COVID-19 Impact On Dealers & Changes To Customer Behaviour

In the backdrop of an already tough sales marketplace, global political and economic uncertainty, CO2 penalties and rapidly changing customer demand and expectations, electrification and more, Dealers are stuck between a rock and a hard place. 

The pandemic has forever changed our experiences – as customers, employees, citizens – as human beings.  Our attitudes and behaviours are changing as a result.  Once the threat of the virus has passed, what will have changed in the way we act and think –  and how will that affect the way we design, communicate, build and deliver services and experiences that people need and want?

Imagine it’s September, Q3.  Things are back to normal – we can meet face to face.  Travel is possible.  We are able to get supplies – toilet paper and flour are easy to buy.  But things have changed.  Noticing the way we think, react and how we now want to work, buy, communicate and connect – shapes our human experience of the new world; there are real, radical shifts in thinking and with heightened awareness and a sense of real vulnerability, emphasising the need to protect ourselves and our loved ones, our jobs and businesses in the light of our unique and collective experiences.

As with every industry, function and geography affected the amount of potential change to think through, plan and implement – can be daunting.  We can help here.  Dealers need to develop a rapid response to address these shifts and to limit the level of disruption to businesses going forward.  This means strengthening dealership operations in preparation for potential risk and to make adjustments to ways of working – to adapt to the ‘new normal’.

Automotive Retail Leaders are already preparing for this with the Health & Safety of employees and customers, a primary concern with the need for meticulous planning for the re-opening of Dealerships in a safe and socially distanced way.  This includes the strict guidelines on use of PPE, where appropriate, once the restrictions are lifted.  When Dealership showrooms re-open, the pressure to ensure that each customer purchasing and ownership journey continues to be an enjoyable one, takes on a new level of complexity.

Impact of experience

There are human and business implications to anticipate and make sense of, now and over the coming months.  Customer confidence in buying without the risk to health and wellbeing is paramount.  Customers will avoid visiting dealerships and prefer a safer method to do business, online, phone, email and so on.  Past experiences, engagement and trust, will inform customers whether they will choose to do business or not with a Dealer.  Significantly, customers will make the decision to do business by how easy and safe it is.  Risk will be less tolerable and therefore being easy to do business with, which includes access to dealership services virtually as well as physically, will be more valuable and important to customers.

Since Lock-down, we have all been forced into a world of online shopping and arranged deliveries.  Email has become the new norm, invaluable, so too has the phone.  We now understand that seeing and speaking to people face to face is a nice thing to do, however not as vital as keeping safe.  This experience and new reality,  is fuelling a massive shift to digital, virtual activity for everyday things.  At a time of high anxiety, where there is ambiguity and uncertainty, what do Dealers need to consider? If you are going to be one of the best, then what do you need to identify, plan for and make happen, to be able to successfully come out the other side?

Having clarity is key, about your priorities and your strengths.  Followed by being honest about your motivation, readiness and ability to change – and your specific skill set and competencies, bearing in mind, the demands of your day job – and the capacity of your management team to drive it through.  As you digest these words, for a moment, consider what options, do you have? 

  • Redesign and implement a contactless sales process to meet health and hygiene safety requirements.
  • Rethink your sales model for the future, embracing digital channels, greater usage of email, video, personal contact with customers using virtual tools, as well as considering a direct sales model. 

Most Dealerships are thinking about or focusing on the above.   Dealership Business Leaders are in the throes of crisis management, trying to stabilize their operations, protecting their workforce and retaining their customers.  But the phrase ‘crisis management’ implies a return to normal within weeks.  The reality is, businesses need to plan for a different future that accounts for impacts from the virus and resulting business and society change over many months and years.  Highly experienced in business change and behavioural change, these are some other areas for focus;

  • Set up a digital workplace, so that all aspects of online communication is handled efficiently and effectively, providing ‘human experience’ at key customer journey touchpoints.
  • Stay connected with customers via online and mobile channels, direct mail and by phone.
  • Focus on effective and skilful call handling both inbound and outbound with analytics, to enable you to monitor and track results across the whole customer car ownership lifecycle – and find new opportunities.
  • Focus efforts on generating leads through other means including virtual sales events and other tailored customer engagement initiatives.

These suggestions come with a ‘health warning’.  You can install new systems, introduce new software; bring in new processes and develop a new strategy or all of the above.  But if you don’t understand how to transform people, how to embed and make change stick, nothing will change.  People make it happen.  Change and learning are very closely linked. Managing the impact of change on processes and people requires a specific skill set and a focus on the ‘who’ and application of the change.

Start planning for the new normal now, and make the right changes happen to meet the evolving needs of the Dealership, Manufacturers, Customers and Employees.  The ‘human’ and technical craft of selling in Automotive Retail needs to respond and evolve to meet the new demands of the new world.

Ready to get started?

WhiteTEC are experts in people change and performance improvement:

  • Give your customers confidence – streamline the sales process and put ‘people and connection’ at the heart of your business – emotional intelligence will enable you to turn each sales opportunity into a great ‘human’ experience.
  • Give your customers value – Be a value centre.
  • Give your customers a safe environment – gain their trust.
  • Technology is an enabler, re-design a contactless sales process to meet health and hygiene requirements.
  • Make it easy – Challenge and revolutionise your processes and policies, so that buying a car or taking care of it is simple, clear and customer-centric.

Get in touch with us

Call now on 01548 511738 or email
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