Archive for October, 2009

3 Ways to Effectively Use the Internet in the Auto Industry

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Effectively utilizing the web in the automotive industry is a unique challenge. As we all know, there has been a significant paradigm shift in the way consumers both research and purchase vehicles. We now live in a world of instant news and 24 hour news cycles. Information can be sent and received globally within seconds. To keep up, dealerships must have a strong presence on the web with consistent and up-to-date information.

There are three primary ways to make this happen.

First, plaster your web site address on every single piece of marketing and advertising. Don’t allow anything to make its way into a potential customer’s home without branding your site all over it and make sure everyone knows where they need to go in order to learn more about your dealership. Very rarely will somebody call to schedule an appointment without already researching a dealership and/or the dealer’s inventory. I know I am much more likely to browse through a dealer’s web site before picking up the phone. In addition, include your social media information. People visit multiple sites throughout the web in order to find what they’re looking for. It’s important to have a strong dealership web site but it is equally important to give your prospects numerous ways to find your dealership.

Second, make sure your web page is information based and user friendly. People don’t visit your site to see pretty colors or cool car noises or a ton of cluttered numbers. They want information. The navigation bar should be short and simple. I want to see your inventory, your location and your hours. Dedicate a separate page that includes your current deals. The days of advertising ‘best deals’ in a weekly newspaper ad is over. People no longer shop for new vehicles in the Sunday paper. They shop online. And give them the ability to schedule an appointment (sales or service) right then and there.

Finally, take part in the all important Search Engine Optimization (SEO). As I said, give your customers multiple ways to find you. For example, if I am looking for a new 2010 Chevy Tahoe, I may just google the vehicle information along with the city I live in. By participating in SEO, you can be one of the first dealers listed when somebody searches for a specific vehicle. Do research on what key words are most popular and broadcast your dealer info where it fits.

Effectively using the web is not an easy task…and it takes time. But, when done correctly it can significantly increase both your traffic and revenue.

~Lee Ernst

DMEautomotive

3 Ways to Effectively Use the Internet in the Auto Industry

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Effectively utilizing the web in the automotive industry is a unique challenge. As we all know, there has been a significant paradigm shift in the way consumers both research and purchase vehicles. We now live in a world of instant news and 24 hour news cycles. Information can be sent and received globally within seconds. To keep up, dealerships must have a strong presence on the web with consistent and up-to-date information.

There are three primary ways to make this happen.

First, plaster your web site address on every single piece of marketing and advertising. Don’t allow anything to make its way into a potential customer’s home without branding your site all over it and make sure everyone knows where they need to go in order to learn more about your dealership. Very rarely will somebody call to schedule an appointment without already researching a dealership and/or the dealer’s inventory. I know I am much more likely to browse through a dealer’s web site before picking up the phone. In addition, include your social media information. People visit multiple sites throughout the web in order to find what they’re looking for. It’s important to have a strong dealership web site but it is equally important to give your prospects numerous ways to find your dealership.

Second, make sure your web page is information based and user friendly. People don’t visit your site to see pretty colors or cool car noises or a ton of cluttered numbers. They want information. The navigation bar should be short and simple. I want to see your inventory, your location and your hours. Dedicate a separate page that includes your current deals. The days of advertising ‘best deals’ in a weekly newspaper ad is over. People no longer shop for new vehicles in the Sunday paper. They shop online. And give them the ability to schedule an appointment (sales or service) right then and there.

Finally, take part in the all important Search Engine Optimization (SEO). As I said, give your customers multiple ways to find you. For example, if I am looking for a new 2010 Chevy Tahoe, I may just google the vehicle information along with the city I live in. By participating in SEO, you can be one of the first dealers listed when somebody searches for a specific vehicle. Do research on what key words are most popular and broadcast your dealer info where it fits.

Effectively using the web is not an easy task…and it takes time. But, when done correctly it can significantly increase both your traffic and revenue.

