to test drive a vehicle before you really understand what their needs are?
- Do they already have a vehicle in mind based of their own research or are they in need of some suggestions?
- Have you asked them what they need the vehicle for? Is it for basic commuting, hauling a trailer, or are they travelling with four kids?
- What features are most important to them? Safety, fuel economy, performance?
- What is their budget? If they’re looking to have bi-weekly payments close to $100, getting them into a brand new fully loaded F-150 probably isn’t a good option.
- Do you have their best interest at heart? Buyers want a genuine and honest salesperson helping them out, especially if they’re brand new to the process.
We’re not saying that you need to have the largest, newest, most modern dealership, but there are certain standards that you should abide by. Take pride in your inventory and make sure vehicles are clean and polished. No one wants to test drive a vehicle that looks as if it’s been sitting, collecting dust for months.
- Have all your cars been freshly detailed? Or do they look like they just rolled off the transport truck?
- Is your dealership tidy? Is your office organized?
- Do your staff dress sharply and with uniformity? Suits and other formal wear aren’t compulsory (excepting premium brands), but looking professional builds confidence in both your clients and employees.
Sweat the Small Stuff
Going above and beyond does not need to be expensive or time consuming. It can be as small as having coffee and refreshments available in the dealership or going the extra step by bringing a vehicle over to the buyer’s house for a test drive so they can see if it fits in their garage and drive it in their own neighbourhood.
If people have an exceptional buying experience from you, they will come back and refer you to their friends. They may even leave you a great review online, which is becoming an increasingly important factor for online shoppers.
- Does your dealership offer any unique products and services not found at competitor stores?
- Which minute, thoughtful gestures add to your value proposition?
- Do you guarantee no hidden fees or have a referral/loyalty program?
- Do you have a shuttle service or loaner program?
You might be your dealership’s top cheerleader, but all that enthusiasm gets lost if your routine isn’t original and memorable.
When you can step back and list off the reasons why car buyers love shopping with you over the competition, congratulations—you’re already on the path to long-term success. Remember: A satisfied customer is money in the bank AND another member of an expanding cheer squad.