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Good Customer Experience, Now More Than Ever

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Brace yourself — a Republican majority in the House and a Democrat-controlled Senate seemingly guarantees continued gridlock, with neither side having the votes to move legislation swiftly.

Given this fact, along with labor shortages, supply-chain headwinds, growing interest rates and an economy that is expected to continue cooling, it’s a good time for every dealer to improve the customer experience to help boost sales at their businesses.

Every dealer has an opinion about their business and the quality of the customer service his or her team provides. But for many, that viewpoint can conflict with reality. Perhaps now more than ever, it’s critical to experience how the dealership looks and feels from the customer’s point of view. The cliché “The view from 30,000 feet” comes to mind.

It can take some work to stop and assess your dealership from the customer’s view. Still, it’s worth it, says Micah Solomon, a customer experience consultant, speaker, author and Forbes magazine contributor.

As a starter, Solomon notes that an easy first step is to identify and eliminate any customer process at your dealership that may be intended to be simple and easy but is actually confusing or difficult. For example, does the dealership’s website violate common usability rules and expectations? Or, in the showroom, is the well-intended handicapped-accessible entrance blocked by accessory products or racks of marketing materials? According to Solomon, that’s more common than you think.

Solomon gives another example of how easy it is to be well-intentioned but miss the boat. Ever wonder why restaurants are kept so cool? Restaurant work is hard and physically active. Good employees are on their feet, moving and hustling all the time. But likely none of the restaurant’s guests realize that keeping the restaurant cool is aimed at employee comfort. This can cause a guest who is shivering while waiting for food to have a negative view of the dining experience. Balance is the goal in any part of the customer experience, whether it’s a boat dealership or Outback Steakhouse.

Similarly, it’s important to make visiting the dealership easy and comfortable. For example, it’s not a smart to put a customer into a mood by the time they enter the showroom because you’ve made it difficult or inconvenient to park right up front. Or maybe the building address and business signage out front is not clear or adequate, making it confusing to find the business itself. Maybe you have the business hours incorrectly posted on the website and a potential customer shows up on a Sunday to an empty business. As they say, it’s the little things that matter.

Eliminating any elements that could make a dealership come across as untrustworthy is particularly important. A good example is providing pricing that leads the customer to believe it’s all-inclusive but isn’t.

“Signage should be very clear,” Solomon says. For example, a boat sign that says, “From as low as $67,000” should also include information such as, “Boat, as shown, is $75,000.” The signage should also include whether tax, title and delivery are included. In today’s digital world, customers likely will have researched some prices before arriving. Accordingly, many prospects walk into dealerships with some sort of pricing already in mind, and incorrect or misleading pricing on boat signage can have them make a quick judgment about a dealer’s overall trustworthiness.

Solomon offers some suggestions to get started. First, the stark reality is there’s no silver bullet in customer service. It’s a process that continues forever.

For example, don’t do things like park where your customers will likely want to park. Make parking near the showroom entrance off-limits to staff and keep yard equipment out of those spots as well. Then take time to enter the showroom through the same door customers enter so you can see exactly what they experience. What do you see? What’s the image? What’s the message it gives them? It should be clean, organized, bright and easy to navigate.

Another action is to keep an eye on what customers or prospects may read, such as online reviews of the dealership or the boat brands represented. Another good move is to make time to read what people are saying about your competition. It’s important to recognize a customer’s journey to the dealership may not have begun on the dealership’s website or even at showroom’s front door but rather looking at Google and Yelp reviews.

Your own website should be easy-to-navigate, have high-quality photography and illustrations and display accurate data in regard to pricing and business specifics (contact information, hours, phone numbers etc.).

Solomon offers many more insights and suggestions via his website but his recommendation that every dealer make a point to look at the dealership just like a customer will can now be an important action to bolster sales, provide better customer service and lead to profitable loyalty.

When sales get tough, time spent seriously reassessing all areas of the dealership operations with the goal of insuring it’s a customer-centric culture could make a marked difference in the bottom line. 

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