communication

Are You Throwing Customers Away Due to Lack of Communication Channels?

I was recently in need of a moving company. There was one in my community that had done such a great job of branding and building consumer awareness that I decided to give them first shot at my business. I WANTED to do business with them because of their brilliant marketing.

When I was ready to pull the trigger, I Googled their business name and went to their website searching for an email address so I could interact with them and get information via email.  However, when I landed on their website, the only contact option offered was to call them.

Well, I had seen their number all over the place already, on signs throughout the neighborhood, on the side of their vans, through paid search ads, organic search ads and their organic search listing. But that’s not how I wanted to communicate with them! I wanted to email them, as that is what I prefer, but they didn’t provide that option. So, guess what? I bounced from their website and searched for other companies that would allow me to communicate with them the way I felt comfortable communicating.

This is an interesting analogy as the same problem is so prevalent in our industry — Do you know how many times potential car buyers have moved onto your competition as you do not allow them to interact with you by their preferred method of communication?

If you aren’t offering every form of communication possible, or fail to clearly post all methods of contact throughout your website, you are probably losing potential vehicle sales and service opportunities more often than you think. Consumer preferences for how they wish to contact and interact with a dealership can vary greatly. Some want to call and talk to a live person. Some want to text. Some want to email. And now, with today’s technology, the younger crowd wants to communicate via live video stream – something most dealerships aren’t prepared for.

Regardless of how the customer wants to interact, my guess is that you want to sell them a car. If they are of the same mindset that I was, you could easily lose that opportunity by failing to provide the form of communication the customer wants to use. And therein lies the problem.

There are many generations in the market today buying vehicles – and each one (not just generations but people) prefer different forms of communication.  They may even prefer a different sort of communication at different times, or with different businesses. Imagine if I wanted to communicate with that moving company at 1:00am. I couldn’t even send them an email because all they had was a phone number!

Our goal shouldn’t be just to move shoppers through our sales funnel, it should be to make it easy for shoppers to move through our sales funnel.  To accomplish this, you must ensure that all your bases are covered when it comes to providing your customers – or potential customers – their preferred means of communicating with you.

If you are like most dealers, I am sure you try, unsuccessfully, to communicate with customers that submit lead forms all day long. Why make it difficult for them to engage with you when, in fact, they may really want to?

It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It

Those of you with spouses have probably heard this at least once: “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it!” Whether at home or at work, miscommunication can cause plenty of problems.

Have you ever misinterpreted the tone of an email that a colleague wrote to you? Perhaps you thought a tersely written email meant that person was angry, but in fact, they were just rushed. Or someone joked about something in an email, but you took offense because you thought they were serious?

Miscommunication is so common that it’s one of the main reasons why some dealerships require BDC staff and salespeople to use templates for customer communications. And it’s why some CEOs are issuing video recommendations to employees, instead of email memos.

Videos allow people to see how you’re saying something, leaving little room for error in the interpretation of what you’re saying. In fact, videos are so effective at expressing personality and tone that it’s become trendy for job seekers to send video resumes to prospective employers.

Let’s face it: a public perception still exists that in general, car dealers are not humble, caring or honest. One bad experience with an overeager or aggressive salesperson is all it takes to forever sour the car-buying experience for a consumer.

As a dealer, how do you change this perception? You could try creating marketing slogans and post them on your website, in ads and in emails, but words by themselves don’t have much impact. Online consumers are very adept at scanning information to find out what’s important to them; which isn’t necessarily what the dealership thinks is important. We all have the ability to ignore or visually ‘tune out’ messages right before our eyes.

When a consumer watches a video, however, it’s not as easy to tune out the message. Videos offer a multimedia experience with live action, sounds and sights, so the entire message is absorbed. Retention rises too. Video viewers retain 80% of what they hear and see in videos, versus just 10% of what they hear and 20% of what they see.

