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Accessibility is key to any progressive car dealer's reputation, opinion

Prof Jim Saker

In his latest 'Viewpoint' opinion article for AM, Professor Jim Saker responds to a recent AM webinar, concluding that accessibility is now the key ingredient for any car retailer's reputation.

Sometimes the obvious isn’t so obvious. I was reading AM Online and spotted the headline promoting the AM webinar on Building Dealership Reputation.

It said in reference to trading during the pandemic that ‘reputation is proving the difference between success and failure’.

My initial reaction was that surely that is obvious, if you have a good reputation then you are likely to do better than if you have a bad one. But that reaction misses the point.

Does the reputation that you had before the pandemic still hold true 18 months later?

During the pandemic some reputations, whether personal or business, have grown in stature while others have declined.

The pandemic gave a major boost to online car retailers, and it will be interesting to see the type of reputation they have over the next few months, with limited used car availability and rising prices.

Marketing is – and has always been – a cerebral battle whether it is digital, through legacy channels, or face-to-face.

What people think about you influences how they behave towards you.

In my opinion, accessibility is now one of the biggest competitive factors in building reputation in the marketplace.

If customers can’t have easy access to you or your business, they will go elsewhere.

During the pandemic being online gave accessibility when face-to-face interaction wasn’t available, but this has to be done well if it is to replace other forms of interaction.

Having bought a car this September the service I had from the dealer was brilliant. I was kept informed at every step; they were accessible for me.

The manufacturer, by comparison, was more problematic.

Everything had to be done online which, in theory, is fine except that the online process was impenetrable.

I wanted to buy insurance, but the system took me in a loop which I couldn’t get out of, so I purchased elsewhere.

It might have helped if I could have spoken to someone on the phone, but that presented another challenge.

I suspect that I am not the only one to have phoned a business and been told that ‘they are very busy at the moment’ and that unless I want to waste the rest of my life hanging on, I should ring back when they are less busy or when they have got adequate staff to speak to customers.

Reputations can be lost not necessarily by what you do, but by what you don’t do.

In the work of the IMI Taskforce on Diversity and Inclusion, making websites accessible to people with visible and non-visible disabilities is becoming a major issue, especially when coupled with the challenge of getting through to businesses by phone because ‘sorry, we are too busy’.

The pandemic has affected how customers see our businesses; being accessible in whatever channel they choose to operate will either enhance or destroy reputations.

  • The AM General Manager's Guide to Buiding Your Dealership's Reputation webinar, features Waylands Automotive head of sales, Dominic Gouldsborough, Luscombe Motors managing director Robin Luscombe, Roadside Garages director David Boyd, IMDA founding member Cheshire Cars owner David Bilsborough and Reputation's Any Wand. Hear their insights on-demand by clicking here.
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