Covid-19 hit and dealerships adapted remarkably. Cleaning routines were put in place, adjustments to facilities were made, new flexibility was created to provide a safe environment even with considerably less staff in many cases.

Dealerships scrambled to get digital retailing tools in place but what happened with those tools varied by region and dealer – it lurched forward in some regions while others saw little change. Overall, usage continued the inconsistent march towards online.

As had been the case prior to the outbreak, the great majority of shoppers begin online and complete the first “job” of finding a vehicle that fits their needs remotely. Moving to the next stage, 86% of those customers head to the dealership for the second “job” of trying out the vehicle in person. 93% of those at the dealership stay to complete the third “job” of buying the vehicle, with only 7% returning home to complete the paperwork for delivery or pick up of the vehicle.

Source: MAX Digital

While the steps of the purchase and the path covered from online to the dealership have not changed massively yet, the expectation of the experience has. Both the customer and the dealership know that sitting in the dealership for hours is unacceptable or unnecessary.  Many dealerships have found that they can do more with less when they are able to help their customers remotely.

This crisis has encouraged remote work where possible across industries and shown in many cases is equally or more efficient than in person. People have experienced new flexibility in work that could be transitioned online and the majority expect to keep that flexibility long after Covid-19 is no longer a concern[1].

Three Ideas Making the Basics Better

For dealerships specifically known for grueling hours away from family, now key positions were able to adapt and set up the sale remotely. Prior to the outbreak, we had talked to BDC reps who had multiple monitors on their work desk to be able to keep multiple dealership location websites handy and that just wasn’t going to work anymore.

  1. Make it as easier to find the right vehicle remotely. Now more than ever make it easy for your team and the customer to identify the right vehicle for them at your dealership before coming in to test drive.  We heard from dealerships that the ability for their agents to quickly search and answer all the questions possible remotely was a key task that didn’t have to happen in the dealership. BDC agents can be as effective from home as onsite with the right tools. Having a streamlined system that could access all the inventory available and all the information about that vehicle to answer any customer questions without distractions was all they needed to get to the appointment. The ability to deliver a compelling interactive record of that first contact ensures there is no double-work done by your customers or your team. For customers that don’t reach out before coming in put all the information the customer might need right where they are. Gen Z is likely to use social as a core information source when they are actively shopping for a vehicle[2], Allen Chevrolet has done a great job of using our tools to make a completely consumer centric VDP available in social. Their social users are rewarded with even more information than their site available in a format that is suited to this audience.

  2. Make the handoffs seamless. Customers expect you to know what they have shared with the company. If your BDC rep didn’t take great notes in your CRM that is going to be very difficult for the rest of your team to pick up on. Maybe your customer told you that they had great credit, but when they considered it more they wanted to focus on a vehicle payment that would be reasonable even if they were rebuilding their credit. Wouldn’t it be great if you could have a singular interactive record that captures all of the updates that a customer makes and keeps that progress in one place for the team to access via a simple link or scan? We’ve had a singular focus on understanding those hand off gaps and fixing them and you should too. Where is your process letting customers down and how can you mind the gaps to fix them?

  3. Focus on efficiency. In the best dealerships, the former focus on hospitality in the form of coffee or snacks and other amenities needs has now transformed to single mindedly honoring the buyer’s time and delivering the value of a speedier, easier transaction in store. In the time of a global pandemic that’s about as hospitable as it gets. Have the vehicle ready and clean for a contactless test drive and move up the full cost discussions so that the document signing can be as smooth as possible. Anticipate any speedbumps in the financing process, make the trade-in process as transparent and positive as it can be. Use technology instore to make sure that your staff has the power of all the information needed at their fingertips, so they are instant experts on everything from packages included on a particular vehicle to a fair value on their trade. Challenge your team to time customer visits and improve their speed and quality with each visit.

Across categories customers expect more convenience. Your dealerships have rallied to deliver a better total experience under extraordinary conditions. Let’s keep the efficiency they want by further reducing instore time on least enjoyable tasks like financing and increasing the quality of the total transaction with remote work to deliver a shorter, happier experience at your dealership.

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[1] PwC June Survey

[2] CarGurus, The Age of Omnichannel Marketing