This is partly due to the fact that so much of our communication is non-verbal. Think about your own experiences. Have you ever had a customer service experience and were put off by the customer service rep, even though they were saying all the right things? Perhaps you believed the person wasn’t truly sincere. Or perhaps their tone started getting defensive, leaving you with the impression that they didn’t care about your problem.

When we communicate, we pick up multiple cues from facial expressions, gestures and tone. This happens largely on a sub-conscious level, but the end result–the emotion we feel–is very conscious.

If you’re looking for ways to improve customer perception and communications at your dealership, try creating the following videos.

  • A value proposition video that features a dealer or other company spokesperson showing, not telling, what your dealership has to offer
  • Vehicle walk around videos that generate emotion and excitement about your inventory
  • Customer testimonial videos that feature real customers saying nice things about your staff; these do a lot to alleviate car shoppers’ fears about a bad experience
  • Lead follow up videos from salespeople that engage car shoppers; if the salesperson comes across as likeable, these greatly increase the probability of response
  • Service videos that feature service staff help to build trust and the perception of honesty

Of course, you have to make sure that your videos are conveying not just the right message, but the right tone. When you first start to create videos, ask as many people as you can for their objective and true opinions. Don’t get emotionally attached to the videos you’ve created, and don’t get defensive if the feedback from others isn’t what you want to hear. The last thing you want to do it spend time and money creating videos that turn prospective customers off.

Video communication is powerful, so use it wisely. More than two million years of evolution has equipped most humans with the ability to accurately sense insincerity, arrogance and plain old hogwash. So say what you mean, and if you don’t truly mean it, don’t say it.

How to Use Video to Turn Leads Into Shows

by Tim James

All dealerships get leads that originate from the Internet. Not all dealers, however, are equal when it comes to how they handle these leads. Ever wonder why some dealers are able to close Internet leads at 12+ percent, while others struggle to reach 6 percent? The reason has everything to do with how these leads are handled – from speed of reply to the content in the reply itself.

One of the most powerful ways to communicate to today’s tech savvy customers is with video. It’s a highly effective form of communication because it engages the customer’s senses. It can help capture the customer’s attention and increase the amount of leads that turn into appointments.

There are three basic types of videos that I find work best when created and integrated into any lead follow up system :

  1. Lead Response Videos: When you receive a 3rd party Internet lead, chances are really good that lead also went to multiple other dealerships. This interested buyer then gets bombarded by e-mails and phone calls. Quite frankly, most of these responses are generic, contain no information, aren’t personalized and tend to start looking alike. Gain a competitive edge with your response — rather than simply send a template email, create a personalized video response that thanks the customers for the inquiry. Introduce yourself, mention the vehicle the customer inquired about and invite them in. Your video will stand out and make you the memorable one. Customers will also feel flattered that you took the time to create this video and realize that there is a real person communicating with them, not just a computer.
  1. Appointment Confirmation Videos: When you do get a customer that is interested in test driving a vehicle, it’s important to create a sense of obligation on their part. It’s proven that e-mails that contain videos get opened at a far higher rate than those that do not (especially when the word “video” is in the subject line). Create an appointment confirmation video and you can increase the chance that the customer will open and view it. In addition, use the video to tell them that you’re looking forward to seeing them and make it “personal” so they feel guilty if they blow you off and don’t show up. Let them know that you are doing something “for them” by making sure you have the vehicle cleaned up, pulled around and waiting for them…and offer to have an ice cold bottle of water or a cold Coca Cola waiting for them.
  1. Personalized Walkaround Videos: Nothing is stronger than sending a personalized walkaround video to your customers. The fact that you took the time to video and explain the features and benefits of the specific vehicle they inquired about JUST FOR THEM, can impress them and can also increase their interest level. People appreciate it when others go that extra mile to help them. Make your vehicle AND yourself memorable and you’ll have a better chance of building trust and rapport with your customer and, ultimately, getting them into your dealership.

Give one or two of these a try, I’m confident you’ll be impressed with the increase in the lead to appointment rates and appointment show rates that you receive.

