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On Sunday, April 22, more than one billion people around the globe will participate in Earth Day 2012, with the focus on protecting and preserving the environment. How has your dealership been recognizing the awareness month, or how do you plan to celebrate on the 22nd? Even if you don’t have anything in place, it is easy to help make a difference for your Mother Earth. Here is a simple list to make your customers aware of. They may seem so very basic, but each can make a tremendous impact!
Use Your Cruise Control
Your customers paid for those extra buttons in their car, so remind them to put them to work! Using the cruise control can improve their fuel economy by up to 15%.
Recycle Your Used Oil
Explain to your shoppers that oil drained from their car is a valuable resource that can be re-fined and purified into high quality motor oil. Recycling used oil can conserve our nation’s natural resources. The improper disposal of used oil can contaminate the soil as well as surface and ground water. It only takes one gallon of oil, the amount collected from a single oil change, to contaminate 1 million gallons of fresh water!
Maintain Your Vehicle
Make certain your customers understand the importance of a properly maintained vehicle. Having their vehicle tuned up regularly, at least once a year, will go a long way towards reducing air pollution, improving the car’s performance, conserving energy, and saving them money on repairs
Get a Professional Car Wash
Your customers may not know that professional car washes are more efficient with water consumption than the usual do-it-yourself wash at home. According to studies, if everyone in the U.S. visited a car wash just one time instead of washing the vehicle themselves, it would save nearly 8.7 billion gallons of water! And remind them to clean out the extra “stuff” in the trunk and inside of their car, reducing the weight of the vehicle will help improve their gas mileage.
In case you didn’t know, April is National Car Care Month, a nationwide effort that focuses on the importance of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair. This awareness month helps drivers understand the benefits and importance of car care for safer roads, cleaner air, energy conservation, and consumer savings.
What a perfect opportunity for you and your dealership to do something nice for your customers and community……with the added benefit of maintaining and building customer loyalty for you! Take the time necessary to help your customers understand how certain repairs can add to their vehicle’s life, improve gas mileage and eliminate future, more expensive repairs.
Focus on one day, or celebrate all month. Draw a crowd by grilling hotdogs and burgers, provide ice cream and goodies. A bounce house will be sure to get you noticed and will keep kids occupied while their parents learn more about what you have to offer. Promote preventive maintenance by offering discounted oil changes with free multi-point inspections. Host free Safety Seat Inspections or have staff teach a “How to Perform Your Own Vehicle Safety Check” class. Offer free car washes with every service performed in the month of April. The ideas and opportunities are endless!
For more tips and ideas to make April a successful month, visit www.carcare.org. Please let us know how you and your dealership plan to recognize National Car Care Month!
Not long ago, I went to the local Ford dealership with my giddy, newly-licensed daughter. She walked briskly about 15 steps ahead of me, occasionally glancing back with the stereotypical teenage eye-roll indicating her frustration that I wasn’t walking as fast and that I apparently did not share her level of excitement. By that evening, both of us were rather excited. Not only had her dreams of car ownership come true, but I had traded in my previous ride for a big, beautiful shiny new truck. We were happy women! Not only was I content that I was driving off in a vehicle with that wonderful new car smell, I was content knowing that I “owned” that salesman! I had just blessed the guy with not only 1, but 2 fairly quick and simple car sales and my expectations were nothing short of high. I had visions of coupons, offers, free oil changes and inspections – all sorts of “ass-kissing” coming from our grateful salesman.
As we all know, customer loyalty is the heartbeat of any thriving dealership. Fostering true customer loyalty requires some creativity and initiative on your part – but just a little effort will result in BIG rewards. Studies show that if you increase customer retention by just 5%, you could increase profits by a whopping 25% or more! It seems crazy then, that according to NADA and J.D.Powers, almost 90% of retail customers are never contacted after delivery. NEVER!
So here I am, just a stat. I fall into that 90% because after the painless sale of 2 automobiles, the salesman has never bothered to contact me. EVER. In fact, I had the hassle of calling him numerous times to get the window tinting done on the vehicles, that he so graciously “threw in” for us. Unfortunately, customer turnover is a fact of business life, but with a little appreciative TLC from the dealership, I would have faithfully returned, over-and-over. Silly salesman, my daughter was only the first of 3 eventual teenage drivers in our household.
Luckily we are more than satisfied with the vehicles we purchased, we LOVE them – and I will admit, they are affectionately known to us as “Shelby” and “Ladybug”. Yes, somewhat goofy, my truck has a name. Goofier than that, however, is that I cannot recall the name of the man that sold me Ladybug, seems he foolishly never gave me reason to!
As we have all heard for several years, customers are on the Internet LONG before they step foot into your dealership. While online, hopefully your website content is interesting and engaging enough that the curious car shopper can’t help but to up the phone and give you a call. And once this critical connection is made, make sure you hold onto them with all your might and reel them in!
One thing that is really important to your sales team is good phone skills. I know, you think that seems too elementary, right? Everyone assumes they have good phone skills because they can operate the device, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. I am talking about phone etiquette.
