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4 Ways to Improve the Dealership Customer Experience Amid Inventory Shortages

Today’s buyers are more informed than ever and most are well aware of the ongoing inventory challenges dealerships are facing – as well as how the vehicle shortages are impacting car sales prices. This perfect storm of awareness, expectations and external inventory challenges presents a unique opportunity for dealers to engage and retain their audience. 

For dealers faced with inventory shortages, short-term success requires getting strategic and finding new ways to acquire in-demand pre-owned models. But regardless of your current day’s supply, it’s critical that all dealers – even those with plentiful new vehicle inventories – focus on customer experience to secure immediate and ongoing success for when the market does normalize. 

Research from Google finds the #1 influencer of brand loyalty is a buyer’s purchasing experience. To secure both immediate and consistent sales and service revenue, innovative dealers are capitalizing on this moment by focusing on improving the dealership customer experience amid inventory shortages. 

In this blog post, we detail four ways to improve the dealership customer experience amid inventory shortages and beyond, including: 

  • Meeting customers where they are in the buyer cycle
  • Proactively engaging prospective buyers
  • Establishing trust through transparent selling practices
  • Communicating consistently about your inventory situation

Meet Customers Where They Are

If dealers have learned one thing since 2020, it’s that the old way of doing business simply isn’t cutting it for the modern car buyer. In a IHS Markit survey of vehicle buyers during the peak of the pandemic, 64% of consumers who bought a car online cited convenience as the primary reason. 

While digital retailing options were adopted by many dealers out of necessity in 2020, by 2021, they became commonplace. In a recent study by Roadster, 86% of vehicle buyers had some portion of the transaction take place online, increasing by 20% over the previous period. 

With inventory shortages pushing some buyers to look to online-only retailers to find the model they want, it’s critical dealers offer convenient buying options – online and in-store – and simplify the entire process by meeting buyers where they are. 

This starts from that very first touch point. With personalized messaging that connects to tailored paths to a final sale, proactive dealers are considering convenience from a customer’s perspective to improve the buying experience. Audit your existing process by analyzing frequent customer complaints and comprehensive sales metrics to identify opportunities to improve the customer experience. 

For example, Roadster also found online customers were more than 50% more likely to add F&I to their deal online as compared with in-person shoppers. By enabling buyers to fill out applications online and providing your sales F&I teams access to the same customer insights, dealers can reduce the need for repetitive data collection to cut down transaction time and improve the customer experience. 

Proactively Engage Prospects

As chip shortages continue to complicate production schedules and delay new vehicle deliveries, it’s more important than ever that dealers seek out proactive sales opportunities. To stay ahead of delivery delays, dealers need to identify and engage prospective buyers early – before they’ve decided to start shopping around – opening the door for an excellent dealership experience.

Leveraging dealership-level marketing technology that integrates with data from your dealership’s CRM and DMS, look for proactive opportunities to sell in-bound units to customers who would have otherwise started shopping down the road, preferably in the next three months. This includes prospects who are approaching the end of their lease or finance term, or the end of their warranty. 

By using insights pulled from advanced marketing technology, your team can meet customers where they are in the buying cycle while establishing trust with customers. Taking a similar approach using Market EyeQ, our dealer partners gain up to 15 incremental sales each month. 

Establish Customer Trust Through Transparent Selling Practices

Sky-high sales prices on pre-owned and new models are compelling some dealers to take advantage of the opportunity, selling vehicles well above sticker price or blanketing their market with spray-and-pray marketing offers. But as production increases to meet consumer demand and dealer loyalty dips, it’s critical dealers think long term and build customer trust and loyalty through a transparent buying experience.  

Transparency builds trust, and trust sells cars. Amid historically high prices and predatory sales practices, offering your dealership’s customers real transparency and peace of mind during their car-buying journey empowers dealers to stand out among the competition and build customer loyalty to fuel future sales and service revenue.  

Establishing a transparent customer experience during inventory shortages means much more than keeping your inbound inventory up to date on your website or avoiding the bait-and-switch offers. Transparency needs to become part of your dealership’s culture, from the porters to the general manager. Interactions and processes that speak directly to customers’ concerns about waiting for vehicles or buying something sight-unseen will leave them feeling assured and help turn them into loyal service customers.

Communicate Consistently with Your Customers

Whether it’s via SMS, email, over the phone or social media, your customers have likely come to expect to hear from your dealership in specific ways. And while now may seem like the time to pull back on marketing, it’s critical dealers do not stop communicating with their customers amid inventory shortages to proactively promote an excellent customer experience.

Look for opportunities to keep your audience engaged with personalized messaging that speaks to their specific needs and situation and in their preferred communication medium. This means ensuring the path to solving buyers’ challenges and inventory queries is clear and obvious, regardless of how they choose to shop.

This includes creating a solid plan for both internally communicating inbound units and externally marketing your available vehicle inventory and putting processes in place to ensure your entire dealership is on the same page when communicating with customers.

Confirm your external messaging is consistent and on-brand addressing the topics your customers care about most, including updates to your dealership’s website or phone tracks. To further simplify the process, consider creating digital and printable FAQ pages that your team can point customers to, specifically regarding how to place pre-orders.

While tightening vehicle inventories has increased consumer demand in the short term, the last year has demonstrated why it’s critical dealers think ahead to meet the needs of their audience. Amid increasingly fierce competition to capture buyers’ attention, dealers are presented with the opportunity to cut through the clutter and achieve sustainable success by delivering a consistently exceptional customer experience.