"We'll get back to you soon."
How often we say this to our customers, and how truly we mean it. But in the last few years, what customers expect from us has changed radically. The truth is, yesterday's "soon" is today's "too late."
What happened? Digital happened. Smartphones have changed customer interactions across the retail experience. The dealership floor used to be the one big key to a sale, yet today's customers visit only 1.4 dealerships on average before they buy a car. They do their research on laptops and smartphones, and that's how many of them want to make their first contact with you. When they're used to texting friends all day with instant responses, they're not likely to wait 24 hours for a response from you.
That's one big reason why, by 2020, consumer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. How dealerships respond to, engage with and look after their consumers will become crucial to winning against the competition.
Now add in the element of excitement and anticipation that are a part of our business. With an investment this large, customers expect an exceptional response when they start the car-buying process. And rightly so! Even if they send an email at 10:00 at night, they expect to hear right back with a message telling them when and how they will hear from you.
A timely and friendly professional manner is just as important in the digital world as a greeting and smile on the showroom floor. If your sales team doesn't have these processes in place, now is the time to create them.
An old-fashioned plain-text auto-reply saying “Thanks for the enquiry, we’ll be in touch” isn’t enough for valued customers looking to spend thousands of pounds with you. They expect something more like an invitation: a nicely-designed HTML template with a more personalized message.
That kind of template is good for them and it's good for you: it can help boost the brand of your dealership instantly and build a consistent message with each subsequent contact. Those first automated emails should go out immediately, with a personal greeting and a promise that someone will be in touch within a few hours.
For first contacts from your website or lead portals, these high-quality responses don't have to be difficult. Information from the lead form can be plugged into your letters to show that you understand and value their enquiry and to set their expectation for your response. That's the beginning of a great customer relationship.
The best way to be there with speed and quality is through an integrated customer relationship management system -- a CRM. When you house all of your lead information in an integrated CRM, you're taking the biggest step towards creating and maintaining the high level of customer experience today's car buyers expect.
With first contact, an appointment can be put into a salesman's diary to make sure the lead is contacted immediately. A centralised CRM then allows all departments to view and add to the same customer record over time. Every member of your team can see what the customer has enquired about, how they've communicated with your dealership in the past, and how that was followed up. As the lead progresses into a sale and beyond, the CRM file becomes a true reflection of your relationship with your consumers.
Yes, yesterday's soon is today's too late. But with a powerful CRM, you can always be right on time.