Have We Reached the Tipping Point in Customer Engagement Management?

As organizations around the globe and across all industries are scrambling to figure out how to best handle their sales and marketing communications in this unprecedented time of crisis, I find myself stepping back and considering how this may be the tipping point for driving effective customer engagement management and ultimately delivering the customer experience consumers expect today.

A quote in an Automotive News article from Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics for the Center for Automotive Research, struck me as confirming that this unique time presents a key opportunity for automotive retailers.

“The coronavirus crisis could have a crushing impact on the auto industry, but it’s still not likely to be as bad as the 2008-09 financial crisis, which pushed General Motors and Chrysler into bankruptcy protection. It was a catastrophic event, but it changed their way of thinking, much like the Depression changed the way of thinking for a whole generation of people.

“If you survived ’08-’09, you’re on better footing and you made different decisions in the next decade. That sets them up to weather a storm better.”

Is there a better time to adjust your way of thinking and customer engagement management strategy than right now?

In the Automotive industry, retailers and brands are scrambling like everyone else, struggling with how to best keep their service bays full and to continue with auto sales with the country virtually on lock-down. For some retailers, this is a seamless transition from the store experience to online, for others, not so much. Digital Retailing has been on the brink of disrupting the market and now here is its opportunity to further change the landscape.

So how do you effectively engage consumers during this time of crisis?

  • Ensure that your websites are accurate, relevant and compelling. Set up a daily review and update. Change the sites to reflect your current situation including:
    • A message from the dealer on their response to COVID-19
    • Remote transaction capabilities
    • Pickup and delivery for service
    • Unique new and used sales incentives and opportunities
    • And special service offers
  • Implement and communicate all the different ways you can accommodate a remote sales and/or service transaction for those that prefer it. Promote those options online and via phone or email as you communicate with customers.
  • Phone and lead responses become even more important, as actual store visits will likely decrease. Make sure your best people are handling phone and leads, including managers where possible.
  • With interest rates being dropped to stimulate the economy, your manufacturers and lenders may have already announced or will be announcing special incentives and rates. Be sure to update your specials and the eligible vehicles and communicate changes to all your Associates.
  • Alter your ad spend, radio, TV, and digital messages to include brand messages, remote transactions and unique offers.

Retailers like Longo Toyota in Southern California, Luther Automotive in Minnesota, and Paragon Honda in New York have responded to this crisis well, keeping in line with their brand, considering the safety of their employees and customers as well as switching the focus of their communications to virtual sales and service support – Luther Automotive has identified smiles as the new handshake and Longo Toyota even has a Mobile Service Truck that can visit customers’ homes or offices to perform select services such as oil changes and tire rotations!

This industry has survived crisis before, and it will again, but only if we adjust our approach to engaging with our customers. The customer experience matters. Those dealers and manufactures that provide consumers with what they need and meet them where they are will be the winners of this new market condition.