People are dealer's most important tool
The writer is retired. He was a Ford dealer and dealership management consultant.
To the Editor:
Auto dealers spend serious money on technology aimed at putting them in contact with customers.
Modern phone systems should make customer communication smooth and useful. The Internet is a gold mine for strengthening relationships with current customers and developing ties to potential ones.
Dealers' communication tools should give them the opportunity to return to relationship selling. And relationship selling means higher margins, better close ratios and a more professional sales team.
But investing in a phone system or developing a Web site isn't enough. Dealers must develop their people.
There are too many untrained and underpaid phone receptionists who believe it's their job to protect staff from those awful customers. Screening calls is generally a bad idea. If a dealer expects a receptionist to route callers to the right people seamlessly, he'd better do some training.
The phone receptionist plays a major role in a dealer's customer satisfaction scores. Anyone who thinks it is an entry-level, low-paying job requiring little or no skill is losing customers and business.
Also, for anyone who doesn't understand the Internet, it's time to start. The buying public wants information and the dealer wants to provide it. But automated responses often fail to supply the information sought and can create a negative image in the customer's mind. And many customer communications "experts" can put a dealer into an adversarial relationship with the public.
Dealers would be much better off to take steps to become more customer friendly. Train your people.