Let’s see where we are in the New Year, with dealerships closing down daily (we have heard of at least 20 more earmarked for closure in early 09) who will negotiate their way out of this recession best? Who will emerge strongest? What will the structure of car sales look like afterwards? Well there is no doubt about one thing, manufacturers will have a huge role to play in ensuring that the dealers who represent them can keep trading successfully, and that means an end to expensive showroom refurbishments, oppressive standards and un-realistic bonus structures. If a franchised motor retailer is to represent his brand successfully he must be allowed to do it profitably, and if that happens and volumes improve accordingly then customers will not only feel the benefit of better value cars but also much improved all round service.
Staff in dealerships will be much more inclined to provide an excellent customer experience because now, unlike over the last 10 years when finding qualified, dedicated and committed sales staff was like discovering the secret of alchemy, these people realise that there are some very skilled people who are not working and therefore would jump at the chance if someone is not prepared to put in the hard yards.
According to our research and obviously talking to people across all aspects of the trade, it has become clear that providing good customer service has become a game between dealer and manufacturer with the latter paying bonuses on good customer satisfaction surveys and dealers virtually bribing customers to give good marks in order to ‘earn’ the bonus. Is this really caring for customers though? What I believe most customers would appreciate from any retail business, especially in the motor trade where bad advice or misleading information can be financially disastrous, is very straightforward, professional help, value for money products, honesty, great communication and a feeling that staff actually want customers in their showroom.
I was in a well known sports retailer yesterday and there were sales banners and hype wherever I looked but on approaching 3 members of staff to help with a query, one made eye contact and quickly looked away, one actually walked away whilst the third who actually did help merely gestured to where I may find what I was looking for. It will be no surprise to me when this big sports chain finally goes under because there was no structure, seemingly no leadership and just lots of spotty kids in tracksuits just waiting to get down the pub for their Christmas alcopop fest!
The retailers who will win follow the simple laws of people, process and leadership and treat every customer and every penny as if they were their own. When identifying which dealers manufacturers choose to assist in these tough times, you can be sure that the ones still standing will follow these principles and in theory car dealer groups and consumers alike should start to enjoy a more mutually beneficial relationship in the future
Here’s to that Utopia!
Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year from Motor Trade Insider!