You only get one chance to make a first impression. Think about it, every time you talk to a salesperson on the phone, you are left with an impression, I know I am. It may not be an honest representation of the service or product they are offering, but regardless, something sticks! If the person on the line appears disinterested, distracted, rude or rushed…. I cannot get off the phone fast enough and NOT do business with them! On the other hand, if the salesperson is courteous, knowledgeable, attentive and respectful….then they have my full attention and, quite possibly, my business.
The employees at your dealership need to be trained on proper business phone etiquette because every call is an opportunity to “WOW” a potential customer and influence them to want to do business with you. A phone conversation is usually a consumer’s first personal contact with your dealership, to insure it is not their last, make a positive and powerful impression that can develop into a memorable (and profitable!) customer relationship.
As we all know (at least I hope you all do!), you can never really have too many photos to help highlight and market your vehicles, right? Well, it isn’t just photos you need, it is good, quality photos that make your inventory “POP” and help market your vehicles effectively. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind when photographing your inventory.
The absolute best natural lighting conditions for you to photograph your cars will be early in the morning or just before sunset. If at all possible, avoid shooting in harsh, glaring mid-day sunlight, or you will end up with color-faded paint on the car’s top surfaces and murky shadows on its lower regions. Your best shooting days are those that are overcast. Keep an eye out for any separation in the clouds, as this may cast unusual and uneven reflections on your vehicles and lead to unusable pictures.
To help get some of your best images, a basic rule of thumb is to set your camera to “Forced Flash” or “Fill Flash”, not on “Auto Flash”. It is really important to use the forced flash mode in bright sunlight. I know, I know, it sounds like you should do the opposite – but you are not actually “adding” more light to the picture, you are “redistributing” the light. This will illuminate the shadowy areas of your car and reduce the glare from the bright areas allowing you to capture a much better image of the vehicle.
As far as an automobiles color is concerned, the best time to photograph your darker vehicles is in the evening or the morning, when the sun is below the horizon. Bright cars are better to photograph when there is some sunlight present, but again, not harsh, overhead, mid-day sun.
For capturing your best interior shots, a white card, like a poster board, can be used to bounce some light off of the headliner to illuminate the inside of your vehicles. To best highlight all the bells and whistles in the dash, the white card can be propped on the backseat to reflect some light on the dash and show off its features
While shooting, be aware of your surroundings and all the extra distractions near your vehicle. Signs, telephone wires, trash cans, poles and customers wandering your lot are just some of the things in the background that can take all the focus and emphasis off the car you are hoping to sell.
A really simple trick for making your shots more appealing is to wet down the area where the car will be photographed. This will darken the pavement and provide a nice “highlight” effect. Remember my previous tip, though, and make sure you don’t leave a “distracting” hose or bucket lying around!
Unfortunately, chances are you are not going to be shooting your inventory in a comfortable studio with perfect temperature and lighting conditions. Don’t let this worry you! Even if you have to shoot your “subjects” outside, there are plenty of opportunities for capturing some fantastic shots on your lot that will “WOW” your customers.
Can you top this for a bizarre story? Imagine John Onak’s surprise when it was brought to his attention that there was a dead man riding in his passenger seat! Tuesday morning the driver “unknowingly” struck a pedestrian along Interstate 45 in Houston. Not only was the impact strong enough that the victim’s leg was left at the scene, but the rest of his body smashed through the windshield and landed in the front passengers seat. As astonishing as it seems, Onak was unaware of the gruesome body in the car beside him and continued driving down the road! Two miles from the accident, a county constable spotted the severely damaged front end of the Mazda, pulled the car over, discovered the victim’s body, and questioned Onak about his “unusual” passenger. Unbelievably, it wasn’t until then that the driver even noticed the dead body! title=”Gruesome Ride on the Gulf Freeway!”>http://bit.ly/lOj43B
In this digital world, customers have powerful technology on their side. The Internet has fundamentally changed how automobiles are bought and sold. Car buyers have infinite choices, instant access to information about every potential purchase, and the ability to competitively compare prices. Customers are gaining more control of, and contributing more to, their own consumer experience and decision making process – making it more difficult for sales people to engage and making every deal more competitive. These are the most empowered consumers in history, and make no mistake, THEY are in the driver’s seat!
Before they step foot in your dealership, today’s average car shopper has thoroughly researched and educated themselves on everything to do with a possible car purchase, in fact, the need to actually visit the dealership is sometimes completely eliminated! In some cases, they just may know more about the car they are considering to purchase than the salesman that greets them at the door with a smile and extended hand!
This new generation of Internet-empowered car buyers is tough, the negotiation advantage is now in THEIR corner! They are demanding greater transparency in the buyer-seller relationship. They expect consistency and value, quality and service. The sales focus has shifted from price haggling and payment to consumer needs and value. Your sales force must quantify the advantages of owning your brand versus the competition. Differentiating your competitive value is key, and will allow you to shift from selling “price” to selling “value”. Gone are the days of the stereotypical pushy, hard car sell – these “Vigilante Consumers” will not be intimidated! They are smart, savvy and informed, and perfectly willing to go elsewhere to get what they want.
It’s a jungle out there – dealerships that recognize this empowerment and the importance of developing relationships and delivering a consistent customer experience will gain and maintain the competitive advantage!