The past two years have disrupted the retail automotive dealership and put us in a position that caused changes in how we do business to survive. It is a challenging time to be in the retail business, from personnel issues due to lack of qualified staff, inventory shortages due to manufacturer problems, parts not available due to a slowdown in the supply line, and more.
You drive by some Dealer businesses, and it is very scary. Sales lots that use to hold five or six hundred cars look like ghost towns. Dealers are selling everything they receive from the factories usually weeks/months before they even get it. I’m sure that it is easy for complacency to set in. Many of the things that we did to grow our business don’t seem so necessary right now. Not only are profits through the roof, but many customers are keeping their vehicles longer and this is generating strong service business.
I stopped by a Ford Dealer today to have a tire sensor fixed and I couldn’t get an appointment for three weeks. The key now is not to throw our feet up on the desk and say, I got this. Like a baseball team in spring training, we need to keep practicing the fundamentals. Training should be number one on everyone’s list of priorities. Many of our salespeople have been hired in the last two and a half years. Good sales techniques never go out of style, but in this market, I’m not so sure our staff is using them. Service drive training, word tracks, and upsell methods are as important now as they were before the pandemic. A consistent monthly training program in both sales and service will keep everyone sharp and help maintain the focus we will need when things go back to “normal”.
The second most important fundamental is communication. Many have cut back, or completely stopped all advertising. The market does not currently justify large expenditures to sell vehicles but the message to keep and retain your most loyal customers needs to be constant. Focus on the digital aspects of your messaging. A strong graphics campaign will not only keep your customer connected but also deliver the message that they are always important both in good times and bad. If you have a dealer-branded app as opposed to a factory app, now is a great time to design and focus on your customer appreciation. Both methods are low-cost, highly effective ways to keep your message in primetime.
Finally, in these times of shrinking inventory, never take your customer for granted. If you are currently using a rewards program, now is the time to ramp it up. People are paying top dollar for everything everywhere. Use rewards, not only to thank them, but feel like you still care about their business.
Loyalty is sometimes given but is mostly earned. In this period of low inventory and high demand, it is easy to forget how important our best customers are to growing the business.
Now is the time to sharpen our message and lock down the fundamentals that help us retain these customers, so when there is a change in the market, we will be ready for whatever the next chapter might bring.