UK learning from US - Best Customer Experience

James Litton
Hello all, I have been reading posts on Driving Sales for a few years but this is my inaugural post! As part of some research for my column for UK based dealer magazine (www.cardealermagazine.co.uk), I was hoping to raise a few questions about best customer experience. There is no doubt that you guys across the pond have always led the way in so many areas of dealer marketing, for example equity mapping is still a slow burn for some of our franchised networks, but I know it has been a staple diet for US dealers for decades! So many of you refer to internet teams. Does this involve all outbound prospecting work, service department referrals from bookings and inbound e-mails/live chat/phone calls, or do you go one stage further and split the department further still? In the Mercedes network, many dealer groups have what we would call a CRM department which do some of the elements mentioned above, but only one or two have a one stop shop for all non face to face based activity. I think this is the future for our network to maximise skill sets of employees to the opportunities afforded them, but within many franchised networks, the traditional car sales person deals with outbound calls, inbound leads from the phone or internet and walk in customers. We have recently moved to product gurus who are designed to give customers the ultimate brand experience - think Apple store. I think these guys are great and our satisfaction levels are increasing as the lack of 'salesy' approach is comforting to many British buyers. Do you have these types of employees in the US and what is their impact? Finally (thanks for reading this far ;-), we have recently opened a retail store (think GAP or Abercrombie) in a shopping mall and it has been really successful at creating brand awareness and showing non Mercedes customers how affordable our cars are on monthly payments. Does this work in the US? Really appreciate any help you can give, thanks for looking and have a great weekend :-) James
Parker Lukjanovs
James, Great first post sir! Across the pond here the only real company that is in shopping malls is Tesla and it's a bit odd, at least here in Texas, because they are not allowed to discuss price or do a test drive. It's kinda like here is our vehicle and let me tell you about it. Besides that, traditionally most internet departments known as BDC (Business Development Centers) work 1 of 2 ways. Both work outbound and inbound, phone, internet, e-mail and etc inquiries, however one way is for the internet department to sell their own cars, so they talk to the internet inquiring customer via phone/text/e-mail and set an appointment and they demo the customer and work the deal from start to finish. The other way, and the way I feel is best is that the internet department, like the first method, works the internet/phone inquiring customer but their only job is to set an appointment / assist in selling the car via phone (if the customer doesn't want to come in, or is not from the area.) The reason I personally feel that this is the best method is because generally a salesman will want to just sell sell sell, and the other wants to create a personal relationship, create a great brand awareness by selling the benefits of the vehicle and the benefits of purchasing with the dealer as opposed to selling the vehicle to the customer. And the customer feels a lot more at ease dealing with someone who doesn't want to sell them a car but generally wants to help them make an informed decision about buying a car by simply assisting them with the process. Salesman get paid on selling a car, but they get paid on Appointments that SHOW up to the dealership, and in a business standpoint the car business is truly all a numbers game. Yes we are leaders and we want to motivate staff and develop character within individuals, but at the end of the day you have to sell cars. And this method works because the more people they talk to the more people they will set appointments with, the more will come in thus resulting in more sales. We also, within our dealership, have employees who are delivery specialists. Their only job is to go over the vehicle, the operations, the ins and outs after the vehicle is sold and give a proper delivery to the customer at our dealership, or the customer's home or business. (of course whatever is more convenient for them) Same thing works for the service department, our internet department will simply setup an appointment for the customer to come in and service their vehicle. However this process has to be on point, because of scheduling, anticipation for walk ins so you don't over book time frames, and most importantly loaner vehicles and managing the loaner schedule properly. If the customer has questions that the internet department can't answer then of course they should transfer the call to the service advisor so they can better assist. Hope this insight helps you a little bit sir. Parker
James Litton
Thanks Parker, really useful, I appreciate it. Totally get what you mean about salesmen selling cars. There is definitely a place for traditional type sales executives, particularly in the UK. What we would term as a distance customer is only in reality four or five hours away, you guys must have customers in state who are hours away let alone out of state! Trying to manage long term relationships for customers who are located so far away must present another challenge? Do all customers have to come to the dealership? We have just moved to handover specialists. Our additional product sales have gone through the roof thanks to the need for sales people to focus on this or risk losing the sale to the handover specialist. That employee is already paying for themselves!
Parker Lukjanovs
Handover specialists are key! I work for Land Rover and it's immensely apart of their culture. Glad you've moved over! Long term relationships do present a challenge, because we lose their business for Service / Parts thus resulting in a lower service absorption. BUT as long as you still keep up with a consistent follow-up process your chances of them buying again from you increases, especially if they bought a New Vehicle. To answer you question "Do all customers have to come to the dealership?" The answer is absolutely no. Do we want them to experience the difference in person, of course, however with the rise in digital more and more customers are not coming and doing everything from the comfort of their own home and we tailor to them 100%.
James Litton
I thought that might be the case, I wondered if there was any state legislation that required a visit. We have a law here which covers people who buy things unseen, they have 56 days to return the product (cars are included, even if the customer has been driving it!!) without any cost incurred by the buyer. We have to be careful of our exposure, you can imagine a guy buying an S63 coupe and never visiting. 56 days free motoring. Just need the £150k to buy it though!! This is great feedback. Hope you have a busy day selling lots!
James Litton
Hi Chris, I know Ling well, I often write about her zany ways. If you watch her on Twitter she loves to troll people, it certainly proves that if you have a good customer offer and a slick sales process, the customers will not be swayed by unusual marketing activities!

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