Yesterday marked the official one year anniversary of when the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a Pandemic. At this time last year, businesses around the world were shutting down or moving to work remotely if they could. Businesses deemed as ‘essential services’ were allowed to — and in some cases required to — remain open to provide those necessary services to the public.
But where did the automotive dealership fall? There certainly were a few weeks of confusion and uncertainty. Provinces made official statements within days of the pandemic declaration to clarify what were essential businesses. (Here are some articles on individual province circumstances: Ontario Dealerships Deemed Essential, Quebec Dealerships Pivot to Online Sales, BC Automotive Association pushing for Essential Service Declaration.) Soon enough, it was announced that car dealership Service Departments were considered essential.
Being considered an essential service meant you could keep your doors open for business, and keep your staff working, which was great news. BUT, in order to do so, many safety protocols had to be put in place to be compliant, and that could be a bit of bad news. Some of these changes were fairly extensive, and in some cases, needed to be implemented almost overnight.
Dealers had to install acrylic or plastic barriers between customers and staff members. Every inch of work space, including customer’s vehicles had to be routinely and properly sanitized and protected. Work spaces had to allow for 6 feet of space between each person and a limited amount of customers and staff could be in the building at the same time to ensure minimal contact and interaction. On top of that, all staff were equipped with face masks and shields, gloves, hand sanitizer and sanitizing spray. Yet somehow, dealerships still needed to provide a level of service to their customers that they had grown to expect. That was a tall order.
One of the first things dealerships needed to do was communicate to their customers. First and foremost, dealerships had to let their customers know they were ‘open for business’. Then came the new Covid Protocols. Most dealerships had an updated process for booking appointments, revised vehicle drop offs and pick ups and payment methods — and it was important to get this information out to customers. A lot of dealerships turned to their texting systems to reach their customers. Confirming or rebooking cancelled appointments, sending appointment reminders with details about where to park or drop off keys. All crucial information to making sure everyone remained safe and ensuring their essential service could still be done.
One of the biggest factors that dealers were confronted with from the beginning and throughout this last year, was the need to provide as many contactless services and options as possible. From remote text communication, to safe and simple key drop off points. From secure online payment options to a seamless, physically distant vehicle pick up — the most important element was the ability to provide this with the least amount of contact as possible. Thus keeping both customers and staff safe.
Even with all the technology at their hands and revised work protocols, patience was definitely required on all sides. Dealerships were adding and adjusting their work processes throughout the waves of the pandemic and provincial mandates changed (more than once!) It was a moving target at times. It took months before some dealerships could run with full staff. This was especially true in the Sales department, which were mostly working remotely. Vehicle purchases were being made solely online. Unlike the Service departments that had moderate changes to their processes, the pandemic completely changed how the car buying process worked.
On the whole, dealerships across the country seem to have adapted to this difficult, challenging situation. They have modified and adjusted to their new Covid protocols; with masks, sanitizing and physical distancing almost becoming second nature. Having to run such a tight, guarded ship can actually result in a dealership becoming more streamlined and productive. Increasing communication allowed staff to really provide the next level of customer service.
Now, a year in to the pandemic, with vaccinations rolling out and cases dropping, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Business is starting to come back to normal levels. So, what will this mean for the dealership Service Department in the future? Sure, the acrylic dividers may eventually come down. Customers and staff will hopefully be able to walk around in the dealership mask-less. But what about all the other contactless services that were brought into place? Will dealerships revert back to traditional ways of conducting business and providing service?
If history tells us anything, once society has been introduced to new technology and updated processes, they generally don’t like to go back. Going forward, customers will most likely continue to prefer contactless and streamlined options such as receiving text updates to keep them informed, quick and easy drop off procedures, and providing them the option to pay online. Services such as appointment confirmations, mobile check-ins, booking transportation and payment for services — all done from your personal device — will soon become the standard, instead of a luxury — or in this case, a Pandemic necessity.
It’s easy to see that dealership processes and procedures will need to be changed to continue doing business during and after the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of these changes may be short term. But there may be some which could become the new ‘norm’.
