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8 Management Techniques to Maximize Employee engagement

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Is Your Team Engaged?  Employee engagement is a critical issue for most dealerships. Engagement is the level of involvement, enthusiasm and commitment and employee feels toward their job and workplace. Today’s atmosphere offers so many distractions that can keep your team from focusing on the works that is before them.  There are three types of employees – the engaged, the unengaged, and the discontented. According to our last poll of 130,000 dealership employees, about 24% of employees are engaged in their work, meaning that they’re emotionally committed to getting the job done well and putting in the full effort.  That same poll shows that about 38% of employees are unengaged, meaning that they are satisfied with their positions, but aren’t really invested in the dealership’s vision or goals. These employees do just enough to meet the minimum requirements of their job. The remaining 38% of the workforce is discontented and disengaged, meaning they may be sabotaging your success.   To ensure that their team is happy and challenged, my best advice is to keep an open mind, an empathetic ear, and clear channels of communication. The level of engagement that an individual exhibits is often tied to how much they feel empowered, trusted, inspired and valued by their leader.   Let’s look at eight techniques for maximizing engagement:  1) Set challenging but realistic goals Allowing people to work within their comfort zone leads to complacency that kills engagement. Get creative and inspire them to take on new projects, set new goals, or learn new skills. More importantly, get them to let go of “the way we always did it”.  Leaders must challenge individuals and teams to see a new vision and push them whenever possible to do and be better Employees who are challenged with new projects, new goals and new skills need more coaching and cheerleading to make them realize they are truly capable of achieving more! 2) Everyone wants to be recognized for what they bring to the table! Recognize good work and praise people in front of the rest of the team with a shoutout in a team meeting, text, email, or on your dealership Facebook or LinkedIn page. A pat on the back makes individuals feel good about themselves and encourages others to step up if they know they’ll be rewarded with social recognition. BONUS – It also promotes your employment brand, helping recruit new candidates.   3) Track productivity but empower employees and avoid micromanaging Empowering individuals tells them you trust them, which increases engagement and performance. It is a powerful thing when employees believe in their manager, it is even more powerful when a manager believes in their people. Trust is the core of all high-performance cultures.   4) Make it easy and comfortable for your team to communicate Keep lines of communication open and encourage team members to come to you with concerns or roadblocks. When team members don’t feel comfortable speaking openly and honestly with one another, issues don’t get resolved and tension can lead to problematic outcomes. A sobering discussion I have when coaching leaders is when they score poorly on our employee engagement question “Departments in this dealership communicate well and work together as a team”. Avoid all of this by checking in with your employees regularly and giving them an outlet to voice their issues. 5) Prove that employees have a voice   It’s one thing to talk the talk, but when claiming that their feedback is important, you have to walk the walk, too! Send out anonymous surveys and polls. To get a better idea of how your team is responding to company culture, workload, and the direction that you’re headed. This allow employees to voice concerns without fear of retribution.  I also encourage you to ask for feedback from small groups or one-on-one. I provide my managers with a list of questions that we use for “Coffee and Convos” to start meaningful conversations and uncover new solutions and ideas to improve both culture and processes. 6) Respect that different people have different learning styles Not everyone can sit through online manufacturer training and get the information they need to work with our customers with confidence. Some people need one-on-one instruction; others need visuals; others need to just jump in and get started. Provide a hybrid of learning opportunities and upgrade your skills at coaching and teaching. 7) Take time to really check-in Workdays get hectic in the dealership and everyone has a tight schedule. It’s critical that teams make time to catch up and check-in with one another. Even if it’s just a quick five-minute huddle to share progress, learn a new skill or tip, or review a company value. Communication fuels connectivity and fosters a sense of togetherness, so don’t let it slip! 8) Embrace change If this last year has taught us anything, you must foster a team culture prepared to roll with the punches by being open to change. If someone leaves your team, how will you move forward? If a customer wants to take delivery at home, how will you make that happen? If anyone is too invested in how things should be, you might be missing out on how great things could be! Employee engagement is built on growth, communication, purpose, relationships, integrity, two-way commitment and trust. When done well, it improves the dealership and individual performance, increases the chance of success for managers, drives retention, and dramatically increases productivity. 