~Lee Ernst

DMEautomotive

The Missing Link to Customer Loyalty

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Today’s automotive customers are becoming increasingly more fickle and are demanding fast and responsive customer service from the dealers. Customer loyalty is more the exception than the norm because sales and service customers have too many options, allowing them to easily defect to a competitor. This means that dealers are constantly trying to find ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors by enhancing customer service; in particular being more responsive to their customer’s needs and requests. The secret to Customer Loyalty is very simple…enhance the customer’s overall dealership interaction experience.

Any time a customer comes into contact with any aspect of your dealership, however remote, that customer has an opportunity to form an impression that will influence their future decision on whether or not to return. For example, when a customer or prospect calls your dealership looking to purchase a vehicle or to have service performed, they expect the call to be answered in a timely and professional manner. They also expect a courteous and responsive interaction. If this doesn’t happen, then the caller has had a bad experience resulting in a negative impression.

With the majority of cases, you only get one chance to make a “good impression” during a customer interaction. Sometimes, due to different reasons, you may get a second chance to make a “good impression.” So, the key is to define and implement specific customer-centric communication processes to improve the overall customer interaction experience.

Today, many dealers are investigating ways to manage their customer interaction process. Some are creating in-house business development centers (BDC), but are finding that BDC’s are too expensive to maintain or troublesome to manage. Other dealers are looking at the benefits of “outsourcing” their BDC’s to gain scalability of resources and lower associated costs, as well as gain 24/7 coverage to ensure that they are prepared to interact with their customers when their customers are ready to interact with them.

Regardless of the method employed, remember: profitable and long-term customer relationships are a by-product of effective customer interactions that ultimately result in positive customer experiences.

~ Gary Mitchell

Director, Telephony & Virtual BDC Products, DMEautomotive


The Missing Link to Customer Loyalty

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Today’s automotive customers are becoming increasingly more fickle and are demanding fast and responsive customer service from the dealers. Customer loyalty is more the exception than the norm because sales and service customers have too many options, allowing them to easily defect to a competitor. This means that dealers are constantly trying to find ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors by enhancing customer service; in particular being more responsive to their customer’s needs and requests. The secret to Customer Loyalty is very simple…enhance the customer’s overall dealership interaction experience.

Any time a customer comes into contact with any aspect of your dealership, however remote, that customer has an opportunity to form an impression that will influence their future decision on whether or not to return. For example, when a customer or prospect calls your dealership looking to purchase a vehicle or to have service performed, they expect the call to be answered in a timely and professional manner. They also expect a courteous and responsive interaction. If this doesn’t happen, then the caller has had a bad experience resulting in a negative impression.

With the majority of cases, you only get one chance to make a “good impression” during a customer interaction. Sometimes, due to different reasons, you may get a second chance to make a “good impression.” So, the key is to define and implement specific customer-centric communication processes to improve the overall customer interaction experience.

Today, many dealers are investigating ways to manage their customer interaction process. Some are creating in-house business development centers (BDC), but are finding that BDC’s are too expensive to maintain or troublesome to manage. Other dealers are looking at the benefits of “outsourcing” their BDC’s to gain scalability of resources and lower associated costs, as well as gain 24/7 coverage to ensure that they are prepared to interact with their customers when their customers are ready to interact with them.

Regardless of the method employed, remember: profitable and long-term customer relationships are a by-product of effective customer interactions that ultimately result in positive customer experiences.

~ Gary Mitchell

Director, Telephony & Virtual BDC Products, DMEautomotive


Enhancing the Customer Experience

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Let’s look at a typical customer experience that can either generate revenue or cause a potential problem. One of your existing customers needs to make a service appointment. Like most of us, they are very busy, but they take time out of their hectic schedule to call your dealership.

Will their call be answered in a timely manner?

Will their call be answered at all?

Will their questions be answered and the appointment set?

Are you sure?

What are you doing to make sure?

Even though the telephone is a very effective way to communicate with your customers, it can also create problems when not used properly. There is a lot that can go wrong.

