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How Not to Lose Customers to Dealership Complacency

News and Insights October 31, 2022

By: Fuse
9 minute read

As a car dealer, you know it’s important to keep your customers happy. But what happens when complacency kicks in? The short answer: you’ll start to lose customers to your competitors. 

After all, the automotive industry is constantly evolving. Markets rise and fall, customer desires and attitudes shift, and we’re continually seeing new competitors and advanced technologies emerge. As soon as you rest on your laurels, you may find yourself falling behind.

So how do you stay ahead of the curve and avoid losing customers to complacency? This article explores the importance of innovation in the automotive industry and why dealerships must always strive to grow.

The Importance of Innovation in the Automotive Industry

In today’s competitive market, car dealerships are under pressure to innovate to attract and retain customers. Technology, customer service expectations, and the sales process itself all play a role in client acquisition. So how can you resist lax behavior — especially with dealership profits at record levels through Q1 2022 — and push your customer experience to the next level?

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Meeting rising consumer expectations

Savvy buyers have more information at their fingertips than ever before and are not afraid to use it. From price comparison sites that showcase the best deals to forums that answer their vehicle-related questions, prospective customers can benefit from using digital resources to reduce their reliance on advice from dealership salespeople. This leads to high expectations that dealerships must satisfy.

In the past, visiting a car dealership in person was the primary way customers would interact with dealers. However, that’s no longer the case. With technological advancements, customers are now communicating with dealers through digital marketing channels long before an in-person visit. 

Social media, online ads, and email campaigns are some of the ways dealers reach target audiences. As a result, it is more important than ever to have a strong online presence. Prospective customers expect a sleek, user-friendly website and like to see an up-to-date social media presence. By investing in the right automotive marketing trends, you can stay ahead of the competition and better connect with your customers. 

Related Read: Essential Digital Marketing Strategies for Car Dealerships

essential digital marketing strategies for car dealerships

Reviews can also be incredibly influential – according to Motoring Research, 91% of drivers aged 18 to 34 place as much trust in online reviews as in word of mouth. From dealership cleanliness to customer service and pricing, a review can make or break a customer’s decision to go with your business. Managing your online reputation is a vital part of growing your customer base.

Consumer dissatisfaction with the car buying experience

However, it’s not all about digitalization. Keeping up with the latest industry trends and providing outstanding customer service are also essential for finding new ways to impress customers.

Think about how you can manage common pain points in the auto retailing customer experience, such as:

  • The length of the car-buying process
  • Pressure from salespeople
  • The expense – and feeling the need to haggle 
  • An unclear pricing structure
  • Complicated and time-consuming paperwork
  • Too many points of contact during the sales process

In short, the car-buying process can be time-consuming, uncomfortable, and expensive for many customers. The good news is that these pain points allow car dealerships to innovate and improve the buying experience.

Related Read: What Dealerships Can Learn from Saturn

what dealerships can learn from saturn

Integrating the online and offline automotive customer experience

When it comes to pain points, a survey by CDK Global indicates that 41% of polled car buyers cite needlessly waiting at a dealership as their biggest issue. So it’s worth considering how you can minimize how long a customer spends at your dealership by integrating your online and offline services. 

With so many prospective customers starting their car buying journey online, how can you create a seamless transition from desktop to dealership? Software solutions — like Fuse Dynamic Payments, Digital Retail, and Transact – can help you attract buyers online and complete transactions in-store while ensuring consistent pricing.

In addition, it’s beneficial to include informational resources on your website to help customers find answers to common questions. Not only will this drive traffic to your site, but it will also help build trust and encourage online customers to visit your dealership in person. 

Faltering brand loyalty in the automotive industry

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Building trust is another vital aspect of meeting customer expectations. By showcasing relevant knowledge and positioning your team as industry experts, you’re more likely to attract customers – and, crucially, retain them. 

Brand loyalty is another issue to consider. Car dealerships are under more pressure than ever to keep customers coming back. Customers might have been loyal to a particular car manufacturer or their local dealer in the past. But now, with technology giving customers near limitless car buying options, loyalty is something that has to be earned. 

You must work hard to build trusting customer relationships while providing the best possible experience. This means being transparent about pricing, offering competitive deals, and making the car buying process as smooth and hassle-free as possible. It’s also important to remember that customer loyalty can’t be taken for granted – it needs to be earned and maintained. Become complacent, and customers may look to competitors for future purchases and services. 

