2020 has been a rollercoaster to say the least, and we are only half way through. It seems like a year ago that I was trying to figure out what was happening with Joe Exotic, and now we are here trying to understand where we are in the industry, what our realistic expectations should be, and how to recover/thrive in our new normal. Adjustments have monopolized our time, and the one thing that stays constant is that customers are our major focus, and they are not slowing down their habits.
Here is what we know
March and April were dreary at best. Sales fell 70% in some cases, and everyone was stuck in a bubble of social distancing, quarantine, and fear. Manufacturers halted production, slowing down/stopping the supply chain, and we were all left scratching our heads.
Some reflected on the lessons learned from 2008-09, but this was a completely different scenario. The industry was projecting a $10 million SAAR, and dealerships were furloughing their teams in hopes of bringing them back once the shelter orders had lifted. There were hopes of a V shaped recovery, but the data was not pointing to that at the time.
Then May and June came in strong. According to Bloomberg, the U.S. auto market has recovered as fast as it fell, making a V shaped recovery more realistic. The SAAR has jumped back to 13.2 million, still well short of projections prior to Covid, but much better than the $10 million we were anticipating.
Customers are searching for vehicles, are visiting dealership websites, and are taking action at record pace.
Overall retail is up 17.7% MoM, and the auto industry is pulling itself out of this quicksand.
That is not to say that everything is fine and automotive is/will fully recover. However, we have an opportunity to reach our customers and cannot afford to miss one single engagement.
Here is what we need to do
March and April brought us furloughed employees and skeleton crews at the dealership. BDCs, who are the front-line of engagement and the voice of the dealership were hit particularly hard. Now is the time to re-imagine, re-think, and re-build. Leads are coming in, customers are taking action, and they need to be engaged with quickly and with the correct information needed to move forward with their decision. Here are three areas of action that will yield results if you stay consistent with your focus and energy on them:
Evaluate your current engagement situation
Take this opportunity to re-evaluate your BDC and/or sales team’s approach to lead response. Whether you are a large organization with a centralized BDC, or a dealership who handles everything in house, now it is more important than ever to put your focus on responding to the customer quickly, with the information they requested, in the manner they desire (email, call, text, chat).
Also, review and analyze your responses/templates that are going out to your customers. Many times there are templates that have not been adjusted since the pandemic, and the language can come off as tone deaf or not relevant.
Finally, when evaluating your customer engagements, take the time to listen to some of the incoming and outgoing calls. What is the energy level of the agent? Does the agent listen to the customer and answer questions? How does the agent overcome objections to the appointment? This is something that generally falls to the side because we are so busy, but there are some amazing teachable moments that can come from this.
Rebuild/Build/Partner with a BDC or Engagement Platform
If your BDC is something that has not been your priority, you need to make it one now. Bring your staff back to capacity. Make sure that you have enough to handle the volume of leads that you receive. Remember, one BDC agent can handle about 100 - 125 leads. And then there is continuous long term follow-up as well. Set the team up for success and make sure each member has a reasonable and actionable amount of leads.
And if you do not have the staff or the ability to hire more staff to handle these leads, look into a strong automotive specific, U.S. based Virtual BDC who can answer leads quickly, set appointments, and know your dealership well.
Train your staff to always put customers first and be creative with communication
Regardless of what your previous process was, now is the time to initiate strong training to ensure that you have a customer-first mentality with your potential consumers. This all begins with the First Quality Response and/or first interaction with your dealership and brand.
Call your store as a training activity. Take note of how quickly you get connected with who you are looking for. Or note the transfers, the disconnections, and the wait time. Use of mobile devices to search has overtaken desktop, which means click to calls have increased as well. Make sure the first experience a customer has is a positive one.
Also, review some of the First Quality Responses with the team and discuss how to make them more informative, actionable, and personal without adding length. What are some elements that will bring value to the customer? And is there a person looking at these responses before they go out?
If you need an expert opinion on your FQRs or any training tips, BCP is here to help! Reach out and we will connect you with one of our engagement experts.
- Make sure you and your team have a customer first mentality--starting with the very first interaction they may have with your store
- Get your BDC /Service BDC up to full capacity
- Train Train Train-- know what your main goals and objectives are, and then make sure every person involved is trained on them. You have to teach every expected outcome you desire