For one, your staff gets busy. If calls are not answered in a timely fashion, people get frustrated. Phone calls also offer potential customers an easy out – after all, it’s easier to hang up then walk away. Lastly, whether they admit it to you or not, many employees are far more comfortable talking face to face with their customers. Awkward phone conversations leave potential customers, also known as potential revenue, uneasy and less likely to want to repeat the experience.

When your customers call your dealership, either for sales or service, you need to be ready. You may only get one opportunity to answer the call before a customer calls your competitor and you lose their business. Most dealers say that somewhere between 5 to 15 service appointment calls are either not answered properly or mishandled each day.

That, as we know, is business that is not handled: appointments are not being set and potential revenue is lost. The impact of missing or improperly handling service appointment calls is very measurable.

Imagine that if, during each workday, only three service appointment phone calls are missed or not handled properly. Consider that the average Repair Order value is $200. If you miss just three service calls a day, that’s $600 in lost revenue. If that happens for one month, your dealership has lost $13,800. Annually, that adds up to $165,600 — that’s a lot of money in missed opportunities.

Each month, dealers spend thousands of dollars on advertising and marketing to make the phones ring in their sales and service departments. Each phone call, inbound or outbound, has the potential to generate revenue and must be handled properly. Are you comfortable with the process you currently have in place?

Your entire dealership handles the challenges of your current telephone system. Most dealership employees, from the Dealership Operator to the sales people on the floor to service personnel, are juggling many duties and struggle with finding the time to answer the phone or page when a customer calls, return messages in a timely manner, and proactively follow up with leads … never mind prospect new leads.

The right solution: a Virtual BDC

Your internal woes can be easily solved by an innovative, outsourced, dealership-focused customer interaction and communication process, which in turn can improve the overall performance of each inbound or outbound call by:

· Putting each customer at ease during the interaction

· Conducting reciprocal conversations with your customers or prospects versus delivering an impersonal script

· Being available 24/7 to ensure all calls are made and answered

· Providing consistent and relevant messaging for control and measurement of each call type

The customer interaction options of a Virtual BDC are nearly limitless. By outsourcing your business development center, you can reduce and control operating costs, lower payroll and ongoing training costs, improve company focus with consistent and relevant communications, and gain control and improve your telephony operations process.

~ Gary Mitchell

Director, Telephony & Virtual BDC Products, DMEautomotive

Enhancing the Customer Experience

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Let’s look at a typical customer experience that can either generate revenue or cause a potential problem. One of your existing customers needs to make a service appointment. Like most of us, they are very busy, but they take time out of their hectic schedule to call your dealership.

Will their call be answered in a timely manner?

Will their call be answered at all?

Will their questions be answered and the appointment set?

Are you sure?

What are you doing to make sure?

Even though the telephone is a very effective way to communicate with your customers, it can also create problems when not used properly. There is a lot that can go wrong.

For one, your staff gets busy. If calls are not answered in a timely fashion, people get frustrated. Phone calls also offer potential customers an easy out – after all, it’s easier to hang up then walk away. Lastly, whether they admit it to you or not, many employees are far more comfortable talking face to face with their customers. Awkward phone conversations leave potential customers, also known as potential revenue, uneasy and less likely to want to repeat the experience.

When your customers call your dealership, either for sales or service, you need to be ready. You may only get one opportunity to answer the call before a customer calls your competitor and you lose their business. Most dealers say that somewhere between 5 to 15 service appointment calls are either not answered properly or mishandled each day.

That, as we know, is business that is not handled: appointments are not being set and potential revenue is lost. The impact of missing or improperly handling service appointment calls is very measurable.

Imagine that if, during each workday, only three service appointment phone calls are missed or not handled properly. Consider that the average Repair Order value is $200. If you miss just three service calls a day, that’s $600 in lost revenue. If that happens for one month, your dealership has lost $13,800. Annually, that adds up to $165,600 — that’s a lot of money in missed opportunities.

