Customer Satisfaction in a Down Economy

Every dealership is after the (often) illusive repeat customers.  With people buying less often, earning the loyalty of the customers you do sell to can pay off.  Once you’ve earned the business of repeat customers, the next step is to turn them into evangelists—those who recommend your dealership and ultimately send more sales into your showroom.

These types of customers are beneficial because they not only help to create more profit for your dealership, but also to direct those sales away from your competitors.  But have you ever thought about how much people who recommend against buying from your dealership could be costing you?

Found on the Church of the Customer blog, Satmetrix published a study about how much financial harm unsatisfied customers can have on the bottom line of a business.  While the results below are focused on the wireless industry, I think it’s worth looking at:

In this case, a negative word of mouth results in losing $300 per unsatisfied customer.  Can your dealership afford this?

Make sure customer service is consistent throughout your dealership, and that there is a plan in place to try and satisfy unhappy customers BEFORE they start costing your dealership money.  This could include using automatically sent surveys to attempt to find those who are less than content with your dealership, as well as keeping you finger on the online pulse of blogs and other online forums.

Now, more than ever, it’s essential that your dealership keeps your customers happy.  If you don’t, ignoring an unpleasant experience may be costing your dealership more money than you know.

Dealership Grammar

There are always classes in school that make you wonder, “When will I ever need to know this?”  For me, that class was English.  Have you ever needed to know when to use a past participle, or what a homonym is?  Neither have I…but the more I write and get involved online (conducting business via email, writing this blog, participating in online social networks), I have begun to realize that while I may not need to know the definitions of these grammatical terms, I definitely need to know how to use them accurately.

Using correct spelling and good grammar are becoming more and more essential to running a successful business.  It’s amazing how much of a blow to your credibility and professional image it can be when a potential customer reads an email with misspellings or incorrect grammar.  Put yourself in their shoes…two vendors are showing you similar products, but one doesn’t speak well and their emails have spelling errors…which vendor are you more likely to choose?

I never paid much attention in English, and wish now that I would have.  While the written word is not my strong point, I’ve found ways around this.  I use a spell-checker every chance I get, both in my word documents and in my emails.  I have co-workers look over and proofread almost everything I send to customers or potential customers.  Some things do slip through the cracks, and when they do, I go back and fix them when possible (blog, social networking), or make a point to learn from my grammatical mistake.  Nobody’s perfect, after all.

Whether you’re already a stickler for grammar, or lean a little more to the “alternative spelling” side, not utilizing all the tools available to ensure your spelling and grammar are correct could be costly to your dealership’s sales.  Whether it’s fair or not, using correct English gives your potential customers confidence in doing business with your auto dealership and helps build trust that they are choosing the right place and salesperson to buy from.

What tools do you use to help check your spelling and grammar?  Any tricks of the trade that work well for you?  Let me know—I can always use more help!

Dealership Closings – Can Your Website Compete?

While I was at the NADA Convention in New Orleans this past weekend, the biggest news I heard was the announcement by General Motors (GM) that they plan to close 400 dealerships yearly until 2012.  According to Left Lane News, the company hasn’t decided what will determine which dealerships will be shut down, but “the automaker will base its decision on the age of the dealership, location, volume, and customer satisfaction.”

This is scary.  Not only do GM dealerships have to worry about having to close their doors because of the down economy and lack of sales, but it appears as though they will also have to worry about being shut down by their OEM.  While GM may not say so, you know that if your dealership can remain profitable and move more metal for your OEM than your competitors are, your chances of being shut down are drastically reduced.  If your dealership wants to increase the number of cars you sell, you need to make sure you can be found where your customers are looking: online.

Your dealership NEEDS to have an EFFECTIVE website.  Your customers are using the Internet to find their next vehicle; in fact, 80% of new vehicle buyers use search engines while researching their purchase.  If you don’t have a dealership website, you are missing out on 80% of potential sales.

Not only do you need a site, you need one that ranks well in search engine results.  Since only 10% of Google users ever click onto the second page of search results, if your website doesn’t appear on the first page, you’re missing out on 90% of potential sales.  42% of Google users will click on the first listing, so just being on the first page isn’t always enough.  You need to be at the top.

