Your goal as a business is to make money. Seems pretty straightforward, right? But how do you continue to do that in a crowded marketplace that is filled with consumers who have desensitized themselves against a constant barrage of marketing? It all comes down to your ability to cultivate relationships. Think about specific brands and stores that have earned your loyalty. Whether through exceptional communication, excellent service, or great product offerings, they have found the key to instilling a feeling of confidence and loyalty, ensuring you continue to return—along with your hard-earned dollars. It’s the same for your customers; by providing nothing less than excellence, you will gain consumer trust and brand loyalty. Shoppers will not only continue to return to your dealership, but chances are, they’ll also share their great experiences with their friends and acquaintances, boosting your potential customer base in the process.
Because every shopper is unique, building relationships requires you to focus on the individual needs of consumers and listen to their feedback in order to gain insight and perspective regarding what appeals to them. Trust is defined in a variety of ways, but in general, when you offer consistent, reliable service and outstanding customer care, your client-business relationships will thrive.
As Customer Service Expert Shep Hyken says, “There’s a big difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal customer. Never settle for satisfied.” By providing an outstanding experience you’ll end up with shoppers who are likely to return in the future, and you’ll also increase the likelihood those shoppers will share their experience with their social circles, which will increase your visibility in the marketplace. Today’s economy and crowded market don’t leave any room for mere satisfaction; instead, it’s imperative everyone at your dealership continually search for ways to improve the shopper experience and strive for excellence. That is what will earn loyalty and turn your customers into advocates for your brand.
One of the challenges you face is standing out in your market and showing customers why you should be their dealership of choice. We already know consumers are increasingly mobile as they shop and research, and this trend extends to the automotive industry. In order to keep up with tech-savvy consumers who are focused on quick results and near-immediate gratification, your dealership will need to continually evolve and remain focused on providing high-quality service and innovative customer care. Check out the following for some great places to start:
1. Listen everywhere. Even before customers set foot on your lot, you should be listening to what they’re interested in, what’s driving their purchasing decisions, what motivates them in the marketplace. Don’t just listen in the dealership; listen in the places consumers are talking and interacting the most. Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms will give you great insights into shopper needs and pain points and will steer you in the right direction when it comes to providing exactly what people are looking for even before they show up at the dealership. By engaging shoppers online, you’ll be more likely to earn trust and turn clients into advocates.
2. Be a helper. We all know the car-buying process can be stressful at best, and downright frustrating at times. In fact, according to Autotrader, a mere 14 people out of 4,002 surveyed say they prefer the car-buying process exactly as it is today. That figure alone tells us consumers are demanding changes because of the overall discomfort experienced throughout the process. So take it upon yourself to ease the burden whenever you can by anticipating needs, simplifying the process when possible, shortening wait times, and providing comfortable areas when longer wait times can’t be avoided. The little things really do add up to a meaningful experience. Customers will want to share the great things your dealership offers, and it won’t be long before their advocacy pays off as word spreads about your business.
3. Say thanks. If you take a look at a map of your region, you’ll probably be able to pinpoint quite a few competitors within driving range of your dealership. That means every customer that sets foot onto your lot has a choice—and they chose you. Make sure you let customers know you are genuinely grateful for that. There are many ways your gratitude shines through: Offer free coffee and water, ensure your entire staff is friendly and professional, give balloons to kids, and finally, simply express your gratitude by saying, “Thank you for your business.” When your customers feel appreciated, they’ll be more likely to share their experiences with friends. And don’t forget—when your clients advocate for you online, be sure to interact and give them a nice shout-out there, too!
4. Be an online presence. Most consumers say online reviews are extremely helpful when it comes to deciding which vehicle to purchase—and from whom to purchase it. So it’s important your dealership maintain an online presence, keep an eye on your reputation, and offer capabilities like auto review and comparison tools. Consumers now get a majority of their product information from online sites, so be sure you’re where the shoppers are and are able to offer the information they’re looking for. As one online shopper pointed out, “I could never imagine sinking money into something expensive like a car without looking it up online.” When more consumers start to look to your dealership as a resource, they’ll also advocate for you and spread the word about what you offer online.
5. Be fun. There are somber occasions which require us to maintain a certain degree of propriety—but buying a car doesn’t have to be one of them. In fact, buying a car should be fun. For most people, a vehicle is the second-largest expense (next to housing) they will incur, so it’s a little stressful, but it should also be exciting. Sure, there are serious things to accomplish—like financing and negotiating—but when it’s all said and done, your customers should be able to celebrate their shiny, new purchase. Don’t be afraid to lighten things up and have a little fun in your marketing, add some bells and whistles to the buying process, and toss a little confetti on the showroom floor. (You can sweep it up—we promise.) Customers who have a more enjoyable experience are more likely to emerge as advocates for your dealership.
When you differentiate yourself as a leader in the industry, your customers will begin to see you as a desired business partner. You won’t just be “that place to buy cars.” Instead, you’ll transform your dealership into a destination—a place that offers a complete car-buying experience. From the beginning stages of engagement and product research to test drives to getting your customers painlessly through the paperwork process, make your dealership the one that’s known for providing over-the-top customer care and seamless service, and it will pay off in more ways than one. You’ll have happy customers, sell more cars, and motivate consumers to advocate for your business. Their word-of-mouth advocacy and online support will be priceless when it comes to advancing your business to the next level, and you simply can’t buy that kind of consumer loyalty.