Adapt or Die
Future Trends

Adapt or Die

Evolving Dealership Experiences Across Generations

Raise your hand if you’ve already read three articles about millennials this month – I certainly have. Everywhere you look – television, online, print – writers who aren’t bashing the digital generation are advising business owners with the latest tips and tricks for connecting with this potentially lucrative generation. Well, as you already know, the car business is not immune to these same trends. In fact, DrivingSales just ran a story saying dealerships are facing a “different marketing challenge: connecting with a segment of automotive shoppers who have different needs and an entirely different experience with online shopping and ownership.”

Let’s talk about the whole customer experience. How do we bridge the gap with consumer expectations – whether it is millennials or other generations – vs. the customer experience we are actually providing?  How does dealership personnel and technology play such an integral role in connecting with your customers to build lasting relationships?

While there are some noticeable differences in the values and motivations of millennials, ultimately, they’re not that dissimilar to the generations who came before them. They’re just the tier of customers in the spotlight right now, a tier that expects accurate, efficient service when and where they want it. 

The millennial shopper conundrum goes far beyond the typical challenge of one generation struggling to understand the next. Digital shopping, for instance, has reshaped the entire car buying process. It’s not just millennials who are demanding more – their parents (and even grandparents) now have new expectations, too. The real story here is about evolution and the businesses that adapt and thrive, or those that fail to do so and disappear. 

We see two kinds of dealerships in today’s competitive market: the traditional dealership vs. the evolving, modern dealership.

Traditional Dealerships in 2018

While the classic dealership model worked for decades, this model is often associated with a less-than-desirable car-buying experience in the minds of consumers. This dealership usually employs seasoned “car guys” who have been in the business for over 20 years, and believe in the high-energy, high-volume method. You know the one I’m talking about – he says all the right things as many times as it takes for the customer to make the purchase and who still relies on putting pencil to paper, utilizing the old four-square technique. Now, don’t get me wrong. Persistence, experience, and adaptability have helped these veterans continue to thrive in this industry, and that’s no easy feat, but in the ever-changing business we work in, some behaviors and techniques will eventually need to change.  

Auto consumers want information quickly, and they want it conveyed in the way they want to communicate.  Many traditional dealerships believe they’re up with the trends and focused on customer service and quality experiences, but with a tough market and savvy competitors easily accessible, they could be in for a rude awakening. When it comes down to it, nobody really cares about your free-WiFi, stale coffee or massage chairs. The fact of the matter is: Car buyers from every generation are looking to build long-term relationships in their retail and ownership experiences, using your knowledge and expertise to make good decisions.

Evolving into a Modern Dealership

Many of the industry’s most successful dealerships are tuning into what younger generations want in a car-buying experience. These are the dealerships that are completely mobile – from sales to service, every employee is equipped with a tablet and knowledge about the product – ready to serve at a moment’s notice. 

While their employees might not have long tenures in the car business, they’ve typically come from a strong customer service background. For instance: I’ve heard of some dealerships dipping their toes into the luxury retail pool of new hires in other industries. It sounds a little bit “out-of-the-box” for someone who’s worked at the Ritz Carlton or Apple or Amazon to fit in on the sales side of the automotive industry, but if you take a deeper look, it starts to make sense.

Their focus is on delivering consistently stellar experiences. To get there, they’re increasingly turning to technology that streamlines processes and increases efficiency, all while putting their customers in the driver’s seat through an interactive buying experience. While all these convenient amenities do a great job of creating a destination for customers, customer experience is more about building an inclusive process that people will remember and will want to talk about. That’s where the luxury and successful retail experience comes in with consumers – it’s all about the perception of a memorable experience.

We already see, in today’s car-buying market that business is changing. As margins shrink and retaining employees becomes a bigger challenge than ever, we must adapt to meet customers on their terms.

I think it’s time for dealerships to take a different approach to staffing. Success starts with your people. Heightened customer experience starts with a vision of greater customer service. Give your customers the control they desire by creating an interactive experience with your employees that speeds up the entire process. 

As I’ve said before, it’s not about trying to hire the unicorn of employees. It’s about hiring the perfect person – a person who is knowledgeable and trained in the art of executing the perfect customer experience. You hire the person who shows a quality work ethic, a personality that is easily relatable to all types of people, and a drive to succeed that goes beyond the status quo. You have to employ a concerted effort to engage the right talent, the right character, and the potential for greatness once you’ve helped develop their skill. 

As more dealers consider digital retailing and investing in exceptional customer experiences, does it make more sense to stick with traditional hiring methods or look at new candidates with a different mindset, perhaps changing the way car buying is perceived by your customers? 

That’s not a rhetorical question. I really want to know which approach you think works best. In fact, ELEAD1ONE is going to run a Twitter survey asking just that. Be sure to follow @eleadcrm and myself at @BillyTheKidWitt to get in on the conversation.

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