“People buy people”, but they use business processes to do it.
According to SMMT.co.uk, second-hand car sales declined in Q3 by 2.1% and though sales overall are steady this got me thinking about the processes that support the industry.
Car dealerships are traditionally viewed as cut throat sales environments where any consumer brave enough to enter should be fully armed with their rights and possibly a coat of armour to protect them against hard selling techniques.
Nowadays, customers are far more savvy, and are more likely to have all the specs and necessary information to hand thanks to their phones. The traditional salesman has had to shed their glossy rock hard exterior and become more human in order to ensure a sale.
It also means that some of the magic is lost from the sales process and even though consumers don’t want to be ‘sold’ to they do want to be cared for and feel their significant purchase is taken seriously and with the utmost professionalism.
Immediately, I think of my own experience of buying car. I remember how I was left cold by one salesperson who fumbled through what felt like a pitch – none of which was focused on me – and left me with more questions than answers. None of the information I needed was transparent or easy to get hold of. (However they somehow managed to follow me up 3 years after my visit to see if I was ready for a new car.) This was annoying and further underlined their lack of interest in my needs. I don’t lay all the blame on the salesperson… perhaps the business manager should also have been held accountable as it seemed the tight tools to support the sale (my journey as a customer) were lacking.
People driven processes
In my working life, processes and the direct value they have to customers are at the centre of all efforts, meetings and tasks etc so I naturally believe that a dealership management solution should mirror other, effective and customer focused retail experiences. Ones that focus on the consumers’ wishes, that delivers information and support when and how it’s needed.
Perhaps a lack of enforced disciplinary authority within the industry is the reason why processes are so fractured and inward focused? The Motor Ombudsman (and their associated partners) to which sellers can voluntarily join, work tirelessly to bring all car sellers round the table and encourages them to meet a code of conduct that ensures sales are dealt with in a way that is beneficial and fair to all parties. However, despite a scattering of dealership focused solutions, there doesn’t seem to be a consistent ‘ best practice’ process that you see in other financially tied industries (insurance for example). Of course, car dealers within the UK have to align their operations to the Consumer Rights Act but even the most astute dealers could be tripped up unwittingly if the process they rely on fails.
So, what would the ideal dealership management process look like?
Best practice should include transparency across all points of the pre and post sales experience. This would need to apply to all documentation, which should then be easily accessible. Communications off the back of this should be at the customer’s request, at the time that suits them (…a text message to confirm a test drive appointment? Yes please!)
The experience should cover but not intrude upon, the times when a customer is quietly considering their options (this could be on or off the showroom floor) as it’s only when pushy sales tactics are deployed that customers would consider information offered to be untrustworthy. Open, honest information delivered at the right time can be perceived as helpful.
While we are on it, trustworthiness is a HUGE driver of consumer behaviour. So how can well executed processes build a sense of trust? Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Use processes to ensure you do and provide what you say you will.
- Workflow would allow you to ensure the best team member is on hand for the right client, that information is delivered as promised and that key requirements are met.
- Proper data management and document control ensures you only need to ask for information once, so if you are having to pass a customer around a team or through multiple departments they feel secure that you are on top of things. Having to repeat information or correct inaccurate details can derail trust and erode confidence in a dealer. Promises can must kept.
- Diaries and calendar management would be critical. By having your own and a cars availability to hand you can eliminate the risk of a customer losing interest by booking them in for a test drive (and sending a personalised confirmation notice there and then).
Good Sales people will always try to be and to deliver all of these things, but trying to keep on top of paperwork and track of a customer’s requirements can be cumbersome and get in the way of building a personal relationship. That’s why a close look needs to be taken into what the ideal process would look like so it can be automated and rolled out.
Automation doesn’t mean cold
Process automation isn’t about armies of robots ticking boxes, it’s really about taking monotonous routine tasks off the workload of people that need to be focusing on other things. These tasks should be focused on improving the customer journey and allowing room for authentic engagement with their customers which in turn will result in better relationships and a greater likelihood of purchase, then ongoing loyalty.
Technology in this sector is often focused on the vehicle rather than the forecourt but things are slowly changing… as better, faster and cheaper BPM and BPA solutions become more mainstream generally, larger organisations are becoming increasingly comfortable with exploring how it could apply to them.
A lot of my focus is how the customer can benefit (that’s my job after all) but some business functions will be more interested in how it will benefit the bottom line. Obvious improvements would be :
- Lower operational costs
- Higher frequency of sales
- Better value from each sale
- Better use of available resources
- More transparent and accurate analytics
So, dealership management process automation has the power to easily and quickly build better relationships with customers which in turn will give you an edge over your competitors without compromising on the quality of your sales.
If you would like to see your own process automated and improved, speak to the LEAP team and arrange a free of charge demo.
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