By Scott Pechstein, Senior Vice President of Business Development, Digital Air Strike

It’s no secret that most consumers want to manage their car buying experience online… until they don’t. And then, they want to call, text, or meet in person with someone at the dealership who can answer their questions, provide transparency, and provide a great experience. With the vast amount of technology out there today, it should be an easy thing to deliver, right? Well, not quite.

According to Digital Air Strike’s 9th Annual Automotive Customer Experience Trends Study, 20% of consumers who pre-ordered a vehicle said the dealer didn’t inform them about their vehicle order status. And 31% said they didn’t get any pertinent information from a dealership in response to their query about a vehicle purchase. That’s up dramatically from 6% from the previous year.

So why is the customer experience still lacking with so much technology available?

It’s essential to identify the gaps in communication at the store level. Reapply what you were taught when you started in automotive and make sure you’re leveraging technology to work smarter, not harder. Use that technology to convert and nurture more and higher qualified leads. It’s essential to maximize staff resources, regardless of size, using technology solutions that boost performance and efficiency.

Deliver a personalized and engaging consumer experience that isn’t a “one size fits all” online-only approach. Capture the consumers by providing answers to their questions, 24/7, with the help of AI, and pass on the lower funnel customers to your staff when they’re ready to buy.

The Lost Art of the Sale
Don’t call them leads. They are people. Keeping this in mind will allow your team to place more importance on each opportunity, knowing there is a person behind it wanting to trade in, buy, or lease a vehicle.

Constantly differentiate yourself on your dealership’s “why buy.” Your “why buy” brand is just as crucial because the store across the street is your competitor. Do you offer a great warranty your competitor doesn’t? Do you provide the first oil change free? Whatever your dealership provides that stands out from the rest needs to be advertised so the customer knows what they’re getting from your store that they’re not getting from your competitor.

Leverage Technology

Automated responses and follow-ups, AI chat, and video are essential tools to drive consumer conversion.

Automated and optimized email responses and follow-up from an expert team ensure you keep up with every lead and let customers know you have their back. Customers will reach out to your dealership at all hours of the day, including when your business is closed. However, by leveraging AI chat technology to respond to leads, the customer still gets their answers and can schedule a service appointment or a test drive. You want to take your customers to the next step without stalling the process.

When your customers inquire about specific vehicles, an optimized response will include alternative vehicle options to give them all available options across your dealer group. The customer wants to know how much they’ll pay for their vehicle, the price, trade-in value, and the vehicle features. Providing as much information as possible gives the customer everything they need to make an informed decision. You don’t want to leave them dissatisfied, so they decide to go to a competitor.

Follow-Up Is Essential

Automatic lead follow-up ensures your team doesn’t forget about that customer who asked about a vehicle months ago. They may still be interested in a car, and once they are, they can respond with that ask so your team member can reach out and sell them that vehicle. Following up with the prospective car buyer for up to six months frees your sales team to focus on the hottest leads first.

It’s crucial to respond fast to customers. Fifty-seven percent of vehicle buyers say the dealer responded within an hour from the initial inquiry, up from 52% in the prior study. However, there’s a considerable drop from our previous study in the helpful information included in those responses, according to our trends study. For example, 80% said they received the vehicle price, while only 52% in the current study received it. Forty-five percent from the prior study said they received offers and incentives, while only 26% did in the recent research.

When responding to customers, dealers should include valuable information, including the vehicle price, lease and finance options, and offers and incentives. Many customers surveyed said they didn’t receive a response at all. Compared to the prior research, two to three times as many vehicle buyers and service customers say the dealership never responded to their inquiry. That’s not good. You don’t want your customers going to your competitors because you didn’t respond to their requests or give them the information they sought.

Another way to keep customers engaged is through intelligent chat messaging on your website and Facebook. The AI answers customers’ questions around the clock, keeping your business open even when your doors are locked. Provide an avenue for those general questions that AI can quickly answer, such as your store hours, location, scheduling service, and test drive appointments.

Use Video

Sending a personalized video after an inquiry, a vehicle sale, or a service request is the best way to explain directly to the customer what they mean to you. Video is how most people like to talk to their friends and family, so why wouldn’t you incorporate the same video tactics into your customer communication?

Showing the customer by video the worn-out brake rotors, the leaking oil tank, or the shredded timing belt succinctly shows why the part needs to be fixed. It’s wise to explain by video how to use a specific car feature after buying their new car to answer any questions without forcing them to come into the store.

About the Contributor
As the Senior Vice President of Business Development, Scott Pechstein brings more than two decades of experience in automotive retail and sales to Digital Air Strike.

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This article was originally published in the Nov./Dec. 2022 Issue of Dealer Magazine. You can view the latest digital edition as well as past issues of Dealer Magazine here.

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