Each month, dealers spend thousands of dollars on advertising and marketing to make the phones ring in their sales and service departments. Each phone call, inbound or outbound, has the potential to generate revenue and must be handled properly. Are you comfortable with the process you currently have in place?

Your entire dealership handles the challenges of your current telephone system. Most dealership employees, from the Dealership Operator to the sales people on the floor to service personnel, are juggling many duties and struggle with finding the time to answer the phone or page when a customer calls, return messages in a timely manner, and proactively follow up with leads … never mind prospect new leads.

The right solution: a Virtual BDC

Your internal woes can be easily solved by an innovative, outsourced, dealership-focused customer interaction and communication process, which in turn can improve the overall performance of each inbound or outbound call by:

· Putting each customer at ease during the interaction

· Conducting reciprocal conversations with your customers or prospects versus delivering an impersonal script

· Being available 24/7 to ensure all calls are made and answered

· Providing consistent and relevant messaging for control and measurement of each call type

The customer interaction options of a Virtual BDC are nearly limitless. By outsourcing your business development center, you can reduce and control operating costs, lower payroll and ongoing training costs, improve company focus with consistent and relevant communications, and gain control and improve your telephony operations process.

~ Gary Mitchell

Director, Telephony & Virtual BDC Products, DMEautomotive

Social Media Considerations

Monday, October 5th, 2009

It has been said that cars are one of the very few personal possessions that arouses such extreme consumer passion and fanaticism. People talk about their cars, whether they are bragging or complaining, to their friends, family members and coworkers. And in today’s technologically advanced world, they are conveying their opinions, thoughts and feelings (both positive and negative) to an infinite number of strangers online – through blogs, forums, review sites and social media communities. While a certain percentage of individuals actively voice their opinions online, there is an even larger number of individuals who use the internet to research products, services and companies as part of their buying process.

Conversations are taking place…everywhere, 24/7! Conversations are happening on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and so on – they are about car companies, various models of cars and car dealerships. More and more, in today’s world, customers are consuming and reacting to user-driven content than to corporate advertising. Therefore it is vital for those in the automotive industry to know about these conversations, where they are happening, what is being said, how to handle the comments being made (if negative, how to turn a detractor into an advocate or, if positive, how to empower your brand advocates) and, last but certainly not least, how to become a part of the conversation. In general, key benefits of social media are the ability to engage with consumers and monitor relevant conversations.


To accomplish the objectives, companies participate in social media in various ways, such as:

• Creating a
blog for consumers, customers and prospects – blogs are useful for disseminating real-time company news, discussing current models, and revealing upcoming models and publishing relevant industry expertise. They can also be positioned as an opportunity to show the human side of a company and converse more casually with the general public. Conversational tones, stories, useful tips, as well as the ability for readers to comment and share information are generally well received by consumers.

• Employing
Facebook Fan Pages and Twitter Accounts – These interactional sites allow you to publish company news, drive traffic to company branded websites, and provide updates on products. They also allow for you to communicate one-to-one with consumers. This two-way conversation with consumers enables you to show your personality, more so today than ever, people want to see “the man behind the curtain”…not the corporate image. People are looking for connections, not content and therefore companies can build mutually beneficial relationships with the public by engaging in conversations online. You can also use Facebook and Twitter to address customer service issues, acknowledge and reward your biggest advocates and invite feedback on vehicles, services and marketing campaigns…ensuring that future products and efforts are more meaningful for the customers.

• Uploading videos on
YouTube – Video libraries are an opportunity to provide valuable, relevant and useful information to customers and prospects, as well as insights into the corporate personality. In addition to commercials, you can publish videos about your models (specifics about engines, performance, etc) that true car fanatics will enjoy. You should also consider uploading videos about general knowledge bases that even the most novice drive can appreciate. YouTube is a fantastic site to publish employee spotlight videos, which can also humanize your company. Lastly, several companies encourage fan created content via contests on YouTube.

