“Where’s my truck?”
“Do you have an ETA yet?”
“How much longer?”
“I wonder when they’re going to call me.”
These are the phrases customers are saying to salespeople (and uttering to themselves) after ordering vehicles from your store. We, as dealerships, have taken deposits for vehicles to be built for several years now. This is nothing new. Back in the day, however, if we didn’t have what a customer was looking for, we could have it in a few days. Usually 3-4 weeks. If it was a custom factory order, 8-12 weeks at the longest. The inventory constraints of today have changed this, and people are waiting longer and longer for their new vehicles. Months? Yes. Year? It’s close.
So you’re ordering vehicles from the OEM on behalf of your clients. You take their money as a deposit, enter their order in, and hope it gets picked up. What your team does between that moment and the time the vehicle shows up is where we need to get a lot better.
It’s easy to update a customer when their vehicle is going to arrive a month from the time the deal is done. It’s a weekly call or text. But when it’s going to be a 9-month long wait, how is your team updating them? Is it a call a week? (That’s too often. Especially if they have zero news to tell them).
Is it an email a month? (That’s too little. You have their money, and they are anxious to get their new ride. That could almost be considered ghosting the customer.)
Here is what we are recommending when it comes to customer follow-up after ordering vehicles:
- Bi-monthly contacts (not just contact attempts)
- At least 4 contacts in the two weeks leading up to the delivery
- Vacillate between calls, emails, texts, and videos (with a call being every other)
- Provide any news regarding time frames or production
- If no news exists, Google News of that vehicle, find any new positive information/news or pictures of how their incoming vehicle is being rated, reviewed, equipped, built, or accessorized for other owners, and share with the customer. (“I stumbled upon this article and thought it might interest you.”, “Pretty cool what this customer did with theirs, don’t you think?”
- Be empathetic (“I’d love to tell you that we have received some updates from the factory, but alas, we haven’t.”)
Customers waiting on a vehicle want to know you’re equally excited as they are about the vehicle they’re waiting so long for, and certainly want to know you’re paying attention. And because dealers are charging MSRP or over when ordering vehicles for customers, they expect more from us than they have in the past. More attention, more care, more communication, more concern, more awareness.
Some OEMs are using how many pre-sold orders are in the bank to influence production levels and even allocation to their franchise dealers. If that’s the case, we do need our sales teams to reinforce ordering vehicles. Even more so, though, for the benefit of CSI, we need to make it a point to keep in contact with them during their long wait.
Make sure you have a dedicated process built into your CRM that your salespeople know how to follow, and why they need to follow. Customers that have placed orders aren’t “out of sight, out of mind”. As we listen to sales calls of our dealer clients’ salespeople, not much upsets me more than when it is a customer having to call in and find out the status of their vehicle order. Lack of proactive communication shows a level of apathy that isn’t acceptable with any customer, let alone one who has not yet taken delivery.
Keeping customers happy is a major part of the job. Don’t turn your back on them just because you have already taken their money, and don’t ignore them just because you don’t know what to say. Find something to say. If you just go dark on them, they may very well get back online and start looking for someone with a vehicle that will pay attention to them.
When I ask salespeople “Why should I buy from you?”, so many reply with the antiquated phrase, “I take care of you before and after the sale.” If this inventory shortage has proven anything, it’s that there is not just a before and after the sale, but an “in-between the sale” and folks, we are dropping the ball.
Here is what else Joe has had to say about ordering vehicles.