Today the exciting news came from Boris Johnson to confirm car showrooms can open their sales operations in a safe manor from 1st June. The understanding is that to enable social distancing the best way might be to work on an appointment only basis.
I for one believe this could be a good thing for the industry and know some smaller independents that already do this.
When I managed sales teams, there was always the same challenge of trying to work a rota to ensure there were enough sales staff in each day. You had a rough idea how busy each day might be, but you could guarantee there were periods of the day that you had more customers than Sales Consultants and then times when sales staff would be sat with little to do.
I know we will get through the crisis and appointment only might not be required for long, but is it possible to keep it in place? I believe it benefits the customers as well as the dealership.
Better for the customer
Providing the site is ready and fully prepared for the appointment, the customer experience is much better. When I had an appointment, I would take as much information about the customer and their part-exchange as I could over the phone. I would ensure the vehicle they were interested in was clean, fuelled and ready to go. When possible, I would have had their vehicle valued, subject to condition, before they arrived.
Unaccompanied test drives
The customer would turn up and we could get straight into the car and get driving. I was always a fan of unaccompanied test drives. I would rather the customer take the vehicle for a while. If I was the only dealership doing this, I knew that the customer would get more comfortable in my car and more likely to buy it. Whilst the customer is out in the vehicle the part exchange value can be firmed up and if the customer has an idea what they want figures can be stacked.
Assuming the customer returns from the drive happy, discussions regarding options and figures can start. The less time the Sales Consultant has to go back and forth to the Sales Managers office the better.
Click and collect
As an industry over the last month we have had to adapt to a new way of working. If the customer is not comfortable committing to the purchase in the showroom, they now have the ability to complete the purchase online or over the phone from the comfort of their home. Most finance companies will now allow signing electronically from home. My biggest frustration when buying a vehicle is having to go to the showroom a day or two before the purchase to complete the paperwork to then return to collect the vehicle another day. I always found it to be unnecessary and frustrating.
Better for the business
As mentioned earlier, staffing a car sales department was always a challenge. Taking into account days off for weekends, holidays and sickness. Customers would not be a steady stream; it would be all or nothing. You would be rushing around trying to ensure everyone was looked after. We were always overstaffed or understaffed and to make sure you covered it you had staff in the showroom long hours.
It was always upsetting to have a fantastic person start in the industry who had real talent but would leave because they wanted a better work life balance. With appointment only I think you can give more time back to the sales team. They will be more efficient and happier.
I always tried to run a tight showroom control system to ensure every customer was logged but on a busy day you knew some would be missed or not recorded. The constant “Who was that couple I just spotted you speaking with?” to get a reply “Oh they were just having a look”. I am sure they were but let’s hope they come back as that is all we can do with that enquiry. We have to be careful not to put off the “browsers” who are not quite ready to commit to an appointment. No one would turn them away but the numbers of browsers should be smaller.
Same day delivery
With enquiries spread out, providing your vehicles are fully prepared and ready to go you can now sell and deliver the same day. In a Covid-19 world the customer only has exposure to the risk once instead of twice. You do need a robust preparation process for this. Something vAutoStock can help with.
It has been encouraging to see how the industry has remained positive through this crisis, everyone has adapted quickly to new ways of working. I for one hope this continues, and businesses take the chance to look at how they do things and do not just continue with the status quo.