Best Practices for Dealerships to Navigate the COVID-19 Crisis

By Phil Stevens

Adjust Your Mentality

In this time of uncertainty, approach each conversation with empathy. The goal of a conversation during the COVID-19 crisis is inform and build relationships rather than control the conversation with the goal of setting an appointment. Now is the time to take a "soft sell" approach. 

Focus on creating a customer-centric experience for all of your interactions that sets you up as the trusted adviser your customer needs and wants. Even though you may not set an appointment, make a sale, or be able to bring them into your service drive today, your customer will remember how you treated them when the dust settles. 

Acknowledge the COVID-19 crisis, but do not dwell on it. If your customer is dwelling on it, exercise empathy, acknowledge the situation, and find an opportunity to introduce positivity and pivot the conversation back to business.

A New Approach for Sales

We have seen call volumes in sales departments decline about 10-15% during the COVID-19 crisis. But people are still calling, and during a time where call volume is down, each inbound call is especially valuable — and especially expensive to generate. This underscores the importance of capturing those inbound calls.

Generally, 60% of inbound sales calls are from people who have an intent to purchase. During the crisis, we have heard from multiple customers that those who call are closing at a higher rate than usual. This is likely because the consumer (a) needs to purchase a vehicle, perhaps because their lease is up, (b) is looking to take advantage of the aggressive incentives, or (c) they are very far along in their buying journey. 

Below are some best practices to consider during these uncertain times: 
  • Ensure that you and your entire team can provide up-to-date information about all of your OEM's incentives. Role play this to make sure you are 100% fluent. With the current financial state of consumers in flux, be proactive in offering OEM incentives as they can save your customers money and earn you their trust. For many consumers, these incentives are once in a lifetime opportunity.
  • Be understanding with customers who are nervous to come into the dealership. If it is available, offer alternatives to coming in by offering “at home” test drives and make sure you explain how you are keeping their health a priority.
  • Now is a great opportunity to focus on sales channels that often fall to the wayside, such as unsold floor traffic follow-up, equity mining, and lease retention. Applied Concepts has developed COVID-19 specific training programs for these outbound calls. [LEARN MORE]
  • Use the opportunity to generate sales revenue from service customers. For example, each morning have a print out of the equity position of each service appointment.

A New Approach for Service

Regardless of the world and economic climate, cars need to be maintained and repaired. While call volumes into sales departments have declined 10-15%, service departments have not experience as much of an impact. As a result, during the COVID-19 crisis, service revenue is going to be a dealership's primary driver of revenue.

Below are some best practices to consider during these uncertain times: 
  • Make sure your staffing and processes reflect the reality that service is going to be the primary driver of revenue.
  • Customers are concerned about the amount of people touching their cars throughout the service process. Be proactive in letting your customers know that their safety is your first priority and explain what you have implemented to keep them healthy.
  • Just like sales, your service customers might be nervous to come into the dealership. Offering alternatives such as pick-up and delivery and/or key-drops will go a long way in assuaging their concern. 
  • Create opportunities for customer engagement by creating COVID-19 specific service offerings. For example, if you have a detail department, create an offering that focuses on the sanitation of a customer’s vehicle.
  • Following up with your customers is now more important than ever, in part because they may not be sure whether your service drive is still open. Appointment confirmation calls also give you an opportunity to get ahead of their concerns around sanitation and offer alternative drop-off/pick-up methods, both of which will increase the likelihood of appointments being kept. Applied Concepts has developed COVID-19 specific training programs for service appointment confirmation calls. [LEARN MORE]

How Can We Help?

Applied Concepts is dedicated to helping you and your team through this ever changing landscape, that is why we are currently offering our COVID specific scripts and coaching to help your employees maximize each phone call’s profit potential. Please click [HERE] or reach out to to learn more. 

Stay safe, stay focused, and stay positive.

Tags: COVID-19

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