Car dealerships' approach to staffing during the COVID-19 crisis has proved pivotal for the long-term profitability of businesses, according to MotorVise founder and MD Fraser Brown.
Customers are ready to return to showrooms after showrooms' reopening on April 12, but dealerships must “hit the ground running” and “properly manage” the customers returning to their showrooms, he has said.
Brown said: “Many dealers have shed sales staff over the past 12 months, either through redundancy or through people leaving to take up new opportunities. That has meant some dealerships have been operating with a much smaller team and the danger is that they are exhausted.
“Some dealers believe they can operate with a reduced sales team but continuing this policy will only drive down profit per unit.”
In 2020, MotorVise has launched its own mystery shopping service to help improve standards across car dealerships.
Brown said that managing demand to maintain social distancing by having a system in place ensures that customers can book an appointment beforehand and by having the correct number of staff on the ground ensures a high level of customer service – otherwise retailers “risk losing customers permanently”.
In the latest edition of AM Magazine, we spoke to four senior directors in the sector – Daksh Gupta, CEO at Marshall Motor Group; Paul Hendy, CEO of Hendy Group; Nathan Tomlinson, dealer principal at Devonshire Motors; and Graeme Potts, CEO at Eden Motor Group – to understand some of the positive outcomes the three COVID-19 lockdowns have inspired.
Brown reassured retailers that customers are “itching to get back inside a car showroom” as “people will always want to see, touch, and test drive vehicles – an experience that is completely lacking online, especially when you consider it’s such a major purchase".
The pandemic has forced dealerships to improve their online services, which may lead to the development of a hybrid system where people choose their new car online and then visit a showroom to view the vehicle and conclude the deal, suggested Brown.
“There may well be less pent-up demand than dealerships experienced after reopening their showrooms last June following the first lockdown, but buying a car remains an enduring and very personal experience,” said Brown.
A study by the Motor Ombudsman revealed just over half (53%) of franchise dealerships and independent car retailers forecast that new car sales will be higher during the April to June period, compared to the same pre-COVID quarter two years ago.
Brown added: “Interest in used cars is falling due to a rise in screen prices. Meanwhile, the drop in the sale of new cars means that in two years’ time there will be a 40% reduction in the number of vehicles coming through to the used market.
“We absolutely need to stimulate an increase in new car registrations so that the industry is able to replenish the future used car market.”