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Improving Dealership Customer Interaction Through Automation

( Published Monday, November 06, 2017)

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There are things computers do well and there are things people do well.

You wouldn't balance your company's books with an abacus and a pencil. Nor would you want a computer to try to sell cars to your customers.

The trick is to automate the jobs that should be automated and leave the delicate art of human interaction to the employees.

If you strike the right balance between automation and humanity, your staff will be more productive, your customers will be happier, and your profits will go up. But if you insist on assigning your staff menial, repetitive tasks and asking your computers to form relationships with clients, you and your company won't last long.

Technology Vs. Humanity


It's important to recognize that technology is meant to make life easier for people, not for computers. 

For example, a good computer system will know everything that is happening in a car dealership—when customers check into the service department, visit your website, and call your dealership. Computers know what, when, where, and how every single communication or interaction is happening within your walls. Computers operate 24 hours a day without needing a break. They operate 7 days a week without a complaint. Computers can accomplish a thousand tasks a minute with ease— a feat beyond even the most efficient person. 

The problem? Computers can't do anything intelligent with this information. That's where people come into the picture. 

People are better at things that require an understanding of the nuances of human behavior. If a customer walks into a showroom to look at a car, he could have thousands of questions and may not know the right terms and phrases to use. Only a person can help this customer. People can solve problems and make decisions. A good sales person can anticipate all the possible questions and develop a comfortable, trusting relationship that's required before most customers are prepared to make a big purchase, like the purchase of a vehicle. A good mechanic can reassure a client that repairs can be made when his car is towed into the shop, or decide that a client should be moved up into a new vehicle and that it is time to bring in the sales force. These are decisions that require the skill and precision of an experienced professional— not a computer. 

Technology and Humanity Working Together

What if you could combine the strengths of people with the strengths of technology? What if you could take the knowledge and information and efficiency offered by technology and give it to people when they most need it—even before they think to go seek it out, when they still have the opportunity to make the best decision possible?

What if you could free up workers' time by taking all the repetitive, low-value-added tasks that are necessary to run a dealership and give them to computers, and then take all the useful information generated by computers and give it to the newly liberated people? What if your team was able to access technology in a manner that is completely not just natural to them, but with a sense of urgency that remains non-intrusive?

The result would be more efficient, more productive, and more effective people who operate at lower costs and achieve higher sales.

The Power of Properly Applied Automation


When you use automation's strengths to bolster the weak points in your business, you'll find that 

  • Automated Appointment Scheduling—Not too long ago, golfers had to call a person in a pro shop to book a tee time. Especially for weekend times, the pro-shop employee was usually rushed and often the line was busy because of the flood of calls. Now, golfers can simply call the number and, through simple technology, set an appointment without any help from the busy employees. At golf courses with such systems, there are no busy signals, callers need to spend only a minute or two on the phone, and the golf course employee has time to do other jobs in the pro shop, like sell golf equipment, which brings in more money.
    Using the same technology that books a tee time for four golfers in under a minute, a car owner can book a service appointment even faster. Automated booking systems allow customers to schedule an appointment with instant results. Simply requesting an appointment won't work, because that just creates more work for the staff member who will have to confirm the time. But if the client can call the dealership at 9:00pm on Sunday and get a confirmed appointment for Monday, that saves work for the dealership and is more convenient for the car owner.

  • Reestablish Customer-Sales Relationships —Car dealerships know when a customer is expected in for an appointment. And when a client brings his car in at the service department, you've probably got a check-in system that logs the client's visit into a database as soon as they're on the premesis. Why not set up a notification system that alerts the service department to call the salesperson who sold the customer their car, informing them that the customer is in on-site? Then, the salesperson can re-establish the relationship with the customer, and maybe even get him thinking about upgrading. The salesperson can offer a test drive in a newer model while he waits for the service department.

  • Automated Call Tracking— Thanks to today's technology, systems can easily be set up to track a variety of factors related to incoming and outbound phone calls, including:

    • When calls come in
    • Where calls come from
    • How long it takes for calls to be answered
    • How many calls go to voice mail
    • How many calls are abandoned
    • Who answered the calls
    • Where the calls were transferred

      If the majority of calls come in at 10 a.m. and then again at 5 p.m., then it would be prudent to schedule staff to cover those peaks. If hundreds of calls go unanswered over lunch, you're probably losing business. If a particular employee never answers his customers' calls, it might be time to get a new employee. What if your phone system told you exactly how many calls were received based on that ad, how many of those calls were answered, and how many led to sales? What if your phone system could play a record of every phone call received by a salesperson who was struggling to close a lead? These answers could revolutionize your marketing campaign as well as your training processes, making both more effective. 

  • Automated Reminder Calls—  Auto dealerships lose revenue when a service bay sits idle because a client forgets to drop off their car. Customers are frustrated with themselves for forgetting. To reduce no-shows, service staff will make dozens of calls a day to remind people about appointments, but that means they have less time to deal with the people in their offices or answer incoming calls. Why not harness the power of technology to make those simple reminder calls? The computer won't even mind calling on a weekend to remind a client of an appointment first thing Monday morning! The computer can ask the client if they can make the appointment, and cancel it for them if they speak the word No. The clients will appreciate the information and the staff can focus on other things, like selling and filling the appointments that got cancelled. 
  • Improve Response Time— Most websites offer a form to visitors to request additional information about the business. Unfortunately, too many visitors spend valuable time filling out these forms and never receive the requested information. At best, this doesn't reflect well on the business's commitment to customer service, and at worst the visitor might write off the business altogether.  Why not utilize technology to set up a system that will notify a salesperson as soon a form is filled out? Whether the system calls or emails the sales pro, it can offer up the prospect's email address and phone number as well as any other pertinent information. The salesperson can be in touch with the client in minutes. Additionally, this system can alert the sales manager that a salesperson was tapped to reach out to a prospect, giving them the information they need to know that the client was served. 

Is Automation Right For Your Business? 

There is a myth that people don't like to deal with computers and automated systems. The truth is that they do—when the systems are helpful.

They're helpful when they do what they do best: processing vast amounts of information quickly and accurately. Their strengths do not include selling, developing relationships, or handling complaints. Those skills require a knowledge of human language and social norms that computers are still decades away from mastering. This is why traditional tools like CRMs are limited in their ability to help you sell.

In all cases, the solutions we discussed here allow the customer to be in control. It's the customers who choose to make the appointment to get their car repaired or inquire about the features of your business;  they don't need to know about the technology at work behind the scenes. They just use the phone as they always have and the company takes care of the rest.

Does it work? Well, the results speak for themselves. The companies free up time for the staff to deal more effectively with customers, and the customers interact with companies the way they want, when they want, making their lives easier, too. It's a win/win situation for everyone. 

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