How to Digitize the Customer Service Experience
In barely two decades in the auto industry, dealership general manager Arthur Galitsky has witnessed numerous changes.
But, rather than get overwhelmed by the constant adjustments required to do his job and keep customers happy, Galitsky has embraced the chaos.
“I’ve been in this business 22 years, and things are so much different than they were 22 years ago, and so much different than they were 10 years ago—or even five years ago,” says Galitsky, who helps oversee Neil Huffman Acura at Oxmoor, in Louisville, Ky.
“You just have to be adaptive to that change, and make sure that you embrace it, versus push it away.”
At the height of the Internet era, he sees more and more customers start the
process of interacting with his dealership via digital means. And, conversely, fewer and fewer customers visit the showroom in person. That, Galitsky says, helps illustrate why it’s as important as ever for dealers to maximize the customer experience digitally.
“What used to be the most important thing was your showroom experience,” he says, “because that’s where the client used to start out. Now your showroom is virtual … and, if you don’t give the client a good virtual experience before they [physically] come in, then you’re never going to see that client.”
That explains why Galitsky works diligently to view webinars, or speak with GMs outside of his market, to learn what digital means are most effective at reaching customers these days. Here’s what Galitsky—whose dealership boasts a stellar 98.4 CSI score—has learned with regard to the best ways to digitize each step of the customer experience.
Making the Appointment
A while back, Huffman Acura partnered with a third-party marketing company to have the marketer provide it with workers to monitor, and answer, general customer questions via chat boxes on the dealership’s home page. That fact has helped the facility, which has an average monthly car count of roughly 1,100, gain many maintenance appointments that online visitors set up outside of traditional business hours.
“A lot of times it’s, ‘Hey, I want to bring my car in for an A1 service on Tuesday.’ That’s how the information comes across,” Galitsky says. “We really got that [pop-up chat box function] for sales, but I would say 3-to-1, it’s used more for service over sales.”
He would strongly recommend such third-party marketing companies to industry colleagues, mainly because they’re typically reasonably priced.
Keeping in Contact
To keep pace with competitors these days, Huffman Acura has its employees utilize computer tablets for multiple reasons, including its after-sale process, for potential additional purchases like accessories. Then, to set the Kentucky facility—which has the top CSI score in its district—apart from much of its competition, dealership leaders began having Huffman’s staff members shoot video of procedures like vehicle walk-arounds and the initial phases of maintenance. That keeps customers plugged in throughout the repair process and typically alleviates their concerns.
The videos are valuable, Galitsky notes, “because a lot of times, people will drop off their vehicle for one thing, and then when we do an inspection we’ll maybe notice an oil leak. Then we can actually take a video of that and show the client.
“Sometimes, if you show them that video of the exact item that you’re calling them about, and ask them if they want to [address it], then it’s a lot more effective. It gives them something tangible to look at, versus just a phone call saying, ‘Hey, we happened to notice that this isn’t working properly.’”
Wrapping the Process Up
In 2018, Galitsky notes, dealerships absolutely must follow up with customers frequently via digital methods, all the way up to vehicle delivery. And, far more often than not, today’s customers seem to prefer to have the businesses they frequent send them text messages.
“A lot of the texting is just to give them a status update,” he says of Huffman’s customers. “'Hey, we’ve inspected the vehicle, or we’ve isolated the complaint, and A, we have parts, or B, we don’t have parts.' We kind of give them an idea of how long it should take for the repair.
“So, it’s a communication tool. Once a vehicle is ready, then we’ll send them that text saying, ‘Hey, Greg, your vehicle is ready; what time would you like to come and pick it up?’
“Overall, texting is appealing to every age category.”