This summer I found myself unexpectedly in the car market. As a seller not a buyer. Like most second cars, our trusty four-year-old runaround had been sitting idle since March, with no plans to go anywhere in the foreseeable future.
Knowing how high the demand was for low-mileage cars in tip top condition, especially those with up-to-date service books stamped by a franchised dealer, I thought I’d cash it in.
Not wishing to go through the hassle and social distancing challenges of a private sale, I thought I’d try my local dealer and one slightly further afield, to see who would give me the best price.
The experience was enlightening.
The first stop was cap hpi to get a realistic idea of the trade price. Then I looked at both dealers’ websites and found examples of my car, but older and with higher mileages, suggesting there would be an appetite for mine.
I put a call into the larger dealer and was put through to a salesman. I explained I had a car to sell and asked if he would be interested in me bringing it in for a valuation, only to be told that he was too busy and could I call back after the weekend and speak to one of his colleagues.
I wasn’t asked for my contact details, the car’s registration number or any information about mileage, condition or service history.
I put the phone down and called the second dealer, where a salesman immediately made a note of my details — and the car’s — and asked if I’d like to bring it around that morning. Within two hours the car was sold, not quite achieving my cap hpi target price but not too far adrift.
As an automotive journalist and former editor of Motor Trader, the trade magazine for car retailers, I’ve been writing about the dealer market for over 15 years. Whenever I sit down with a dealer group boss, or the managing director of a car brand, conversation invariably turns to how vital customer care and lead management are to their businesses and what processes are in place to ensure both are delivered to the highest standard.
After all, dealers invest heavily in digital marketing to attract customers and leads in the first place, powerful Dealer Management Systems to manage them and training to ensure sales staff have processes in place to respond swiftly.
Yet I’d had a good and bad experience on the same day from two retailers in the same franchise but run by different groups. Why?
With showroom footfall significantly down because of Covid-19 restrictions, in-bound enquiries should carry more weight than ever before.
Even though I wasn’t buying a car, if my details had been taken by the first dealer and if they’d assured me I would get a call back, then perhaps I would have waited.
If I had then they would have ended up with a retail-ready car on their forecourt, the likelihood of achieving a £2,000 margin and the opportunity to capture ongoing servicing and extended warranty work.
Multiply that scenario by 10, 20 or 30 customers and the cumulative bottom-line rewards — or losses — become substantial.
For dealers facing the prospect of working through tiered restrictions for many months to come, in-bound leads are invaluable. Having invested in their generation, retailers would be wise to review the processes they have in place are robust and understood by all.
Telling an in-market customer they are too busy to deal with their enquiry is a costly and avoidable own goal.
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