The Big Buzz in Digital Retailing: Dealer Ultimate Milestones

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Everyone in the car business is talking, writing, and podcasting about digital retailing. The list of related virtual events is exhaustive. The popularity momentum is depicted when planning a Google Ads campaign with keywords such as "automotive digital retailing," "digital retailing," and "modern retailing." Google's Keyword Planner shows a month-over-month increase of these keyword searches for the past 24 months. When forecasting your Google Ads budget, you can expect to pay upwards of $35 per click for an average 1.5 ad position. Automotive digital retailing is absolutely on everyone's mind. Transparency, Trust, & Time Savings As you weed through the mass content, several ideals are dominant: Transparency Building trust A streamlined sales process A seamless online to in-showroom experience First and foremost is giving consumers more control of the car buying experience. The ability to search on a dealer's website for vehicles by year, make, model, and type and to explore different configurations is a given. It's essential to accurately display vehicle pricing, factory rebates and incentives, special offers, dealer fees, financing options, a credit estimator and application, and a tool to formulate payment scenarios. Multi-channel options for requesting information, getting a guaranteed cash offer on a trade, and scheduling a test drive while enabling consumers to complete their entire car purchase online with flexible pick-up and delivery options – are all must-have components of any digital retailing strategy. It makes sense that this level of transparency builds trust with shoppers, leads to significant time savings, reduces friction, and results in a more favorable car buying experience. Why Achieving FULL Transparency Is the Ultimate Milestone for Dealers Let's think about what "transparency" really means... total visibility, crystal clear, open to observation, without concealment.  While digital retailing components play a critical role in creating a transparent online shopping environment,  full transparency is achieved when dealers openly display ALL vehicle and dealership information within the digital retailing framework , which saves shoppers even more time and builds a greater level of trust. As consumers move through the car buying journey, there are hundreds of digital interactions across social channels, video platforms, search engines, industry portals, manufacturer websites, and online review sites. Digital Air Strike's 8th Annual Automotive Digital Retailing Consumer Trends Study revealed the following about 7,500+ car buyers and service customers: 60%+ selected a dealership based on online reviews alone 54% said that community involvement influenced their decision to buy from a dealership 51% used Google to find dealership reviews Only 5% of dealerships shopped sent videos in response to customer inquiries 27% preferred to select vehicle warranty and add-ons online 93% of car buyers spent a few days or more researching which dealership to buy from When it comes to achieving transparency in automotive digital retailing, there's more to it than simply integrating a digital retailing solution into dealership vehicle details pages (VDPs).  Imagine car shoppers landing on VDPs that contain all the information they are looking for – not just vehicle photos and specs, financial tools, contact forms, and pricing. What if shoppers could watch videos introducing the service department and the General Manager, explore Google and DealerRater reviews, read about a VIP program, and learn about the dealership's community involvement. Why are shoppers forced to hunt for reviews on search engines and to browse through website pages to learn about the service department, community work, or special programs that are offered? Since most of a dealer's digital budget is spent driving traffic to VDPs, having car shoppers leave to find the information they need – is the last thing a dealer should want. Start Here Think about the process that you would go through to purchase a used vehicle. Before you get to the point of needing financial tools to build payment scenarios or obtain financing, you would spend time figuring out if a particular vehicle is the right choice by looking at vehicle photos and specifications AND by asking questions: Is the vehicle factory certified? What are the results of the inspection? What repairs or maintenance did the dealership perform? Does it need repairs?  Is the history report clean? What info is on the OEM window sticker? What kind of warranty does it have?  Is there a return policy? Is there a live video walkaround? How difficult would it be for an online car shopper to get the answers to these questions? How many phone calls would need to be made? How many forms filled out? How long would the consumer have to wait in the dealership for a salesperson to gather this information? A truly transparent website VDP contains ALL the information that shoppers need in one place - not just vehicle photos, specs, and financial tools. A high-impact VDP contains a vehicle's reconditioning records, inspection report, factory window sticker, vehicle history report, dealership reviews, video walkaround, ebrochure, and videos and documents that illustrate the dealership's reputation. Providing online shoppers with a "portfolio" of the dealership, the vehicle, and digital retailing components is the ultimate milestone in transparency and trust. Doing so saves shoppers hours of research, reduces painful price negotiations, streamlines the process, and makes the transition to the dealership seamless.  The Value Benefits Full transparency offers enormous benefits for dealers as well, such as building value in a vehicle by openly discussing the dealership's reconditioning investment or an inspection performed by a master certified technician. Value-based conversations with shoppers about vehicle quality and safety, and a lower cost-of-ownership over time helps to justify pricing and demonstrates that the dealer is truly interested in helping the shopper make a smart purchase decision.  In the end, it's a win-win situation for both the dealership and the car buyer – by focusing on selling value, the dealership retains its gross profit. At the same time, full transparency earns trust and drives customer loyalty.