Word of Mouth – Recommendations are one of the strongest influencers in the buying process. According to Forrester Research, 94% of consumers say that a word of mouth recommendation is the number one influence of their purchase decisions. In other words, consumers trust one another’s opinions and experiences. Given this knowledge, you may want to consider the following:

  1. Monitoring social media websites to listen to consumers and identify your most satisfied customers (commonly referred to as “Brand Advocates”). Additionally, by inviting them to follow you on Twitter or to become a fan on Facebook, you may identify potential advocates.
  2. Give your Brand Advocates the chance to create, share and publish content online! For example, much like what you see on Amazon, you can provide a Ratings/Review Tool on websites, allowing customers to relate their own experiences with your products. Naturally Brand Advocates are going to share their opinions with others so it is recommended companies embrace Word of Mouth by providing tools, such as surveys, widgets or badges, allowing consumers to effortlessly relay such information.
  3. Additionally, you can offer customized and personalized e-cards, coupons and other promotional offers that your Brand Advocates can easily forward to friends, family and coworkers to take advantage of.

• Running Social Media only
Promotions and span>Contests – More and more companies, from Dell to Southwest to Qwest to Nissan to TurboTax, are implementing promotions, discounts and contests only available to their followers and fans online in an effort to create a significant buzz about their products. Much like the traditional communication channels of direct mail, phone, email and text, online promotions and contests employed on social media sites can also drive traffic and sales.

• Creating your
own online community – A number of companies (Starbucks and Saturn for example) have created their own online community to interact with consumers. Though establishing your own branded community requires a great deal of time and resources, it can be a great platform to announce new products, build brand awareness and identify your Brand Advocates in a more “controlled atmosphere”.

Monitoring Conversations – Online conversations, whether on blogs, Twitter, Facebook and so on, can be monitored by following key words or combinations of words. Once made aware of such conversations you can appropriately respond to and/or engage in the conversation. Not only does this practice increase and assist in brand management (for instance providing a coupon to a once disgruntled customer), but the conversation provides you with the opportunity to create a sales lead in the future. Monitoring conversations not only allows you to identify and reward Brand Advocates, but it also provides you the opportunity to turn a brand detractor into a happy customer who will return in the future.

The considerations presented above are just a brief outline of tactics currently employed in social media on behalf of the corporate world. Social media is fairly unchartered waters for many companies and the amount of information available on social media is plentiful. Regardless of what a company chooses to use, it’s important to remember this: social media won’t close the deal, but it can certainly create a buzz about your company, products and services, drive traffic to your website and, if done with the objective of consumer engagement, it can improve your brand positioning.
~ Missy Jensen
Social Media Manager, DMEautomotive

Social Media Considerations

Monday, October 5th, 2009

It has been said that cars are one of the very few personal possessions that arouses such extreme consumer passion and fanaticism. People talk about their cars, whether they are bragging or complaining, to their friends, family members and coworkers. And in today’s technologically advanced world, they are conveying their opinions, thoughts and feelings (both positive and negative) to an infinite number of strangers online – through blogs, forums, review sites and social media communities. While a certain percentage of individuals actively voice their opinions online, there is an even larger number of individuals who use the internet to research products, services and companies as part of their buying process.

Conversations are taking place…everywhere, 24/7! Conversations are happening on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and so on – they are about car companies, various models of cars and car dealerships. More and more, in today’s world, customers are consuming and reacting to user-driven content than to corporate advertising. Therefore it is vital for those in the automotive industry to know about these conversations, where they are happening, what is being said, how to handle the comments being made (if negative, how to turn a detractor into an advocate or, if positive, how to empower your brand advocates) and, last but certainly not least, how to become a part of the conversation. In general, key benefits of social media are the ability to engage with consumers and monitor relevant conversations.


To accomplish the objectives, companies participate in social media in various ways, such as:

• Creating a
blog for consumers, customers and prospects – blogs are useful for disseminating real-time company news, discussing current models, and revealing upcoming models and publishing relevant industry expertise. They can also be positioned as an opportunity to show the human side of a company and converse more casually with the general public. Conversational tones, stories, useful tips, as well as the ability for readers to comment and share information are generally well received by consumers.

