Social distancing – the impact on car dealerships

As the coronavirus narrative continues to unfold, we are seeing businesses across all industries become affected. Whilst the effects will be unavoidable for most businesses, automotive dealerships will undoubtedly feel the impact in both the short and medium-term.

At this point, it is beyond question that businesses will need to proactively adapt to the unpredictable times we have all found ourselves in – those which don’t will be at the mercy of how the pandemic progresses. Footfall into the showroom will undoubtedly drop over the coming weeks and months due to the coronavirus.

However, there are ways which dealerships can utilise their resources during this time to better prepare for when the demand returns and to ensure both sales and aftersales continue operating during this time.

Making changes to your sales process

Understandably, given the guidance provided by the Government & WHO towards social distancing, the general public will be much less likely to feel comfortable physically visiting your showroom. It is therefore important to adapt and facilitate the process for those who are looking to purchase a car in the near future.

For those who can, providing an online service for customers to select, purchase and deliver cars to customers through an online platform is a fitting option. Many large dealerships will already have this service in place, however, small-sized operations may look to introduce this enhancement to their offering over the coming weeks. This would be an extension on merely listing available stock online, to allowing the whole sales process to take place through electronic means. Whilst automotive sales were already moving in this direction, the current situation will accelerate this adoption for many dealerships.

For those who do not have the infrastructure and/or resources to introduce mechanisms in the short term, conducting the sales process over the telephone and through visits to the customer’s location is a suitable alternative. This would take the structure of handling enquiries over the phone, to the point at which a customer identifies which model car fits both their needs and budget. Once this is established, a member of your team would visit the customer for a test drive and a part-exchange appraisal if required. Figures would then be discussed at a later time and agreed over the phone. Once the order has been placed, the handover would occur off-site with the customer.

Whilst neither of these options are ground-breaking, many dealers will need to adopt this or a similar process in order to continue processing orders during this time.

What about Aftersales

Likewise, the same processes can be replicated for aftersales. Whether this occurs through an online portal in which customers can book their car in for a service to have it collected and delivered at home, or whether this is conducted over the telephone, the objective is the same: allowing customers to conduct their business with the dealership without having to step foot within the showroom.

Staff utilisation in downtime

Seldom does the automotive industry face extended periods of inactivity, therefore utilising this time in other areas is essential for any dealership looking to proactively use this time to best effect.

So, in addition to utilising staff to maintain the flow of custom within the dealership, this period of adjustment can also be used to develop staff with automotive training through online webinars so that once this downtime has passed, the dealership is well-positioned to continue operating at an even higher standard than before.

At MotorVise, we already offer a comprehensive automotive academy. However, in response to the advice to social distance ourselves, we are offering our entire academy through online channels. If this is something your business would be interested in, feel free to get in touch.

In summary, this is no longer ‘business as usual’. Dealerships must take drastic actions to adapt their business to meet the needs of current and potential customers in whichever way they can. Failure to do so will surely have dire consequences.

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