The Chip Shortage Is Coming! Is Your Used Inventory Ready?

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By now, the entire industry and many consumers have heard about the chip shortage ready to hit automotive showrooms about the time our summer kicks off. A shortage of semi-conductor chips due to COVID slowdowns with production hit auto makers in the early part of 2021, and dealers are now bracing for impact. Popular vehicles like Ford F-150 trucks and other models are harder to come by right at a time when vaccinations and a lessening of restrictions are bringing car buyers nationwide back to dealership lots in droves.  While there are a lot of ideas on how dealerships can work around the shortage and continue to turn a profit, one theme that continues to resonate throughout the industry is to have dealers look to their used car inventory to shore up sales before the event. As we look to the summer buying season, what are some things you can work on now to ensure you're ready?  1. Build Trust A recent Marchex report shows more than 91% of people surveyed said they rate trust just as, if not more, important than the price of a vehicle. This becomes even more crucial when it's time to look across your used car inventory. What products can you use to your advantage to help build that trust with the customer? One of our favorite ways to show dealerships how to do this is with a Lifetime Powertrain Warranty. By offering a Lifetime Powertrain Warranty as an additional safeguard for the used vehicles in your inventory, you're adding another layer of trust to your guest's purchase.  2. Use Extras Just like our example with the Lifetime Powertrain Warranty suggestion above, throwing in extras to entice customers to move forward with a used vehicle has shown to be an effective way to move the needle toward a sale. Some of the add-ins we've seen that work well are: Warranties Free oil changes Complimentary tickets to a local sporting or arts event Even a contribution to the buyer's local charitable organization of choice  3. Do a Complete F&I Audit  Now is the time to look through and audit your current F&I offerings. Used vehicle buyers tend to purchase more ancillary products like dent and ding protection and paint repair. Some things to look at as you go through your audit – look over your disclosures to ensure you are up to date with compliance. Important terms to check include stating the purchase of products is not required to obtain financing, and the agreement or declining of products will not affect APR. Lastly, ensure every F&I product you offer is properly displayed on your presentation page with benefit statements for each.  4. Increase Promotion of Popular Used Vehicles Several models, like Ford F Series pick-ups, will continue to drive demand. The longer the chip shortage lasts, the harder these popular used models will be to find on dealer lots. Ensure you are identifying the most popular models on each of your lots and promoting them heavily as we move into the summer months.  While the chip shortage is not ideal, you can act now to shore up your used inventory and build trust to push buyers toward the used vehicles on your lot. A combination of promoting high-demand vehicles, auditing your F&I products, and offering incentives like Lifetime Powertrain Warranties can go a long way when building the buyer confidence needed to push you to the finish line this summer. 
Is Your F&I Compliance "Toast?"

