Filling a customer’s needs online is only the beginning. In Canada, many local dealers are not yet at the point of completing vehicle sales over the Internet. So following up a positive online visit with a positive real-world experience at the actual dealership is crucial.
How can your dealership’s Web site and store work together to meet the needs of people in your community? You must ensure your Web site complements your day-to-day business, and vice versa. Here are nine ways to make that happen.
1. Represent yourself accurately
You must accurately portray your dealership’s atmosphere and values in order for your Web site to attract the type of customer you are looking for in the real-world.
2. Deliver what you’ve promised
Harmonize your online claims and directives with your real-world procedures to ensure that customers receive exactly what you have promised. That means you should read descriptions of your products, services, procedures and location and ask yourself how closely these agree with what a customer would experience at your dealership. If you find discrepancies or claims that are unrealistic or impractical, then either what is stated on your Web site must be changed or your established procedures must be more thoroughly implemented and enforced in real life.
3. Establish an Internet Sales Protocol
If you have an Internet Sales Manager who is responsible for cultivating sales via the Internet, (or a representative who receives a lead from the Internet) make sure that he and all other salespersons at your dealership understand the process for properly directing that customer and completing the sale at the dealership. Not all customers realize that they should ask for a specific sales representative who has been helping them online, and may quickly get scooped up by another anxious salesperson when they come in the door. Therefore, having salespersons and customers familiarized with the step-by-step process makes for a smoother experience for the customer and maintains morale within sales representatives at the dealership.
4. Get your employees online
All (and we mean all) dealership employees should familiarize themselves with your site’s information and features, especially those that relate to their department or daily tasks. This prepares them to accurately answer an online user’s questions, direct customers to applicable areas of the Web site, and promptly follow up on any appointments and requests that come through the Web site.
5. Get your receptionists on board
Receptionists are often the first point of contact an individual has when telephoning or visiting your dealership. Make sure they are very aware of what information or tools are available online and that they take the opportunity to highlight these to customers. Also, if you have decided to perform certain tasks strictly online (such as accepting job applications), it is kind to inform them of this, showing them where an individual would go online to complete that task, and asking them to refuse in-person submissions at the reception desk. This helps to draw the public to your Web site, training them to look first for information online so they do not have to tie up your employees by inquiring about repetitive information, such as the dealership’s address or hours of operation. Show the receptionist how doing so will save them time in the future.
6. Make your money work harder
Make sure you take advantage of all the online tools and Web pages you’ve created so that they truly promote the dealership. What ways can you expand what you have? Say, for example, that you have an area of your Web site to promote the service department. Can you make that section work harder and become more directly profitable by offering coupons or advertising specials to make that section a recurring destination for repeat customers? Remember that adding to or updating your Web site will cost less than running a newspaper ad and is able to reach a boundless audience.
7. Keep up-to-date
Keep your Web site products and photos (such as vehicle listings) and information (such as hours of operation, staff directory and current specials) up-to-date to reflect what is actually happening right now at the dealership. But in order to keep up-to-date, you must 1) designate responsibility and 2) set a schedule.
8. Designate responsibility
One big thing often lacking in the management of dealership Web sites is a chain of responsibility. Think about it. If you wouldn’t expect the person sitting closest to the reception desk to be the receptionist, then why should the person who seems the least busy or who sits nearest your server be the one to manage your online marketing? You likely can see that if there is no one appointed, it’s quite likely that the task will be neglected. Each department should designate an individual who periodically reviews the information posted on the Web site for that department and who notifies of changes to information, current specials, and so on. If your dealership is running a blog or newsletter system, make sure there is someone responsible for assembling its content, writing it and preparing images, and also if necessary someone to check their work and arrange for its final publication. Also designate one primary individual as a liaison between the dealership and the Web designer/developer to reduce the miscommunications that involving too many people can create.
9. Set a schedule and stick to it
Make sure that everyone designated for updates knows what and how often they should be checking and updating and that they follow through. Doing so means that things will happen on time and within each quarter’s budget. It also means that the information will be accurate, which contributes over time to making your Web site a reliable information source for the public.
Can you think of any further ways that an automotive dealership could make its Web site and physical location cooperate better? How could the management and staff work to overcome common challenges in making this work in the real world? We’d love to hear your comments.