How Car Dealerships Can Bounce Back From the Crisis

For weeks, the planet has been experiencing an unprecedented health crisis that has affected most businesses and car dealerships in North America. A lot of customers have not been commuting to work and so no longer use their vehicle very much. Other people unfortunately no longer have had money to spend to maintain their vehicles. In some provinces, car dealerships have had to temporarily close their doors. All of this has triggered massive temporary layoffs that have affected a lot of dealerships’ sales and service revenues.

Just recently, states and provincial governments have decided to reopen car dealerships in an effort to restart the economy.

Some dealerships are now expecting a rush to their service departments—all while dealing with social distancing measures to protect both their staff and customers. This is particularly the case in northern provinces and states where the seasonal tire change has been delayed due to the slowdown and ensuing shutdown. Other dealers are expecting a slow return to their activities and are looking for ways to bring their customers back to their dealerships.

In this article we will present ideas for dealerships to leverage text messaging to bounce back from the COVID-19 crisis.

Bring your customers back to the car dealership

When the health crisis started reaching North America by early and mid-March, many dealerships saw their customers cancelling their appointments with their service departments as well as traffic drastically dropping in their sales showrooms. In some situations, dealerships had to completely shut down their operations. Now that businesses are starting to reopen, car dealerships have to identify new strategies to get their operations up and running again. And it all starts with text messaging.

Follow up on cancelled appointments

The time has come for your dealership to reschedule all of your customers who had an appointment before the crisis. That is where text messaging can be really helpful. It is easy to build groups in your texting platform with all the appointments you had planned and that didn’t occur. You can send reminders to your customers for maintenance by text message. Adjust the size of your list in order to adapt to your business capacity and make sure you keep your teams work levels even, depending on the social distancing measures you have put into place.

Catch up with the current tire season and annual maintenance schedules

The large majority of dealerships in regions where tires need to be changed each season have not yet started their rush. It’s time to reach out to your customers via text messaging to offer them appointments—again based on your capacity.

It is also the perfect time to reach out to new vehicle owners and lessees, especially if they have had their car for nearly a year and require servicing. Send out text messages to let these customers know about important preventative maintenance and service procedures.

Track past safety recalls

Most non-emergency recalls have not been completed during the pandemic. This was mainly due to the crisis leading to a decrease in customer buying power, a drop of available staff, a reduction of business hours, and a supply problem for some parts.

Download the list of VINs involved in a safety recall from a manufacturer and send text messages to your customers to let them know about it. Ask them to reach out to you to book an appointment. As there is no cost for your customers to have their vehicle serviced for a recall, there will be likely no objection for booking a service appointment even with customers facing a drop in their home incomes.

If your business is still facing operational constraints with limited access to specific staff members, focus on recalls that don’t require additional employees or specific parts, such as recalls linked to electronic problems.

Maintain operational efficiency

In these difficult times, your teams may not be fully staffed. This may be the case for your mechanics or service teams.

Some dealerships dealing with the tire season are already swamped with incoming calls from customers willing to book appointments. Customers are feeling frustrated because they cannot get hold of anybody and there are no follow-ups to their telephone or online requests. This is where text messaging comes in handy.

Don’t call us, we’ll call you

There will be no miracle: you can’t serve all your customers at the same time. However, you can manage their service appointments, their related expectations and customer satisfaction. By sending a text message to your customers offering them to book an appointment before they reach out to you, you will not only manage their expectations but also reduce the number of incoming calls and emails. Your staff can focus on proactively calling your customers to set their upcoming appointments.

Spread out the workload

It is also crucial that you spread the workload for your service appointments. Make sure you optimally manage your equipment, partners and staff. If you can’t have two mechanics working on the same piece of equipment in order to maintain social distancing, this will obviously impact your overall service capacity. Target specific customers by building groups and sending them text messages offering them to book their appointments according to your new reality.

Generate more revenues

If you can operate your business as “usual,” it’s time to bring more traffic to your service department. A smart text messaging platform will give you the ability to send targeted campaigns to your customers, encouraging them to book appointments.

Let’s see opportunities you have to send text messages that will help you increase your business revenue.

  • Leverage recalls for the manufacturer to increase traffic to your service department by sending a text message to your list of customers with vehicles that are involved with a recall.
  • Send text messages to your customers offering them a low-cost or a free15-point inspection appointment for their vehicles that was unusually unused during a period of time.
  • Reach out to your customers who are due for their maintenance by targeting them based on a specific event or data, such as their mileage or last maintenance appointments.
  • Offer your customers with warranties that are about to expire an appointment by text message.
  • Send targeted promotions to potential customers for new vehicle sales, leveraging manufacturer deals that offer financial assistance due to COVID-19.

Implement safety processes

The current health crises has forced dealerships to revise the way they conduct their operations. Practicing safe physical distancing in these difficult times is a must to protect both staff and customers.

Offer a mobile payment solution

In this context, offering your customers to pay with their mobile devices is the least you can do; this can all be set up using a text messaging platform. By sending payment requests by text message to your customers, you give them the option to pay from wherever they are without any contact with terminals or cash.

Communicate your new processes

As many dealerships across North America, you had to adapt your business hours to face reduced teams, social distancing and new hygiene measures.

Let your customers know about your new practices and revised business hours simply by sending them text messages. Inform them about the best ways to reach out to you. Encourage them to fill out an online form or text you to request an appointment.

You have certainly revised your business processes and implemented a bunch of new ways to operate your business. Think about recording a short video that you can send to your customers, via text message, before their appointments to let them know about the measures you are taking to protect them. Let them know how to drop off their vehicles, how to pay, how you clean vehicles before they are picked up, and much more. Your customers will be reassured and value the effort you are making during the post-pandemic recovery.

Conclusion

The key in a crisis situation is to keep the lines of communication with your customers open. Don’t wait until they contact you. Be proactive and reach out to them.

Show them you are in control of your business operations and that it is safe to do business with you. Your actions as a business, during this critical period, will have an impact on your business and the way your customers perceive your brand.

To help you write text messages to your customers, we have created 100 message templates in our guide: Ready-to-use Text Message Templates for the Automotive Industry. Download it here.

Building a resilient, post-pandemic car dealership using simple tech webinar

How car dealerships can leverage the power of text messaging during and after COVID-19?