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Auto Success June - Want More Zeros? Deliver More Zeros

Originally seen on Auto Success magazine

By: Jennifer Sanford

There’s a lot of buzz floating around the automotive industry today concerning people — both dealership employees and customers. Refocusing on people is not a new concept but it’s popular everywhere right now. I posted an article on LinkedIn recently to discuss this and was blown away at the level of response it generated. Passionate about creating a good customer experience, I know that it takes the entire business working together to ensure customer satisfaction and retention. The high cost of customer acquisition alone should make everyone stop and evaluate their existing people processes and structures.

In automotive dealerships, there are a few initial questions to ask when evaluating this. Is everyone clear on your dealership’s specific value? Are the benefits that your store provides, both to customers and to the local community, expressed clearly? Are your products and services receiving high customer reviews? Are the customer-facing team members delivering the same value proposition that is promised in your dealership’s advertising? Is the dealership experience that’s stated on your website actually the dealership experience that your team provides?

As dealerships refocus on their people, it opens up the opportunity to create a truly excellent retail automotive experience for customers. In a recent podcast/article by Tiffany Burns and Tyler Harris at McKinsey, they discuss the “Five Zeros” associated with excellent customer experiences.

In short, they are:

Zero Difference in Channels
Retailers, regardless of the product, must deliver an omnichannel experience. In automotive, some stores still optimize their digital and offline channels separately. We’ve seen how easily this can backfire. Consumers don’t think of a dealership’s website, online advertising or social media as different from an in-store or phone experience. To today’s car buyers, it’s all a reflection of the same business, no matter how they interact with that brand.

We’ve talked about this for years in automotive, and somehow we still struggle to get this basic point right. Consumers expect, and frankly demand, today’s online experience to match what the phone call or in-store would deliver. Is your website marketing outdated offers? Is your chat taking too long to connect with a real person at your store? Is your phone IVR easy to use to schedule sales or service appointments?

Zero Desire for Assistance
Speed and efficiency matter to American shoppers. Self-check-outs and automated machines have become commonplace for simple tasks. But, when help is needed, today’s shoppers still want it to be provided in person. Can your team deliver that?

Zero Wait Time
The “same-day-delivery” mindset that was jump-started for consumers by Amazon is almost impossible for retailers of new cars or trucks today. What about same-day service appointments for oil changes? Can your store offer a 24/7 fast and reliable turnkey online and offline scheduling service?

Zero Tolerance for Inaction on Equity and Sustainability
Consumers want to put their money behind issues that matter to them. For dealerships, this means that they want to use their money to promote equity and sustainability. How is your dealership managing the customer experience in a sustainable way?

Zero Wiggle Room for Talent
It is hard to hire and retain frontline retail workers in automotive. Employee engagement and experience means developing your store’s staff. Are you leveraging technology to manage repetitive tasks so that your teams can increase their skill sets? Are you using technology to help create more developed, specialized employees?

The five zeros can be implemented in any retail environment, but certainly fit in automotive today. With so many transformations and growth opportunities happening in dealerships — whether it’s because of a global pandemic or supply chain shortages — now is the time to make sure that your people and your processes are set up for future success. Take inventory of what your dealership is delivering and how technology can be used to get ahead of customers’ expectations for years to come.

Jennifer Sanford is the vice president of marketing and industry relations at Telepathy Labs for STELLA Automotive.

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