Now that the 2018 Canadian International AutoShow has wrapped up for another year, many would-be car buyers who visited the show are armed with information about the makes and models that interest them.
Now comes the next part of the car-buying journey — choosing a dealership.
If you are looking for the right dealership to purchase a new or pre-owned vehicle, that choice can be daunting.
What truly makes a dealership great and worthy of your business in 2018? Great products? A fancy showroom? Industry awards?
Based on my perceptions and experiences in the retail automobile industry, here are eight things that qualify dealerships as ‘great,’ in no particular order:
Responsiveness: Whether it’s answering a phone, greeting a customer in the showroom or responding to an online sales inquiry, quick responses are critical in today’s on-demand world. The kiss of death for any dealership — or any business, for that matter — is to keep customers waiting any longer than necessary. When customers feel ignored, they walk away.
Convenience: A drive-thru service bay, a comfortable customer lounge, Wi-Fi, coffee, cold drinks, online service appointment bookings, and shuttle service are among the conveniences that many modern dealerships offer. Performing service and repair work properly and on time, expediting paperwork quickly on the sale of new and pre-owned vehicles — these services are also important and keep customers coming back.
Presentation: A good selection of vehicles, well positioned on the lot and inside the showroom, how parts and accessories are showcased, the cleanliness of the floors, workspaces, and bathrooms — these details matter and will make customers (and staff) feel valued and comfortable.
Teamwork: Dealerships that work as a team exhibit certain confidence and purposefulness to their activities. Everyone, from receptionists and salespeople to service advisers and human resource managers, know and understand their respective roles within the organization. They engage with customers and colleagues in a positive manner, with the common goal of providing an exceptional customer experience
Adaptability: There is an expression in tech circles — adapt or die. Dealerships that adapt new tools, systems and processes tend to thrive in the competitive retail car marketplace. That could be an enhanced website that allows for quick and seamless interactions. It could be utilizing new technologies in the shop, or managing pre-owned inventory using the latest mobile apps and data systems. Great dealerships are constantly reinventing their business practices and looking forward, not backward.
Reputation: What others say about a business is more important than what it says about itself. That is certainly true with dealerships, as consumers have many public venues in which to express and share their opinions today. A great dealership will consistently score top ratings on Google reviews and other review sites, as well as on social media. A great reputation sends a powerful message that a business has the confidence and trust of its customers.
Community Involvement: Most new car dealerships are involved with their local communities. Some support little league sports teams, hospitals, food banks, service clubs, and other organizations. Some sponsor parades, festivals, and arenas. A true sign of greatness for dealerships is their capacity for making a positive difference in the lives of people in their communities.
Service: For modern, progressive dealerships, service means providing exceptional value in a timely and professional manner. Courtesy, honesty, respect, punctuality, cleanliness, friendliness, and dedication are some of qualities that define what service is all about in 2018. If you find a dealership that possesses these qualities, you can be assured that you are in good hands.
Good luck in your car-buying journey and in locating a dealership that will ‘wow’ you.
This column represents the views and values of the TADA. Write to [email protected] or go to tada.ca. Larry Lantz is president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association and is a new-car dealer in Hanover, Ont.
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