Sales are becoming more and more difficult to come by, so making sure your dealership can be found online is more important than ever before.  If your dealer site isn’t bringing leads and sales into your dealership, it’s time you rethink who your website provider is.  You can’t afford to lose any more potential sales.

Dealership Lead Nurturing

According to the 2008 Cobalt Automotive eShopper Experience Study, the “traditional” dealership gives up on a lead after three days, no longer actively pursuing them as an in-market buyer.  This just doesn’t make sense, considering that J.D. Powers reports in their 2008 New Autoshopper.com Study that those in market for a new vehicle begin using the Internet to research their purchase about 12 weeks before they actually buy.

Lead nurturing or follow-up (whatever your dealership calls it) is so important if your dealership wants to sell as many cars as possible.  The most important thing for your sales people to do is respond to each and every email that you receive from potential customers.  It’s amazing how many incoming leads don’t get responded to.

Check in with your leads at regular intervals to ensure that your dealership has done everything you can to earn their business.  Ask if they have any questions about a specific vehicle or your dealership.  Try sending short surveys to make sure they feel that they have been treated how they want to and nothing is holding them back from eventually choosing your dealership for their purchase.

There is no doubt your dealership staff have full plates, so why not automate some of your lead nurturing?  Take full advantage of your CRM and any web tools your dealership uses to take some of the load off.  These programs can schedule emails to be sent at various time periods to ensure none of your leads fall through the cracks in the long term.

Dealer Website Lynch Pin?

We’ve all heard the estimates about how many dealerships are going to be closing within the next year–NADA estimates that another 1000 dealerships will close in 2009 alone.  Of course this is a scary fact, but there are things that you can do to prevent your dealership from being one of them.  One of the first items is making sure people who are searching online (which 80% of those who purchase vehicles do) can find your dealership website.  Imagine missing out on 80% of all potential sales, sending them to your competitors, just because your website isn’t properly optimized.

Score Chrysler Dodge in Franklin, OH, recently shut their doors (January 5, 2009).  DealerOn wishes the best for all of their employees, as well as the community that will no doubt feel the impact from this dealership having to close.

I was curious though, how well their website ranked for relevant search terms, so I did a little research.  Their website (which is still up) looks as though it is optimized for three cities: Franklin (pop 12,000), Springboro (pop 12,000), and Middletown (pop 51,000).  The problem with this is that there are two, much more populous cities within 30 miles of Franklin (Dayton, pop 166,000 and Cincinnati, pop 330,000).

Here’s how they rank on the page for Google for the following terms (I stopped looking after the second page):

For the search term “Franklin Chrysler OH” the dealership website ranked second on the page, which is pretty good.  Except that Franklin is a town with a population of only 12,000 people.  The dealer website also appeared for the terms “Franklin Chrysler service” (16th) and “Franklin Chrysler parts” (13th).

But the good news ends there.  A news article about the dealership closing appeared when I searched for “Cincinnati Chrysler” (12th), “Cincinnati Chrysler dealer” (12th), and “Cincinnati Chrysler parts” (8th).  The dealership website did not show in the results for those terms.

Nothing about Score Chrysler Dodge showed in the first two pages of search results when I searched for the terms “Cincinnati Chrysler OH,” “Cincinnati Chrysler parts,” “Dayton Chrysler,” “Dayton Chrysler OH,” “Dayton Chrysler dealer,” “Dayton Chrysler service,” “Dayton Chrysler parts,” “Franklin Chrysler,” and “Franklin Chrysler dealer.”

Unless someone searched for their dealership name or one of the few terms that they actually ranked for, potential Chrysler buyers in this metro area wouldn’t find their dealership online.  This means that their website and dealership never had any chance to convert them into a lead or sell them a car.

You have to wonder…if the Score Chrysler Dodge website had been properly optimized so that those who were looking for a Chrysler vehicle in the Cincinnati-Dayton area would have found their site, would it have made a difference in their decision to close its doors?