In his guest post for this week, Ross Atkinson highlights the critical importance of technology when it comes to target marketing.
It is truly amazing how times have changed in the last 20 years! Dealerships have gotten larger through consolidation and spread further apart. The dealer is servicing more customers with less staff. Welcome to the world of running “lean and mean.”
The customers aren’t staying small either as they continue to expand in order to survive in this ultra-competitive world. As customers get larger, the likelihood is that someone other than the owner will be the one picking up or dropping off. The days of the customer grabbing a coffee, sitting down for a personal discussion and allowing you to get to know them better, is a faded memory of the good old days.
Technological advances can also be partly to blame for the lack of face-to-face interactions. It’s commonplace today for many transactions to be done without the need of talking to a salesperson by utilizing internet-based ordering systems. Let’s not forget, even if you do visit a bricks & mortar store, you may still have limited verbal communication with a human being considering the availability of digital lookup and self-checkout kiosks. And if the goods aren’t being delivered to your customer’s home or business, the conversation at pickup is trivial at best.
Even if we did have a need for human interaction, we have the next generation of workers who have grown up in an era of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s bad enough they don’t teach cursive writing or spelling in schools anymore, but with today’s youth spending countless hours in front of screens growing up, they are missing out on the opportunity to learn social skills with other people like their friends.
So as dealerships lose personal contact with their customers, they look to other means of communication and one of the few things available is technology. Using an automated, self-controlled method of recognizing certain conditions, a notification can be sent to the customer electronically or interactively. I call this “Target Marketing”. It is a term I use for targeting a single customer based on triggers or events that happen every day. Call it what you will, these kinds of systems are available today and can reach out to your customer through some form of digital communication like a text or email. It can let them know that their parts order has arrived or notify them when their machine is due for service. No more manually calling, no more busy signals, no more answering machines, and no more forgetting.
There are an endless number of “triggers or alerts” that can facilitate a communication to your customer. Words of warning though, do not go overboard. Ensure that the most important, time sensitive notifications take precedence. The last thing you want to do is alienate your customer by sending them 15 emails or texts a day.
Having this information sent to your customer’s fingertips can be very beneficial. The immediacy of the message sent to their phone or device allows them to take action right away. For the dealership, it eliminates the need for staff to take time away from their busy day to chase down the customer.
At the same time, the trigger and alert concept can also be used within the dealership to benefit the customer. When a work order is opened for a customer’s machine, wouldn’t it be important to know there is an outstanding recall?
Although the interactions between the dealership and the customer isn’t what it used to be, when you do get an opportunity to be face-to-face, take full advantage of the time to know your customer better. Wish them a Happy Birthday or thank them for their purchase. Ask them how they are doing and what’s happening in their business or personal lives. Your customers will appreciate the attention and interaction; you may actually learn something about them that will improve your relationship.
We should also consider what else computer systems can do to better understand and help the customers. With the collection and analysis of customer transactional data, you can get an understanding of specific patterns which may result in some form of target marketing for things such as bulk purchasing.
This same data analysis can also be significant for your dealership. It can help identify patterns such as peak order times so that you can staff accordingly or ensure that you have the appropriate stocking levels. It may even facilitate changes to your day-to-day business processes.
As you know, Ron’s podcast tagline is “The Time Is Now.” Well folks, if you want to keep in touch with your customers today, you better get on the technology bandwagon! The Time Is Now!