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Dealer's Voice: 10 things that make dealerships successful

Here are 10 hallmarks of a successful dealership in 2014, based on my three decades of experience in the business.

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Now that spring weather is just around the corner, car shoppers will be heading to dealerships to check out and compare the latest makes and models. Spring is a busy time in the car business.

As I’ve written before, shoppers today are well-informed, Internet savvy and have high expectations about the cars they want to buy and where they choose to do business.

All dealerships strive to deliver great customer experiences, but what exactly does it take for a dealership to succeed in a hypercompetitive marketplace?

Here are 10 hallmarks of a successful dealership in 2014, based on my three decades of experience in the business.

1. Good selection of inventory: That means offering a healthy cross-section of new and pre-owned vehicles. Presentation is important ? cars should be clean and well-displayed, inside the showroom and outside on the lot.

2. Knowledgeable staff: Salespeople, service advisers and business managers interact with customers all day and must possess excellent communication skills and a high degree of product knowledge. Ongoing training, education and self-improvement is written into a successful dealership’s DNA.

3. Language and culture: Being able to converse in more than one language is an advantage in our multi-ethnic society. So is knowing how customers like to be greeted and communicated with (in person and online). Astute dealerships know how to interact with customers to make them feel at home.

4. Online presence: Car shoppers now spend more than 18 hours online researching their purchase, and dealerships need to be active on several platforms. This includes an updated and easy-to-navigate website; a credible presence on social media; and favourable representation on consumer and review sites.

5. Reputation: Shoppers have many resources to check on a dealership’s reputation. A great reputation derives from doing many things effectively and efficiently, from greeting and helping customers to meeting their automotive needs and consistently adding value to the experience.

6. Modern facility: In the past 10 to 15 years, most dealerships have been extensively renovated or rebuilt to meet corporate branding and imaging guidelines.

Some of the hallmarks of a modern dealership include a spacious and well-lit showroom, a convenient service department (with drive-thru capability), brand-specific design and signage elements, a Wi-Fi enabled customer lounge, electric charging stations (where applicable), shuttle service and accessibility for customers with disabilities.

7. A customer-focused culture: From the receptionist and the technician to the salesperson and the parts manager, everyone needs to be working from the same playbook to create a positive customer experience. Customers can sense when they matter, and when they don’t. They will do business where they feel important.

8. Location: This can be a deciding factor when choosing where to buy a car. But customers will often drive way out of their way to patronize a dealership where they have established a great relationship.

9. Relationships: Great relationships are the foundation of any successful dealership. Many stores sell cars and provide service to the same customers, year after year, and to their extended family and network of friends as well.

Why? Dealers invest a lot resources in building relationships based on trust, honesty and integrity.

10. The one thing: If you poll car buyers about why they bought from dealership A as opposed to dealership B, they will often identify one thing that convinced them.

It may be a competitive price, a unique pre-owned vehicle, the friendliness of the service department, the likability of a salesperson, or a staff member who provided assistance to a stranded customer after regular business hours.

If you’ve had other positive experiences that made a difference at a dealership, please feel free to share them with me.
Toronto Star for Wheels.ca

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