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Car dealers cannot afford to let a bad showroom experience derail their digital strategy

By Richard Yarrow

Dealers know smartphones and tablet computers have changed how consumers browse the internet – as well as going mobile, it has become a sofa-based, evening activity, with people searching for a new car to the theme tune of EastEnders.

The automotive industry has embraced this change. Manufacturers and retailers have revamped their websites, built online car configurators and introduced live chat, all to engage with potential buyers on their terms.


Integrated, company-wide and future-proofed DMS is essential to match dealership and digital experiences
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The aim is obviously to get them interested enough to visit the showroom, transferring them from the digital world to the physical one. Unfortunately, it is at this critical point that the customer experience can fail.

The trick is getting that digital-physical transition right. There can be no more effective way of crushing a customer’s expectations – and their desire to buy from you – than if they find Dave from Sales hasn’t the first idea who they are or what they’re interested in. Doing his job, he will want to take them back to the traditional start of the process.

Ian Plummer, head of sales operations at Volkswagen UK, said his team coined the phrase ‘blended retailing’ to describe what needs to happen.

“You’re merging the bricks with the clicks, making sure you add the warmth and the human element to the customer journey. They come to a dealership to make it physical and the key message is that it should be seamless. I’m sure they would feel frustrated if it isn’t.”

So how does a dealer avoid that? The main tool is a capable and tightly integrated DMS. It’s vital the system includes a single customer database across all elements of the business, so for each person there is one record card encapsulating their entire relationship with you. Whether it’s new or used sales, aftersales, service, parts, customer feedback – everything should be together and able to accommodate multiple showroom locations across the group. Every employee should be able to see the same information.

Angela Fleming is product manager for CRM at ADP Dealer Services, which supplies the Autoline Drive DMS. It was launched in May last year, updating a previous product. Part of the reason for the upgrade was to enhance the digital-to-physical transition.

“If someone has gone to the trouble of filling out an enquiry form online, they don’t want to have to do it again. We can carry that information from the website to the DMS, so people feel they have been listened to and the attention to detail is there. Our feedback from OEMs and dealers is that this is key to customer retention.”


Meeting every digital media expectation

Autoline Drive can be set up to provide specific responses to specific actions. For example, all enquiries about a particular model of car can go to one sales person, and will create a task in their diary to make contact. It will also automatically generate a new customer record using the information completed in the web form, or match it to and update an existing one.

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