Web-based customer surveys can help dealers

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Every dealer should want to know what customers are thinking because customers can tell us a lot about what we’re doing right. Conversely, getting ex-customers to talk can give us a real clue into what we may be doing wrong!

If you’re a certified dealership, surveying current customers about their experiences with sales and service is an extremely valuable part of the certification process. But, how about those ex-customers? Even certified dealers don’t get much input from them. Yet, it’s possible for everyone to get such input. Moreover, if we study the responses carefully we can learn what’s important to their decisions leading them to do business with us, or not.

The Internet has made it possible, today, for anyone to get this valuable input at virtually no cost. By now every dealer should have a good data base of e-mail addresses provided by customers and ex-customers. Here are some ideas of what can be done to get input:

1) Dealers can ask current customers to take a Web-based survey which can be as short and simple or as in-depth and extensive as you want to make it. In it you can ask those pointed questions.

2) Offer a gift or discount as an incentive for taking the survey.

3) Start up a customer dialogue (chat) room. Invite customers to use this forum for open conversations with other customers as well as with you. In it you can “chat” and ask for input about their recent experiences, likes or dislikes, with various aspects of your dealership or products. You can also use it to promote new products, offerings and customer events, etc.

4) Review your entire e-mail list, separating out those who were customers but appear to have stopped doing business with you. E-mail these ex-customers a separate survey, asking them to help you by answering a few questions about their experiences and, particularly, any disappointments with your dealership. Keep it short for best returns. Offer a gift to all who complete the survey.

5) Make certain everyone in your dealership is aware of any survey or dialogue room you establish. Require all personnel to regularly visit the chat room to read the customer's input as well as participate whenever desirable. Key personnel in your organization should be responsible for creating some subject matter and dialogue for the chat room from time to time.

One true benefits of the Internet is the capability it gives us to communicate with a broad or very specific audience at virtually no cost. While most of our Internet focus, to date, has been on putting out dealership product information, it’s time we also started using the medium to bring in information.

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