As noted in a previous blog, 2021 ushered in more than just a new year: it brought a sudden realization that customer preferences and behavior had shifted dramatically over the preceding months. With the year well underway, retailers everywhere are now determining what, exactly, constitutes the “new normal” and how they can adapt to it going forward.
If you’re one of the retailers who’s trying to identify those new norms, it’s worth remembering that the overarching goal of your business—ideally, meeting or exceeding customer expectations to continually drive sales and service—hasn’t changed, nor has the consumer’s goal of receiving the best sales or service experience. Those remain constants. With that said, partnering with an expert call team can help you address many of the emerging trends and deliver a win-win for both parties.
From Ride-Sharing to Vehicle-Owning: The Millennial Shift
In some cases, already growing movements were simply fast-tracked by the pandemic. Case in point: vehicle ownership by millennials. While experts have traditionally predicted those born in the 1980/81 – 1994/96 era would depend primarily on public and shared transportation, the numbers were actually trending otherwise—and 2020 provided a laundry list of incentives to further drive personal car purchases and leases among this segment.
Fortunately, a professional call center can accommodate millennials in multiple ways without missing a beat. Having come of age with a cell phone in their hand, these tech-savvies are not only used to relying on their smartphones for most communication, but they prefer it. In fact, according to Pew Research, almost a fifth of this segment are smartphone-only users, depending on their devices almost completely for both internet and messaging functions.
On the sales side, that means millennials can move seamlessly from browsing vehicle info to clicking on offers to reading reviews to calling your dealership for more specific info. Besides answering those questions, call center representatives can provide internet surveys that support your sales team by following up with online leads to identify in-market prospects—and connecting the potential customer with one of your sales staff. In addition, agents can address key purchase objections with your unsold customers via phone, ideally facilitating repeat visits to your store. No answer? No problem: non-responders can also receive a text or email through the phone system, capitalizing on other channels well within millennial comfort zones. Plus, the right call center solution will include smart dialing analytic software to show you the optimal time of day for calls.
Constant mobile access can also enable consistent calls with service questions. Instead of continually interrupting your techs and advisors, route callers to friendly, knowledgeable agents who operate as expert extensions of your service department. They’ll handle common service queries, schedule appointments if needed and even send “hot alerts” to the sales team for customers who’ve requested a sales staff follow-up.
From Work Changes to Home Changes: The Servicing Shift
A DealerRater poll of more than 16,000 consumers conducted just prior to the pandemic indicated that 75% of vehicle owners preferred servicing at a dealership rather than with aftermarket competitors. With countless vehicles that were sitting dormant for much of 2020 now returning to everyday use, those customers—particularly luxury-brand owners, according to the survey—are likely already returning to your store.
In fact, Affinitiv’s January 2021 Automotive Industry Trends shows that service appointments are currently nearing prior year levels. Today’s customers, however, are more likely to request midday to mid-afternoon time slots for those appointments, rather than fitting service in around traditional workday hours. As service business continues to rise, calls will undoubtedly increase as well. Your call center team can effortlessly manage everyday fluctuations in call volume so advisors can remain completely focused on individuals in the service lane.
As well, since agents aren’t attempting to juggle in-lane customers with on-hold callers, they have more time to help keep your customer data accurate by consistently updating phone numbers and email addresses on all appointment calls—a key factor in driving the continued recovery of both sales and service business. While always important for customer retention, having the most up-to-date details is especially critical now, given the significantly higher level of relocations in 2020. USPS affiliate MyMove reports that over 15.9 million people moved last year: total change-of-address requests were up 4% over the previous year, while temporary requests shot up by almost 27%, with most during the first six months of the pandemic.
Geographical transitions can also affect internet service availability and choice of media providers, and since the success of your marketing messaging depends heavily on open and response rates, accurate current contact information is a must.
From Old Preferences to New Priorities: The Customer Mindset Shift
With constant changes in everything from social norms to shopping behaviors to service protocols, both retailers and customers are scrambling to figure out what’s expected now. Therein lies a key lesson, says a recent Automotive News article. Dealers are also consumers when interacting with businesses outside their own, so consistently thinking like a consumer can help you better anticipate new demands and stay ahead of emerging trends.
In other words, understand that even the new customer preferences of today could be different tomorrow—and, as the above article points out, focus more on the “why” of consumer priorities and concerns behind those demands. Showing your customers that you empathize with their health concerns, safety issues and time constraints goes beyond a basic procedure or sign or app, explains one Wards Auto writer. “It’s less about what you’re selling, and instead how you make people feel.”
This is where your call team can really shine. As live professional agents, they are uniquely able to adapt to changing scenarios while seamlessly engaging and interacting with your customers. Through personalized conversations, they can help facilitate purchases, manage appointments, gauge and encourage buyer interest, obtain honest firsthand feedback about your dealership and much more. In the process, they can also build the trust and transparency that creates lasting, profitable relationships with your store.
Ready to get started? The capabilities of Affinitiv’s Call Center are seemingly endless. Learn how we can customize towards your unique needs today.
Marketing | April 07, 2020