Technology is Not Enough: Virtual Selling
Technology and automotive marketing have been synonymous for quite some time. Digital Retailing and AI did not instantly appear with Covid-19. Many experts have been preaching their need for years, but now technology has been pushed to the forefront because of our current social and world climate. Many dealers are scrambling to ensure they have all of their engagement components in place: Chat/Text, Digital Retailing, Video, and solid Email practices. The problem is, when you focus solely on technology and don’t take into consideration all the pieces to the puzzle, technology can become more harmful than helpful in your dealership.
Technology is not the most important aspect of Virtual Selling. People and Process are.
Many think that technology must and needs to be the leading factor in connecting with, engaging, and nurturing customers, but I don’t completely agree. Technology has its place, but much of sales still happen because of relationships and rapport built. As amazing as AI is, the relationship is not created there.
The magic comes when technology hands off to people at the dealership or your Virtual/ Offsite BDC.
If that statement scares you, you may need to take a look at who you have talking to your customers. Who are the “face” and “voice” of your dealership?
Let’s Follow the Customer Path
A customer visits your website or interacts with your Facebook page. From there, she/he is prompted to chat/text with your dealership.
When a customer asks specific buying questions to an AI bot, there can only be so many intelligent, machined learned responses before the conversation must be handed off to the dealership employee. By then, the customer has spent at least 5-8 minutes interacting with a bot, knowing they are not speaking with “Julie,” and now have to wait to be transferred to someone at the dealership or an off-site BDC agent. Depending on how that was set up with the provider, it could take 30 seconds or it could take 10 minutes. All of that time to wait for an answer the customer asked initially, but AI could not understand.
By the time the customer actually speaks to the person, she could be frustrated, much more limited on time, or much less inclined to give the agent the time needed to appropriately discuss the important elements of that call: What is the vehicle of interest? Do they have a trade-in? What are the “must-haves” in the vehicle? Is this for them or someone else? If we miss out on asking these questions and truly listening to the customer, we could miss out on the sale.
5 minute conversation
After studying appointments set/shown/sold, there was one factor that remained steady and that had a direct correlation to appointments shown. A 5 Minute Conversation. If the agent can speak with the customer for 5 minutes or longer, the likelihood of the appointment showing increases dramatically.
If the conversation is less, the likelihood of the appointment showing goes down as well.
It is the people that keep a conversation going. The people who ask the right questions and then stop talking and listen to the customer. The people who know what questions to skip to once they receive feedback front the customer.
And if the right people are in place, magic can happen.
So, what does this mean for dealerships? Should we stop aggressively looking for the right technology to automate elements? Should we dump the technology that we adopted 6 months ago and have not used?
Again, the magic is in the mix of technology and people.
What You Should Do
- When vetting new technological partners, make sure that they will fit into your people and process. If not, what adjustment will you have to make to optimize the tech?
- Ensure the technology is the right solution for your dealership and your staff. Just because something is shiny and new does not mean that it will move the needle at your dealership.
- Take a hard look at your people. We have been put in an interesting position where we have had time to gut our dealership and re-develop it. If the people are not right, it is time to hire ones who fit your cultural and work ethic.
- Build Rapport with your customers. Hire people who can build rapport.
Technology and People: Together they are better
People don’t have the time to complete all the processes that AI and Technology can automate. AI cannot adjust and pivot when odd questions are asked or when crisis occurs (like Covid-19). They are not built to adjust like that.
But, together, with the right training, support, and management, they can bring your dealership to levels it has yet to see.
So research and find the best digital retailing tool you can. Make sure your chat/ text is automotive specific. Hire a Virtual or Offsite BDC if you do not have one in place or trust who you previously had. But make sure all of these are working TOGETHER to showcase your dealership and surprise and delight customers.