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Car dealers need to make salespeople available when customers want them

By Professor Jim Saker

It was Geoffrey Chaucer who said “time and tide wait for no one”. Time is one of those concepts that people have written about throughout history. It is also one of the favourite topics for inspirational business speakers or the dreaded motivational poster in the office. Lee Iacocca’s famous quote is often displayed: “The ability to concentrate and to use your time well is everything if you want to succeed in business – or almost anywhere in life.”


Professor Jim Saker is director of the Centre for Automotive Management at Loughborough University’s Business School. He has been involved in the automotive industry for more than 20 years.


When we get a new cohort of retail automotive students, the first couple of days are spent on an induction, which introduces them to the university and its support systems.

Undertaking any form of study in addition to a full-time job is a major challenge and requires that you manage the limited time you have available effectively. One of the things most delegates grasp is that they have to look at what they do with their time and how much they allocate to any activity.

Some academics encourage students to keep an hourly diary of what they actually do during any one week. The results are often staggering and reflect our research findings that salespeople in the retail automotive sector spend only about 10% of their time actually selling.

What is interesting is that customers (people like us) are also looking at their daily lives and using time differently. The rise in the use of the internet has meant people in the UK spend more time online than watching television. In fact, they spend more time online than any other activity apart from sleeping or working.


94% of people go online before they buy a car

Capgemini research indicates that 94% of people go online before purchasing a car. The downside of this is that 74% of potential customers report that they will look elsewhere before they get to the showroom if they are not happy with the response time from the first contact with a manufacturer’s or dealer’s website.  

This presents an interesting challenge. I know of a major dealer that is experimenting with an online chat facility as part of its web offering. When a customer is processing a potential booking or simply seeking information, they  are automatically offered the opportunity to put forward a query to an online adviser.

This happens in real-time, in and out of office hours. The dealer group has a central facility that handles the questions and then passes on the information to the dealership the following day. This immediate response to a customer query has massive potential to overcome the walkaways predicted by the Capgemini research.

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