Manage what you can, not what you can’t
I listened to this week’s (excellent) Auto Retail Network’s Q4 webcast and one message I took was that while retailers can’t change Brexit, the diesel issue or WLTP, what they can do is focus on the things they do well within their own business.
It’s about managing the situation, of being straight and upfront with those customers who want to buy but may now have to wait thanks to WLTP, making sure they feel welcome and valued, are confident the sales staff know what they are talking about on product, part-ex and finance and that the workshop – so often the maker or breaker of customer satisfaction – gets as near 100% first-time fix as possible.
It is all those elements we bundle up into that phrase, customer care.
With margins being wafer thin where they exist at all and with so much competition vying for business it often seems hard to justify spending time or resource for someone who hasn’t yet committed to buying a vehicle or a service.
Retailers run a business, not a social club, and while you are sitting down in the showroom talking to a prospect who may or may not buy, you are not actively looking for another. Running a fleet of little courtesy cars is no guarantee that it will generate repeat business if your customer finds a better deal somewhere else the next time.
But our panel of guest speakers representing the retail sector (Bill Dobie, of Dobie Cars in Cumbria) manufacturers (Alison Jones, MD of Volkswagen UK) and the major advertising platforms (Rebecca Clark, Manufacturer & Agency Director of Auto Trader Group plc) all emphasised the point that customer care does matter and does pay off.
There is still a lot of business out there but getting it depends on making your company an attractive one to spend money with in terms of the three Ps – people, product and price.
Occasionally it is helpful to have the view of an outsider looking in. This morning we drove past a Vauxhall retailer where the stock pen was full of new cars and vans wearing the NU 68 CAR reg. The thing is, I swear those vehicles have been in exactly the same position overlooking a main road for several weeks and it makes the place look dead. A little further on we went past a JLR showroom where from a casual glance at the sales exec slumped in the corner you might think his target for today was to stay awake.
You can’t affect, change or manage events outside your business but you certainly can inside it.
Auto Retail Agenda