Related Read: What Would Apple Do?

what would apple do

5 Tips to Get More Leads on the Lot

Before you work on building brand loyalty, however, you need to get more leads on your lot. Creating an inviting space with exceptional customer service and staff that go the extra mile will draw prospective customers to you. The better the quality of service you provide onsite, the more likely it is that visitors will, firstly, make a purchase and, secondly, recommend your dealership to others – via online reviews and word of mouth.

Here are some services and offers you could provide to avoid complacency and exceed customer expectations.

1. Develop creative promotions 

Customers are tempted by car dealership promotions. Whether it’s a discount on the purchase price or a free service, most people appreciate a special offer or savings. However, while any dealership can offer money off or include a complimentary service with a vehicle, you need to do more to stand out from the crowd.

What do your customers want? Perhaps they require vehicle drop-off services or would appreciate a free gift card. Carry out market research to discover what appeals most to your target customers and offer personalized offers where feasible.

Thinking creatively about promotions can also yield high success rates. Consider how you can sell a lifestyle rather than a car. Help customers envisage where their vehicle can take them and what opportunities a car from your dealership can open up. Coupons to local travel destinations, such as ski resorts, could be an appealing and unique perk. 

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2. Offer 24-hour test drives

The option to take a car home for a day offers clear value to prospective customers. A quick trip around the block gives a very surface-level idea of what a vehicle is like and how it will fit into a customer’s lifestyle. A 24-hour test drive – like this clever “Doin’ Donuts” campaign Carmax did with Dunkin’ – allows potential buyers to experience the car in a variety of different driving conditions and to get a feel for how it handles. In addition, it will enable them to test out the car’s features and see if it is the right fit for their needs. 

Offering a 24-hour test drive can grant customers peace of mind that they are making the right decision. It’s also another excellent way to build trust. The customer will know that you’re not trying to push an unsuitable car on them and you’ll also indicate that you trust them. All of this can help develop a more positive dealer-customer relationship — which is vital in engendering brand loyalty.

Related Read: Innovation & Culture Change: Dealership Cultures Are Grown, Not Bought

Cultures Are Grown Not Bought

3. Form app partnerships

Along with extended test drives and creative dealership promotions, you could look into app partnerships to create a tempting offer. By partnering with apps that provide convenient on-demand services or monitor maintenance needs, you can show customers that you care beyond the initial sale. 

You also could try offering free or low-cost add-ons, such as on-demand valet, fuel, or car wash services. If these services are already on the customer’s radar, they’re likely to appreciate the value of the offering. If not, you’ll be able to introduce them to benefits they may not have already realized were available. 

Either way, you’re offering something that sweetens the deal and will build a stronger relationship with them long-term. When doing so, ensure your staff avoids employing pushy sales tactics. Instead, consider adopting a truly customer-first dealership business model.

Related Read: Single Point of Contact: 5 Benefits of SPOC for Dealerships

Single Point of Contact: 5 Benefits of SPOC for Dealerships

4. Provide spa services

It may seem an unusual addition, but high-end amenities can transform the customer experience when waiting at a dealership. With many car buyers dreading the process of visiting dealerships due to long waits, the fear of pushy salespeople, and the expense, creating a relaxing environment can make all the difference.

Rather than lowering prices, some innovative car dealerships now offer free massages, manicures, and other services to make waiting enjoyable. Whether customers are purchasing a car or getting an oil change, they can enjoy a bit of pampering. The idea is to create a pleasant experience from the moment a prospective customer walks onto your lot. They’ll feel looked after and appreciated, and will be in a better frame of mind to purchase.

5. Upscale your food

Similarly, upgrading your food offerings can create a more luxurious experience that leaves a lasting impression. Instead of installing basic vending machines or offering low-quality coffee, consider investing in a cafe with fresh food. Customers can unwind and enjoy good food while waiting for their car maintenance services or paperwork to finalize. 

Again, what may appear a surface-level offering can make a real difference, putting your customers in a more positive mindset. They’ll appreciate the extra attention and are more likely to make well-informed decisions on a full stomach.

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Become an Innovative Car Dealership with Fuse

While you may have established a strong customer base, it’s vital to remember that automotive retail is always evolving. Harnessing innovative technology, focusing on building positive client relationships, and going the extra mile with a fully-transparent, negotiation-free buying experience can all contribute to staying relevant in an ever-changing industry. Avoid complacency and ensure your business is always striving for excellence.

For help transitioning to a truly innovative customer-first approach that drives market share growth, contact the team at Fuse today.

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