As this trend toward zero contact not only continues but has been expedited thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, brick-and-mortar dealerships will need to practice nothing short of excellent customer service to remain competitive.
For years, dealerships have attempted to differentiate themselves and compete with e-retailers by offering consumers top-tier online and mobile experiences. Doing so has resulted in dealers purchasing new technologies: new digital retailing tools for their websites, online e-sign providers, lead-capture mechanisms, email automation, and texting solutions, just to name a few.
Many DMS providers offering these tools tout seamless integrations and good user experience but in reality, are selling a “Frankenstein model” of bolt-on tools that are awkwardly connected and poorly adopted. The dependency on disparate solutions creates major disconnects in the customer journey, creating more administrative work and manual data entry for dealership employees. In addition, the disjointed processes and lack of automation between multiple systems creates data sync issues, data loss, and an overall poorly managed experience for the customer from online to in-store.
So why does providing a great customer experience online remain such a challenge for dealership operations? Chances are that the challenge stems from the shortcomings of the technology in the dealership, not in the dealership’s desire to meet customers’ needs.
Most traditional DMSs were fundamentally not designed as eCommerce platforms. Dealerships equipped with such tech currently have their hands tied trying to compete in the growing zero-contact world to which consumers have grown accustomed. The foundational tools dealerships have historically used to operate their business simply aren’t built for the task.
These now-outdated tools have mostly served as online lead generators, forcing customers to make some kind of contact — in person, by phone or by email — to negotiate a price, sign a document, provide documentation, or service their vehicle. That’s where the disconnects from the online to in-store customer experience begin, when manual intervention is required, and data doesn’t seamlessly transfer from one retail or service platform to the next.
The best customer experience is the one that allows them to complete any or every stage of the buying process in person, online, and on their own time.
It all boils down to this: customers want convenience and flexibility, and dealership tools need to support these desires. When the pandemic is in the history books, retail automotive will emerge into a new world of convenience and flexibility for consumers. The dealerships that adapt now and prepare for this new normal will compete and win in their markets.