It’s Spring! Warmer weather coupled with tax day refunds equals the potential for a customer surge. While this is certainly good news, one of the biggest challenges could be servicing that increased traffic. Whether it be prospective customers researching a purchase online or potential showroom floor traffic, responsiveness is critical to closing the sale.
To address this challenge, a knee-jerk reaction would be to extend dealership hours, schedule more employees on the showroom floor for longer hours, and hire more sales and F&I team members. Bulking up might seem like the logical solution. However, longer dealership hours can incur non-productive costs, including hourly wages and higher utility bills. Adding more staff on the floor – with longer hours – might increase your response time but it could also increase burn-out with your employees. Hiring new employees is great but your experienced staff might be too busy training those folks to effectively respond to prospective customers!
Work smarter, not harder
When experiencing a surge, the smart action is to step back and evaluate the dealership’s existing processes and measure their effectiveness. I often hear panicked dealer principals exclaim “But I don’t have time to step back! We’re slammed!” What you don’t have time for are lost sales and damaged reputations because your frazzled sales team was unprofessional, or the F&I department hurriedly left money on the table!
Schedule a review session with your management team to walk through every process. In the span of a two-hour meeting, simulate the entire sales process, noting areas of duplication, customer wait time and staff wait time. Then take steps with your department managers to eliminate these process roadblocks.
Are your sales and F&I teams asking the same questions rather than effectively handing off information? Is every F&I team member trained to conduct the initial meet-and-greet on the sales floor? Consider holding a training session with your entire team – from the receptionist to the service bay technicians – teaching everyone the steps to effectively gather information. Be sure everyone understands the complete sales process – not just their portion.
Are customers often moved to a waiting area after sales negotiations? Do they simply sit and wait, or is there an educational F&I protection product video running? Does the sales person take the initiative to introduce car buyers to the service manager? Sitting and waiting almost always frustrates the customer and bogs down the closing process. But framing this “down time” as a 10-minute educational opportunity to improve the effectiveness of the F&I department and possibly schedule that first service appointment changes everyone’s perspective. Instead of having the customer wait until an F&I team member is available, the dealership is educating the customer and providing good service.
Reducing customer downtime also requires training on managing lenders. First, make sure your team is effectively utilizing automatic approvals. Also, they need to know which types of deals each lender accepts. Effective F&I managers don’t waste time offering a deal to a lender that does not fit their loan portfolio.