We are in a period of great uncertainty. Travel is restricted; here in a suburb of Seattle, Washington (where I am writing this) events over 50 people have been officially cancelled; gatherings of any size are discouraged; schools, churches, health clubs, hair salons, bars and restaurants are all closed under mandatory order. And while many folks are working at home, lots of people aren’t working at all and already wondering how they’re going to pay their expenses. The stock market had another grueling day as well.
And here we are in the car business.
It is said that with challenges come opportunities, and so what lies ahead for us?
First, we WILL get through this, there is no choice. People will still need us- if not right now, then in the not so distant future. And as people adjust to this new reality, they’re looking for the same things you are: safety, reassurance, honesty and trust.
So how can we be here for them? Let’s start with communication. “‘We’re all in this together’. Start by letting customers know that you are still open for business, the best ways they can connect with you, and what you’re doing to keep them safe.
1. Make sure your website highlights how people can reach you. If you allow on-line service scheduling for example, or have a drop box where they can leave keys and information for service.
2. Let them know what you are doing to keep them safe at the dealership. What steps you’re taking; from having hand sanitizer at convenient locations, to regularly wiping down all surfaces.
3. Let them know you wipe down all door handles and other surfaces on each vehicle before and after every test drive as well as in your shuttle vans and loaner vehicles.
4. Let them know you encourage employees who are sick to stay home, and pay them when they are sick.
5. If you have salespeople that will meet customers off site, or at their home, let them know this is a service you offer. If you allow test drives without the salesperson in the vehicle, let them know that as well.
6. In the service department, if you are willing to pick and or return a car that is being serviced. Or if you are wiling to deliver parts.
7. Finally (and very important) let them know you are a business supporting local families that are trying to make it through this difficult time, just like them.
Where do you put this message?
– Front and center on your dealer website.
– On signage on your showroom floor that reinforces and explains what you are doing.
– On your on-hold messaging.
– On your social media pages, email blasts and other digital communication.
– In your radio, television or other external advertising.
– Anywhere else you can think of that makes sense.
And most importantly, if you say you are doing it, actually do it!
One thing we know is that media consumption is currently off the charts right now. Tell your story the best way you can afford to. People are out of their normal routines and very receptive to new information right now. Be that source they will feel comfortable turning to when they do need help. And they will.
The challenge is the opportunity. Good luck, and see you on the other side.
Ed Steenman is the owner of Steenman Associates that provides traditional and digital media services to automotive dealerships and dealer groups nationally. www.steenmanassociates.com