Why existing customers are a good bet
Repeat business is a sign that you’re getting things right, regardless of whether you’re selling cars or chocolate, but spotting the opportunity for a next-time vehicle sale is harder than it used to be. Physical interaction with dealerships is falling, and the dealership visit is typically the last leg of the buying process for most customers, who aren’t likely to come sniffing until they’ve done plenty of homework.
That applies to all customers, but those with whom you’ve already done business represent excellent opportunities to boost sales. You already know each other and you have past experience of their preferences and buying habits, which you’re well placed to exploit. For example, a customer’s existing finance contract presents a window into the timeline for their next purchase. There’s no sense in hassling them when they’re not in the market for a new vehicle, though, so it’s important to understand and identify when they are.
It is, however, quite possible to do so, courtesy of some joined up data – and the good news is that it can be done with most stock dealer management systems.
Make the most of your software
An application programme interface (API) is the fundamental bit of software that will shine a light on the customers who are approaching the buying stage. It sounds complicated, but it’s essentially a method for two or more digital systems to communicate and share data.
A good example of an API in action is a comparison website. Fundamentally, an API is employed to monitor pricing data from, say, airlines or insurance companies, and feed it to the consumer-facing page of the comparison website when a user conducts a search.
The same can be applied to the multiple platforms within a dealership. CRM, servicing, and stock management systems are just a few of the many data sets retailers keep on file, although they’re typically independent of each other. String them all together via an API, and you have a much better picture of a customer’s position, including where they are in their contract and when they are next likely to visit your site. Overlay the contract dates with, for example, their servicing schedule, and you have an excellent opportunity to communicate with the customer when they visit for maintenance, say, six months before their PCP contract ends.
The best bit is that many DMS providers offer API functionality out of the box, so it’s quite possible to get different sets of data communicating with each other immediately, though it may require a discussion with your software supplier to get the function properly up and running.
Other digital tools
Outside of DMSs, digital specialists with the ability to price and model match new vehicles can also help to facilitate new purchases ahead of time. In a nutshell, these firms monitor prices and availability from manufacturers and lenders, along with existing personal finance contracts.
When a near-identical car becomes available for an also near-identical monthly fee, they’ll flag it up and assist with offering the customer a very similar but new version of their current vehicle for a figure extremely close to their existing monthly payment, all of which will happen well before the planned end of the contract. OK, it isn’t exactly the same as identifying when a customer is ready to buy again, but it does prompt welcome renewals much sooner than anticipated.
Accuracy is everything
A suite of data is only as good as the original information, and if it hasn’t been entered correctly – or at all – then all the digital gizmos in the world won’t make up for that. It’s therefore vital to ensure that employees approach data entry and upkeep in as diligent a manner as possible to ensure you can make the most of it.
Industry experts have advocated changing the commission structure for sales staff that fail to correctly log customers’ details – or those who just don’t bother inputting them at all. Punitive measures such as fines for leads that have not been entered into the DMS have been recommended in the past, while regularly assessing the accuracy and upkeep of customer data, and continuously discussing it with employees, is also a good idea.
Only then will you be able to take full advantage of all the information you have about your customers, and get the jump on their buying decisions.