Is your Internet Business Prepared for a Recession?

Published May, 2008 by Digital Dealer Magazine

You have heard a lot of rumors circulating about a recession in the United States. Whether it is true or not is a moot point. When I sat down to ponder this question I was hit with the concept that you should always be operating your dealerships as if you were in a recession and make sure every penny is accounted for while trying to squeeze everything you can out of each and every department, including the Internet.

Today I want to focus on your Internet business, which I break down into a couple of sections for ease of analysis.

Web sites and technology
I look at this section of the business as a rock hammer to a master mason. These are the tools you need to shape our business and achieve your desired outcome. What is most important is that you have the right tools in place and you are maximizing the utilization of the tools each and every day. There are great technologies out there that do all sorts of interesting things, but as my fiancé told me when we moved in together, “If you haven’t worn it in a year, throw it out.” I thought that made good sense or maybe she just wanted more closet space; I will never know. But in our business when you are not utilizing a specific technology or tool by 75 percent or more you are not getting the most out of the technology. So maybe it is time to try to live without it or get busy increasing your utilization of the tool. A great dealer friend of mine has always brought up a good point when referencing technology. He comments that 15 years ago we didn’t have any of this stuff, yet now I have all this great technology, but wonder whether it is really helping me sell more cars or just keep pace with the local marketplace.

Marketing
When was the last time you sat down and looked at your entire marketing spend and dissected it? I mean all of it. I walk into stores so often that they tell me they are spending 25k, yet after I go through the dealership doc I find out they are really spending about 40K because things are not being put into the advertising line of the statement correctly. Sometimes I hear that it got charged to this account because of this reason or that one goes there because of that reason etc. Is it advertising? Charge it to the right account. When you can get a complete 360 degree view of your advertising expenditures you can start to really focus what you are spending and where to help you create a more accurate cost per unit retailed figure.

Also, take the time to know what you are marketing and the messages that you are using. Are they in conjunction? Do they conflict? Your business is dependent on your ability to reach people in the marketplace and entice them to take action. Is your marketing doing that for your dealership?

Customer communication processes
This is one of the most overlooked and important areas of the Internet department. I know you set up your follow-up schedules when you first set up your CRM and you don’t think you need to tinker. As consumer buying habits mature online so should how you approach and manage these relationships. I would set up and print every letter in your CRM monthly and make changes. Also, change follow-up schedule length and timing. You would be amazed at how a few key tweaks can open a flood of activity within your existing lead management tool. You would be shocked that I still walk into stores that are using subject lines in their e-mail marketing and customer correspondence that I guarantee will be triggered by spam filters. Yet all you have to do is look online to see what words are triggering your messages to get spam-boxed and make sure none of your e-mails are using any of these keywords. Get involved; roll up your sleeves and dive in. Your business depends on it.

People capital
This area is still the one most dealers, including myself, struggle with almost daily. Finding the right people to execute the vision is another key piece of this puzzle to recession-proof your dealership. People are assets and must be trained and consistently driven to improve the dealership’s bottom line. Which means involving your team with not the typical, “We don’t have enough units out speech” but a much more hands-on approach to how their specific actions or inactions are affecting the operation. When people are genuinely brought into the picture a new level of teamwork happens. It takes a while but is well worth the effort. Take stock of your team and make sure your vision and message is being transferred throughout the dealership.

Today’s dealership challenges are difficult especially in the ever-changing Internet department, but with a little extra effort and some basic analysis you can watch your Internet sales grow: rain or shine, or recession.

Todd Smith is one of the leading authorities on Internet technology and its utilization in the retail automotive industry. For the past year Smith has been the general manager of a Northeast Chevrolet dealership putting into practice all the techniques he teaches. Lear, LLC, Smith’s consulting company, is focused on leveraging technology to enable other dealerships to sell more vehicles at a higher gross profit while reducing customer acquisition costs.

Source:

http://www.digitaldealer-magazine.com/index.asp?article=1906