Now more than ever, dealerships will need to be acutely aware of every interaction with their customers, big and small. Providing contactless and touchless services, safe and secure procedures and timely, important information updates will be key in the months ahead — perhaps permanently. Keeping both your customers and your staff members healthy and happy will allow your dealership to stay open and provide the level of customer service that is crucial.
VenueVision’s suite of dealership solutions can help your dealership reach and maintain these new levels of service. Here’s how:
autoTEXT has already been keeping dealership customers informed through the course of their Service visits with timely text messaging. Automated messages such as appointment reminders, vehicle check-in, vehicle completion and service follow ups have already been providing customers with their repair status updates. As a dealer, you can increase the benefit of these messages and the information they relay with specific customizations to your wording.
For example, your dealership can provide information on new service hours or procedures in your Appointment Reminders. Remind customers of your secure, touchless payment option in your Vehicle Check-In and Completion messages. Give specific contact information for customers who may have questions or concerns in your Service Follow up messages.
With VenueVision’s Responsive Keyword Texting, you can use your messaging to generate automated responses based on customers’ requests. For example, Appointment Reminder messages can read “A friendly reminder of your service appointment tomorrow at 9:00am. If you would like our contactless drop off service, please reply Drop. Thank you.” When the customer replies with the word ‘Drop’ they are instantly sent an automated text message outlining the procedures your dealership have in place for a contactless service drop off. Use these keywords for customers to specifically request information or other services such as contactless payment, Shuttle requests, vehicle appraisals and more.
Send important information and promotional messages to a specific targeted list of your customers with Marketing Campaigns. Use this campaign feature to broadcast key dealership changes and news such as updates to procedures and practices, revised hours of operations, etc. Target specific groups of customers with timely offers or specials to help out your customers in these difficult times and remind them that you are still open for business.
With more physical distancing comes more challenges in reaching your customers and conveying recommended service procedures. Reach your customers instantly with professional digital Repair Estimates they can view and provide approval from any mobile device or desktop computer. Include images or short service videos to provide information and visual reference for your customers. Receive customer approval within minutes with a two-step authorization process. Record and track any recommended services that were deferred by the customer for future follow up and service bookings.
One of the best ways to keep both your staff and your customers safe is to provide a fast, safe and contactless payment method. Send mobile links with Mobile Cashier to collect payment and deposits for every department in your dealership. Customers can access the payment portal through any mobile device or desktop computer. Within minutes, your customers can receive a link, access the portal on their device, review their invoice, enter their credit card information and send payment. Your dealership will receive instant notification that the payment was received.
With Mobile Cashier, there are no additional fees or card percentage rates per transaction and no holds on payments that are processed. It is the fastest, safest and most convenient payment and check out method for your customers and your staff.
In these challenging times, showing your customers how much you appreciate them and their business is very important. With VenueVision’s Loyalty Rewards program, you can provide incentives and reward dollars for your customers. Loyalty dollars can be applied automatically based on a percentage of their service invoice. Rewards can also be applied manually to a customer’s account as a promotion, a thank you or an incentive.
All Loyalty and Reward dollars are tracked in an easy-to-use dashboard. Customers paying with Mobile Cashier will be automatically prompted to apply their Loyalty dollars if they want or save and bank for future service. And, all of this is done remotely. No physical card is needed to collect or redeem, and there is no rewards program that your customers need to sign up for. It’s a perfect extension for a contactless service environment.
We understand that these are challenging and quickly evolving times. Being able to adapt, adjust and act quickly will keep your dealership running as smooth as possible. Providing a great customer service experience will always be important, but providing that service while keeping your customers and staff safe and healthy has become the new normal. Contact the VenueVision team (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like more information on any of our products or would like to schedule a free online demo.
As so many businesses and people are facing challenging times and uncertainty, communication and providing safe services will be even more important to your dealership.
Of course, the most obvious practices that dealerships will be taking involve providing sanitized and hygienic surfaces and improved practices to provide minimized contact. Here’s a reminder to our VenueVision customers how some of our tools can be of great benefit to help reduce that contact as well as keep you connected to your customers.