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What does criminal conduct have to do with F&I and my new toaster? Here you go... I recently bought a toaster. (Please hold your applause until the end of the article.) The toaster is so generic it does not even have a brand name on the instructions. "Instructions," you ask? For a toaster?  Yes, it came with a full-color, multi-step instruction, which is awesome.  There are "Single bread toasting" instructions in case you might not want to...you know...toast two pieces of bread at the same time. And I quote, "Single bread operation may cause uneven toasting result due to nonuniform heat distribution from the empty slot."  So, I am getting a toaster, a grammatical mistake, and entertainment all for the price of a toaster. But wait, there's more. It gets better! And here is the tie-in with our business: It shows actual, color photographs of pieces of toast corresponding to the level dial on the toaster, ranging from level 1 (lightly toasted) to level 6 (call the fire department). So, they are asking you to compare the color photos with your toast. I love this! Examine and compare. This is risk mitigation at its absolute finest.  So when was the last time you examined, with a clear head, your F&I practices? When was the last time you (or a trained third party) compared a checklist to a deal folder for compliance? Are your deals "warm and toasty?" Or, do you need to call the Fire Department to hose them down?   If your dealership strives toward a better culture of compliance, consider this checklist when reviewing your F&I practices:  This is a partial list representing only twenty (20%) percent of the items that you should be checking.   Examining these practices will help prevent so many problems and allegations, including (but not limited to) product stuffing (quoting a payment that includes aftermarket products), discrimination, income manipulation, Suspicious Activity Reports, and fraud. Some of the items above are just the law, and you are required to comply.   Financial institutions are required to file Suspicious Activity Reports if they believe you have submitted false information to them. It is a requirement for them, not an option.  Some of these items may be obvious, but are you actually checking? Or have you hired a third party to check? If a regulator walked into your dealership, could you demonstrate that you perform periodic audits to check your F&I department? Did you know that Section 8 2. of the United States Sentencing Commission considers compliance activity when judges determine the length of jail time? You must "(1) exercise due diligence to prevent and detect criminal conduct; and (2) otherwise promote an organizational culture that encourages ethical conduct and a commitment to compliance with the law." It is worth noting, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently announced they are hiring additional lawyers for compliance enforcement.   Don't wait until smoke is rising and alarms are blaring. Implement a compliance program now, or you will be a level 6 piece of toast.  
Four Steps to Banishing Burn Out

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We're currently in a culture that celebrates working ourselves to exhaustion. According to a study by the Center for Creative Leadership, professionals and business leaders who carry smartphones tend to work more than 70 hours a week. And the pandemic has not helped us with this little problem at all! A recent survey by FlexJobs found that 75% of people have experienced work-related burnout, with 40% saying they have specifically felt these effects since the pandemic began.  With all of this focus on overworking and exhaustion, now is a good time to recognize the signs of burnout, not just for your own well-being but for the health of your employees too. I recently sat down with Rebecca O'Brien, an executive burnout coach, to discover the four steps she suggests in order to step into your own power and banish the blahs!  1. Self Mastery This stage is really all about identifying and observing your thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Rebecca suggests when you feel overwhelmed, it's important to look at your stressors, triggers, and emotions, and assess how you're behaving due to these factors. Much in the same way that you'll have a different reaction to a problem when you're well-rested versus when you're tired, self-mastery is what allows us to know ourselves fully and in that moment act in our best interest. The best way to come back to center? Step off of the roller coaster and reconnect with nature, take a walk, call a friend, or even just step away from your laptop for a five-minute reset.  2. Powerful Mind The second step is what Rebecca calls having a powerful mind and this is where mindfulness comes into play. Often it is said that depression is a way of living in the past and anxiety is looking too far into the future. So the idea of a powerful mind is all about knowing what keeps you grounded and connected to the present. Think of it in terms of looking at thoughts that aren't true around the situation (for instance, the idea that you have to work 10-12 hours a day because you'll never get through all of the work) and determining where the pressure is occurring. This step also goes hand in hand with positive thinking and gratitude. Next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, stop and list five things you're grateful for that happened that day. This helps bring you back into the present and gets your mind off of the negative hamster wheel.  3. Strong Habits Habits are the best way to support you and clarify your energy. One easy example of a non-helpful habit is hitting your phone the moment you wake up. Many of the most high-performing executives I know have a rule of not touching their phones for the first half-hour of their day. They use this time to read, be inspired, journal and if nothing else, just enjoy a hot cup of coffee with no distractions. Take time every day with notifications turned off. Set specific times to return emails. Focus on one thing at a time. These are the habits that will help bring order to your chaotic day.  4. Unbreakable Boundaries  Rebecca credits this step with being the most impactful, both for your relationship with yourself and all of the relationships that surround you. While this step is often the most difficult, Rebecca says it is directly tied to creating more freedom so you can then do the work that is most impactful to you. My favorite question for executives is, what sets your soul on fire? And unbreakable boundaries is one of the fastest ways to get to the thing that sets your soul on fire. Think about your week and determine what you're saying yes to; that really should be a no. Is there a way to carve out some time for something you're passionate about? My favorite quote from a guest on my podcast this last year was, "If it's not a Hell yes, then it needs to be a no." How much simpler would our lives become if we all lived by this principle?  We've all experienced a difficult year and by all accounts, the hits seem to be continuing into 2021. By creating healthy ways to cope with stress now, we'll be doing ourselves and our teams a huge favor and will reap the rewards in the months to come. While burnout is real, it doesn't have to be our reality. 
