The good news, which may also be a barometer for the overall economy, is that dealers are recruiting again.
The enquiry levels and recovering consumer confidence has, in recent months, led to businesses realising that to cope with the extra volume of customers and deliver the right kind of service, they need to have the correct amount of staff and this action is imperative.
Ironically when the recession first hit and all the dealer groups had to cut costs staff, seen as the most expensive cost within the showroom were, as always, the first to go as it was seen as a quick fix.
The reality slowly dawned that getting rid of vital assets like experienced staff meant missing profit opportunities by not being able to cope with the demand at peak times.
Another interesting factor may be that some senior management teams overestimated the effect of the recession on their business, overreacted to the daily headlines of doom and gloom and as a result have been caught short ever since. These knee jerk reactions to bad news have had far reaching consequences for many dealers and many are now seeing the light and recruiting sales staff once more, albeit a bit later than they might have done.
Nearly every complaint in the dealership invariably begins along the lines that a potential car buyer has not been acknowledged or have had to wait far too long to be dealt with by an attentive employee.
Waiting to be served, especially when you might be going to make a substantial purchase, is not only frustrating but can be demoralizing, aggravating and annoying and can end up being very expensive for the business concerned.
Any one of us who have had such an experience know that the negativity attached to waiting around to be served in a car dealership significantly affects our overall perceptions of the quality of the service provided.
Once we are eventually served, our interaction with the dealership staff may be efficient and courteous but the bitter taste of how long it took to get seen to in the first place inevitably pollute the judgments that we will make about the overall quality of service.
First impressions are so vitally important, in any walk of life, and if a business gets it wrong there may simply be no way of recovering. Effectively managing the perceptions and expectations of potential new customers should never be underestimated.
Many customers just vote with their feet and go somewhere else most likely never to return.
So it really was a kind of false economy to cull front line staff and many dealers we have spoken to are now finding that replacing quality staff is not easy and certainly more expensive than just keeping their original staff on in the first place.
Many are now spending big money on recruitment only to find that the quality and experience just aren’t there.
Perhaps in future businesses will come to realise just how important good quality, well trained and motivated employees really are in a customer related retail business. Let’s not forget how much investment a business has in it’s staff, letting them just walk away at the first whiff of a recession just doesn’t make sense, either economically or otherwise.
We’re not saying all the car dealership management teams who overreacted to external messages are stupid, although some undoubtedly are, but they are perhaps a little short sighted at times.
Lessons learned from this will hopefully lead to a better experience for customers who will be dealing with professional people who really want to deliver a first class customer experience every time.