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Restarting the engine: How you can prepare to re-open your dealership

It goes without saying that the last few months have been extremely challenging for the automotive industry. But while getting completely back to normal seems some way off, there are positive signs that the wheels will start turning again soon.

Italy has begun to re-open car dealerships, assembly lines have restarted across the world and the UK government is said to be considering reopening showrooms in their first wave of lockdown relaxation in England from 1st June.

You may be opening with a temporarily reduced workforce, and preparing to put in place the appropriate social distancing and hygiene processes. You’ll also no doubt have a backlog of vehicles to deliver, plus enquiries and cancellations that will all need to be dealt with.

Planning for your reopening will therefore need to be two-pronged. On one hand you’ll need to maintain social distancing guidelines, and on the other, you’ll need to optimise your plan to begin rebuilding your pipeline.

So, in this blog we’re going to help you build a back-to-business strategy that will help you do both…

Keeping people safe

The most important part of your reopening strategy will be keeping your staff, and your customers safe. You’ll therefore need to plan for some changes to the daily operation of your business.

No doubt your dealership will already be putting these plans in place – ensuring you have the appropriate PPE, developing safety protocols and rearranging your showrooms to maintain social distancing.

However, as consumers remain wary of the virus, it’s also important that you communicate these measures clearly. In a recent Auto Trader survey, 60% of consumers said they would need reassurance of the measures a dealership had in place before engaging with them.

Including these details in appointment confirmations using post rolls and displaying them clearly on your website and Auto Trader profiles will be critical to encouraging people back through the doors. And the more clearly you can display this information, the greater reassurance it is likely to give. Using formats such as video, which allow you to physically demonstrate your measures could therefore play a vital role in your back-to-business strategy.


Rebuilding your pipeline

Although the lockdown has meant your dealership has had to close, it hasn’t stopped enquiries coming in. A recent What Car survey found that despite the lockdown, online car researchers expected their enquiries to be answered within 24 hours. Although for many this won’t have been possible, it’s a clear indication that consumer demand (and expectations) are still high.

The same survey also revealed that 18.2% of respondents planned to buy their next car as soon as the lockdown was over. Supported by research from Auto Trader, who found many people currently using public transport now planned to buy a car as a direct result of the virus, and the Government’s advice to avoid using public transport – means not only will you have to deal with your backlog, but also a possible surge in demand.

If you’re a workshop manager you’ll also likely have had to cancel many appointments, and many people that have MOTs due will be booking in as soon as they can – despite the government’s 6-month MOT extension.

Being prepared for how you’re going to tackle this in the most efficient way will be critical to your bounceback, and will help you make up any ground you may have lost during the lockdown. So here’s some tips to get you started:

  • Start with new enquiries first. The older the enquiry, the less likely they are still actively looking.
  • Be proactive rebooking cancelled appointments. Relying on customers to rebook is a risky strategy.
  • Sending a video to customers, instead of trying to call them, can be a more efficient follow up method. It means even if they don’t pick up the phone, they’ll still get your message – and one that lets them see you and start to build the emotional connection.
  • Prioritise the strongest enquiries. As well as focusing on the newest enquiries, also prioritise those which are demonstrating the greatest interest. You may be working with a reduced number of staff, so efficiency is key.
  • Take the time to confirm your appointments. Your time is precious, so if you are scheduling an appointment be sure to send a short video confirming it – this can reduce no-shows by up to 30%.
We’re in this together

Follow these steps, and you’ll be able to get back up to speed before you know it. But more importantly, you’ll also be able to make sure your staff and customers remain safe as you do.

Please don’t forget, we’re all in this together and we’re here to help. If you missed our recent announcement, we have accelerated the launch of our Live Video feature so you can now communicate remotely with your customers via recorded or live options. To find out more and enable for your subscription, contact our Customer Support team by email at, or by phone on 01189 977740.