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The great unlocking: How dealerships can prepare for reopening

After more than a year of turbulence and uncertainty, it seems that there is now light at the end of the tunnel. At the time of writing, restrictions on non-essential retail in England are due to be lifted on Monday April 12, and this means that car dealerships can resume physical opening and sales activity.

There is a shared enthusiasm for reopening from both dealers and customers. A recent What Car? survey found that 59% of people looking to purchase their car within the next 3 months, were planning on bringing their purchase forward to coincide with dealerships reopening.

While retailing won’t return to ‘normal’ straight away, this is an early sign that the post-pandemic boom predicted by many is nearing – and dealerships need to prepare to make the most of the opportunity that awaits. So, in this blog we talk through the four big tasks to get right as ‘re-opening day’ approaches.

Maximise flexibility

While there will be significant clamour among consumers to get back to face-to-face retail, this sentiment won’t be universal. Having lived through restrictions for so long, many people will still feel wary of face-to-face contact with people they don’t know – even if they have already been vaccinated.

This is why the ideal strategy for re-opening is to give prospective buyers the best of both the physical and digital worlds. Customers should feel that they have full choice around which elements of the car-buying process they wish to conduct in person (for example, a test drive) and which they would rather do online.

Because of this, any development of digital communications as a result of the pandemic should be continued to be utilised. Offering customers the option to host a live video appointment, for example, is not only a good way to give the customer choice, but it can also help you keep the number of people in the dealership to a reasonable level. It’s a win-win.

Clear existing enquiries

The last thing a dealership needs in the days and weeks after the re-opening is to be inundated with enquiries, but unable to respond to them promptly because of a backlog. With a surge of interest expected, consumers will be happy to shop around different dealerships, and will be far more likely to do business with those who can get back to them the quickest.

This means that in the time between now and re-opening – and beyond – it’s crucial to be able to deal with as many enquiries as possible. Video can act as a huge time-saver here: walkaround videos that field all the specific queries of an individual customer can be completed and sent in minutes, removing the hassle of trying to call the customer, catch them at a convenient time or have a missed call returned. On top of this, sales executives can be notified as soon as a video is watched by the customer, helping them know the right time to make a follow-up call.

Restock the forecourt

A huge wave of customer interest after the reopening means nothing if a dealership is lacking in its stock on the forecourt, either in terms of quality or quantity. Ensuring that customers have plenty of cars – and different types of cars – to choose from is therefore extremely important. However, this is only part of the story.

WhatCar?’s research last month reported that of those looking to buy a vehicle within the next three months, 72% had already started researching deals – so as the forecourt is restocked, it’s vital that online sales listings are created and updated straight away. An detailed, content-rich approach is key, with listings that include a video, good quality photography and detailed, concise written information. This level of professionalism means that when customers conduct their initial research, they can quickly find the car they’re interested in, get a detailed look at its interior and exterior, and collect all the information they need.

Speed up your aftersales process

With nearly two-thirds of car owners having delayed servicing and repair work during the pandemic, workshops will need to work at maximum efficiency over the coming months. Utilising digital tools such as CitNOW Workshop as part of the eVHC and diagnostic process helps to decrease time on the ramp and work more efficiently. Integrations with the leading eVHC providers means the customer receives their video and work identified on one video presentation page making it an easy, contactless process for them to approve work quickly. Our insights reveal that Workshop videos have an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 – demonstrating that it will not only improve efficiency, but also your customer satisfaction at the same time.

Dealers are taking their customer experiences to the next level with CitNOW – and with our learning resources, so can you. Register for one of our free webinars or explore the tips and advice available in our How2CitNOW video series on YouTube.