Keeping your customers up-to-date with any changes to services or practices at your dealership can be done through text messaging. Send individual messages to your daily customers before or on the day of their appointment. Ensure your text number is easy to find on your website and social media sites, with a clear indication that customers can text in to your dealership directly. Send a targeted marketing blast using the Marketing Campaign option for a broader reach of your customer database to inform of more generic or vitally important updates.
If you have automated Appointment Reminders, we can have that messaging adjusted to keep your customers informed of any changes to appointment or procedure. Contact our support staff for more information. (email@example.com)
Whatever you choose to convey to your customers, texting them will be the quickest, surest way to keep them informed and instantly updated.
Having the ability to allow customers to pay remotely is a great way to practice Social Distancing. You can send payment links to customers to pay for Service Repairs, Parts purchases and even vehicle deposits. They won’t have to be worried about touching payment terminals or having close exchanges within your dealership. In some cases, there may need to be no physical exchange at all.
Use your digital signage screens to inform customers of changes to your hours of service and updates to your processes. Whatever important information you want to make sure your customers see, you can have it uploaded to your VenueVision digital signage screens. You can send content upload requests directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you don’t have a resource for creating content, our design team can help you out.
No one knows for certain how long this new and challenging state of business will last, but we are here to help. We sincerely hope all of our customers and clients stay safe and healthy.
If you have any questions about how to better use your solutions, or would like any information, please reach us through our support lines at: 1-800-401.1300 or email directly to: email@example.com.
Keeping up with current technologies and staying ahead of your competition can be a bit challenging, but very necessary. Staying competitive and current will help keep your dealership strong and your customers happy. A new year should bring fresh ideas, better processes and new ways to enhance your automotive dealership.
With that in mind, here are 6 great ways to improve your dealership’s communication, enhance your overall customer service experience and customer ratings, as well as streamline your processes and productivity.
If you want to get a hold of your customers quickly and relay timely service updates, the best communication method is text messaging. And giving your customers the ability to send a quick text to their advisor to communicate with them will add to their customer experience and satisfaction.
“Providing a secure way of making mobile payments keeps both your staff and your customers safe.”
A great way to ensure your customers are happy and keep coming back is to provide loyalty rewards and incentives. Reward dollars can be earned as a percentage based on customer service spending, or you can reward dollars to customers as a thank you, incentive or adjustment. With dollars waiting in their account, customers will be sure to book future service visits or purchase their next vehicle with your dealership to take advantage of the savings.
“Communicating transportation details to customers is key to keeping everyone organized, on time and happy.”
“Providing self-led check in kiosk allow customers a faster, less stressful option to bringing in their vehicle for service.”
The start of a new year is a great time to review your dealership’s processes and practices. Doing so will help you to identify any areas where your dealership may have been lacking or areas that definitely could use some improvement. The customer service experience is what will keep your customers coming back and referring you to their friends and colleagues.
Today’s customers are busy and only getting busier, making it more important to ensure proper communication and fast and efficient service options that are convenient and flexible. Make sure your dealership and your staff are ready to embrace and tackle these challenges in 2020 with the proper tools and solutions.
For more information about VenueVision and our full line of dealership solutions, call 866.401.1300 or Book a Demo to see them in action!
An important read for dealers who want the ultimate competitive edge.
In a recent article in Fixed Ops magazine, author Chris Justice outlines how texting will redefine car dealerships’ customer experiences. Justice goes on to describe the benefits that integrating this technology will provide to both the dealership and the customer.
It’s clearly shown in the data how more and more customers are preferring communication and updates by text over more traditional phone calls and emails. Combine this texting technology with options for mobile payments, and you are now providing cutting edge technologies and conveniences. And you can be sure that your tech savvy customers will certainly appreciate the service!
“Dealerships that have switched to text and mobile pay solutions are experiencing faster Service approvals and faster RO closes. Money enters the dealership accounts faster, thus making it easier to focus on the bottom line throughout operations.”
VenueVision’s autoTEXT and Mobile Cashier solutions allow you to integrate these technologies into your dealership’s processes, and ultimately improve your customer’s experiences. Improving your customer’s experiences is the only way to improve your customer service ratings, which in turn equals higher customer retention rates. Find out more about our autoTEXT and Mobile Cashier solutions and request a demo.