7 Steps to Create a Dealership Customer Strategy

September 27, 2019 John Kehm

Customer experience (CX) is more than customer service. While customer service certainly influences CX, the concept extends throughout the entire relationship a customer has with your dealership, from their first online touchpoint or glimpse of marketing materials, through the end of the ownership cycle and beyond.

Getting CX right matters to a dealer’s bottom line, but it doesn’t happen by coincidence and it doesn’t happen just because you’re trying hard at it. It requires a data and evidence-based management strategy, backed by the right automotive data tools to empower your staff. In this blog, Mastermind shares:

  • What dealership customer experience management is, and why dealers need it
  • Why customer experience is critical to a dealership’s bottom line
  • How to create a customer experience management strategy that works for your entire dealership – with the tools your staff needs to succeed

What Is Customer Experience Management for Dealerships?

As with virtually any other facet of business, successfully delivering on CX requires defining and managing an actionable customer experience strategy. Without knowing what you’re trying to accomplish and bringing your team together in pursuit of that goal, you risk even the most well-intended teams pursuing inconsistent and potentially mutually-exclusive visions of customer experience that risk negating its value – or even causing unintended harm to your relationship with your customers.

Customer experience management is the process through which dealers come to understand what their customers care about so they can develop a vision and plan to meet those needs and expectations, defining goals and measuring progress at every appropriate touchpoint.

Even as increasing amounts of the research and communication involved in the automotive sales journey move online, consumers are expecting more personalized attention from their dealers at every touchpoint. Without a coherent customer experience management strategy, dealers risk failing to meet those expectations; losing customers to dealers who deliver on them.

Why Dealership Customer Experience Matters

Research is clear that the automotive customer experience plays a critical role in dealership bottom lines. For instance, research from Capgemini found that more than half of American car buyers would change dealers after experiencing poor customer service as early as the interest phase of a car purchase.

However, the dealership customer experience isn’t all about avoiding dissatisfaction. The same survey found that customers who’ve had a positive shopping and service experience at a dealership are willing to pay for that experience – in fact, more than 60 percent of them are willing to spend as much as 24 percent more.

An Autotrader survey broadly agrees, finding that more than half of consumers would buy from a dealership that offered their preferred experience, even if it didn’t have the lowest price, and two thirds said that in general, they are much more likely to buy from a dealership that provides their preferred customer experience. 

Additionally, while 65 percent of customers said they would drive further to buy from a dealer who had the lowest price, even more – 73 percent – said they’d drive further to close a deal with a great salesperson.

How to Create a Customer Experience Management Strategy

The key components of  creating a customer experience management strategy are:

  1. Understand what your customers care about
  2. Define a vision for how your relationship with those customers will fit into those expectations
  3. Share the vision broadly and consistently throughout the entire dealership. Work with your team to define measurable goals at each customer touchpoint that contribute to achieving your visionEnsure that your team has the training, tools, resources and authority to meet those goals
  4. Measure your progress toward those goals, including through direct feedback from customers
  5. Update your strategy based on your measurements and feedback

A successful customer experience management strategy begins with understanding what your customers care about, and that means often considering feelings more than facts. Emotions are incredibly important when it comes to CX, and dealers can’t focus so much on hold times and satisfaction surveys that they forget to simply look at how they’re making their customers feel about the entire relationship.

A Harvard Business Review study defined a number of “emotional motivators” that drive consumer choices, and many of them hold opportunities for dealers to create emotionally motivating connections: “Stand out from the crowd,” “Enjoy a sense of well-being,” “Feel a sense of belonging,” “Feel secure” and “Succeed in life” all offer potential avenues of emotional connection to customers. 

When you’re defining and sharing your vision, that must involve making sure that your employees understand how you want your customers to feel about their interactions with your dealership. What kind of emotional connections are they being asked to make or encourage?

Arming Your Staff With the Right Tools to Succeed

From a practical and more measurable perspective, there’s a great deal of strategic value to focusing resources on the exact things that your customers aren’t expecting you to do well. The Capgemini research that found more than half of car buyers would change dealers over poor customer service during the car-buying process also identified areas where dealers had the most ground to make up to meet their expectations: Quality of answers from dealer staff, speed of customer service and proactiveness by staff. All of those are measurable and go directly to customer experience.

Fortunately, these are exactly the areas in which automotive analytics tools such as Market EyeQ can help dealers make huge strides. When dealership employees proactively receive the information they need about a customer, the quality of their interactions improves along with the speed with which they’re able to address customer needs.

Additionally, behavior prediction tools offer dealers an unparalleled opportunity to move from a reactive to proactive model for many customer interactions, improving the customer experience to meet their expectations . They also deliver additional measurement and management tools, empowering dealership leaders to constantly review, update and effectively manage their strategy.

Are you interested in seeing how Mastermind’s solutions can power a transformative dealer customer experience management strategy? Contact us today to set up a free demonstration.Check out our other dealership marketing blog posts.

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