• Employing
Facebook Fan Pages and Twitter Accounts – These interactional sites allow you to publish company news, drive traffic to company branded websites, and provide updates on products. They also allow for you to communicate one-to-one with consumers. This two-way conversation with consumers enables you to show your personality, more so today than ever, people want to see “the man behind the curtain”…not the corporate image. People are looking for connections, not content and therefore companies can build mutually beneficial relationships with the public by engaging in conversations online. You can also use Facebook and Twitter to address customer service issues, acknowledge and reward your biggest advocates and invite feedback on vehicles, services and marketing campaigns…ensuring that future products and efforts are more meaningful for the customers.

• Uploading videos on
YouTube – Video libraries are an opportunity to provide valuable, relevant and useful information to customers and prospects, as well as insights into the corporate personality. In addition to commercials, you can publish videos about your models (specifics about engines, performance, etc) that true car fanatics will enjoy. You should also consider uploading videos about general knowledge bases that even the most novice drive can appreciate. YouTube is a fantastic site to publish employee spotlight videos, which can also humanize your company. Lastly, several companies encourage fan created content via contests on YouTube.

Word of Mouth – Recommendations are one of the strongest influencers in the buying process. According to Forrester Research, 94% of consumers say that a word of mouth recommendation is the number one influence of their purchase decisions. In other words, consumers trust one another’s opinions and experiences. Given this knowledge, you may want to consider the following:
  1. Monitoring social media websites to listen to consumers and identify your most satisfied customers (commonly referred to as “Brand Advocates”). Additionally, by inviting them to follow you on Twitter or to become a fan on Facebook, you may identify potential advocates.
  2. Give your Brand Advocates the chance to create, share and publish content online! For example, much like what you see on Amazon, you can provide a Ratings/Review Tool on websites, allowing customers to relate their own experiences with your products. Naturally Brand Advocates are going to share their opinions with others so it is recommended companies embrace Word of Mouth by providing tools, such as surveys, widgets or badges, allowing consumers to effortlessly relay such information.
  3. Additionally, you can offer customized and personalized e-cards, coupons and other promotional offers that your Brand Advocates can easily forward to friends, family and coworkers to take advantage of.

• Running Social Media only
Promotions and Contests – More and more companies, from Dell to Southwest to Qwest to Nissan to TurboTax, are implementing promotions, discounts and contests only available to their followers and fans online in an effort to create a significant buzz about their products. Much like the traditional communication channels of direct mail, phone, email and text, online promotions and contests employed on social media sites can also drive traffic and sales.

• Creating your
own online community – A number of companies (Starbucks and Saturn for example) have created their own online community to interact with consumers. Though establishing your own branded community requires a great deal of time and resources, it can be a great platform to announce new products, build brand awareness and identify your Brand Advocates in a more “controlled atmosphere”.

Monitoring Conversations – Online conversations, whether on blogs, Twitter, Facebook and so on, can be monitored by following key words or combinations of words. Once made aware of such conversations you can appropriately respond to and/or engage in the conversation. Not only does this practice increase and assist in brand management (for instance providing a coupon to a once disgruntled customer), but the conversation provides you with the opportunity to create a sales lead in the future. Monitoring conversations not only allows you to identify and reward Brand Advocates, but it also provides you the opportunity to turn a brand detractor into a happy customer who will return in the future.

The considerations presented above are just a brief outline of tactics currently employed in social media on behalf of the corporate world. Social media is fairly unchartered waters for many companies and the amount of information available on social media is plentiful. Regardless of what a company chooses to use, it’s important to remember this: social media won’t close the deal, but it can certainly create a buzz about your company, products and services, drive traffic to your website and, if done with the objective of consumer engagement, it can improve your brand positioning.
~ Missy Jensen
Social Media Manager, DMEautomotive