Dealerships, do you even CPO? A Simple & Beneficial Approach

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One of my favorite calls receive are from former customers or friends who know I am in the car business. They call asking me how they should buy their next vehicle. I no longer work at the dealership, but it is so much fun for me to help my family, friends, and former customers to purchase a vehicle as an independent third-party voice.   Recently, a friend of mind that was looking for a new truck called and asked if I could help. As we talked about some of the features he wanted, I started thinking that taking advantage of a manufacture or dealer certified pre-owned vehicle might be a great way for him to buy his next truck. The certified pre-owned programs that he could take advantage of would allow him to get a better interest rate, more vehicle warranty, and an overall lower payment than buying a new truck.   After discussing his options, I started researching the best truck to meet his needs. However, I was 400 miles away and could not physically be there in person. Therefore, all of the leg work had to be done on the computer. This created a major hurdle for us finding a certified pre-owned vehicle that was a good fit for my friend. If I had been closer, I could have gone in person to dealerships and looked at trucks. I would have been able to see the point of purchase materials that are often displayed by the dealer to show off the certified pre-owned vehicle on the lot. In fact, most OEMs have stringent requirements for signs, stickers and decals that must be placed on a vehicle on the lot if it is certified.   My first couple of searches on third-party sites was very frustrating. I was able to enable the certified pre-owned search filter; however, I noticed that some dealers were not even correctly classifying their certified vehicles. I could find a truck that would likely work for my friend, but I could not tell if the unit had any OEM or Dealer certified programs attached to it.   I began to think how unfortunate the situation was for the dealership. Dealerships are spending thousands of dollars in additional money for the certified program on their vehicle and no one can see it online. Dealer expenses that include: more reconditioning of the unit, additional time with paperwork and merchandising, and additional cost of the warranty coverage.    Luxury vehicle lines like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Lincoln all have certified pre-owned programs, which can cost the store over $1,000 just for the certified warranty. This does not include all the additional money that has to be spent to bring all maintenance up to date and additional higher level recondition requirement costs. In some instances, the vehicle could have incurred the dealership an additional $3,000 or more to certified than a non-certified competing unit.  After a long exhausting search that spanned over the course of two weeks, I was finally able to find a dealer that had the right truck for my friend. How did I find it? Firstly, the vehicle had an image overlay on the truck with the dealer information, and most importantly, the certified pre-owned logo. Secondly, the vehicle was correctly listed in the certified pre-owned listings category of the third-party listing site. Lastly, the description of the vehicle clearly identified the unit as a certified pre-owned vehicle with the benefits of the program.  If you are reading this thinking that your certified pre-owned cars could use a facelift, the good news is that most of the merchandising can be automated through your vehicle export providers. It just takes a little bit of work and time to get it going. Here are the items that I recommend every dealer do to help bring their offline message to their online shoppers.  Properly classify your units as certified in your vehicle inventory tool. This helps to identify the units on the dealer website as well as third-party listing sites.  Get a professionally designed image overlay with the dealer logo and certified pre-owned logos. Do not try to make one yourself unless you are graphic artists. Too many times I see terrible overlays that were designed with a pour image editor and the dealership's credibility immediacy is negatively affected. Add a placeholder image in the vehicle picture set that clearly outlines the advantages of the certified pre-owned program for the consumer. This slide is imperative as consumers often cross shop your certified unit versus a non-certified unit.   Lastly, Add the certified pre-owned benefits to the top of the vehicle description. It is crucial that this information goes right on the top as most consumers will spend little time viewing all the descriptions. This should be automated or templated in your export tool to make sure that it is attached to every certified unit every time. Here are some examples of good certified pre-owned merchandising: Vehicle Overlay Vehicle Placeholder A little bit of effort can go a long way in bringing the same offline experience to your online shopper. The great news is that most of this is easy to setup and automate.