In the Quiet, Listening Becomes Easier

by Carol Marshall

Many of us lived through the 2008-2009 recession. For those of us that were in some of the hardest-hit industries like real estate, banking, or automotive, we emerged with a different sense of how to navigate life.

The impact of COVID-19 will be exponential when compared to the 2008/09 recession. Instead of only a handful of industries being hardest hit, this time around only a handful of sectors will be spared. And even those will be reshaped because of what happened. Regardless of what group we belong to, we all have the shared impact of living through a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Slowing Down is Helping Us to Really Listen

Without the constant push to go somewhere, prepare to leave, plan your route, we can just be. When the peripherals are removed, the main event is all that stands. During this stay-at-home time, listening becomes easier. Perhaps we can now hear those around us in a more meaningful way than we have in years. Hear the textures to conversations, which are so much more than just the words used. The forced slow pace has opened us to new realities in really hearing what others are saying.

Such is the case with online conversations–all the other concerns like appearances, sounds, and people around you don't exist. All that is left is to address the main concern of the shopper. What prompted them to click on a call-to-action, to text, to message?

Learning the primary motivation is typically easy enough, providing there are no barriers to starting a real conversation. A genuine greeting, letting the shopper know they are being heard, assures them what they have to say is important, and they open up. Those textures of the conversation, what page are they chatting in on, what was their first question, did they have small talk early on, give an indication to the experience they seek.

Given the quarantine experience, listening in every direction and in every possible way becomes even more essential to provide the consumer with an experience that builds trust and encourages action.


Technology is Connecting Us

With so much time at home, shoppers have become more comfortable with technology. Those slow adopters have had to take the plunge, using various systems to connect for work, or school, or both! Whereas in the past, they may have avoided connecting virtually, they now have the confidence to reach out via online methods. It is more vital than ever to have associates on the other end who understand how to communicate virtually and make the shopper feel heard and valued. Building relationships takes intuitiveness and empathy, as well as knowledge.

Keep Building Those Relationships

It can't stop there, though. Once the lead arrives or the shopper shows for their appointment, the information that is shared should be remembered and guide the process forward. After living through so many uncertain days, we can go a long way towards building trust by simply over-communicating what will come next in the buying process. Spelling out each step, what's required, and the expected time required will ease those consumers' minds who have had an uneasy feeling for a couple of months.

How can we cater to the drive for more upfront knowledge of how the buying process will work at your dealership? Arming your online team with those steps or providing a start to it with trusted guidance by your team will be one way to set yourself apart from others. We must be sensitive to the fact that our buyers are seeking certainty in understanding and knowing what is coming. This is not a time to forego the personal touch.

In fact, the dealers who put the training and time into the in-dealership experience and manage their online reputation can expect to see their share grow. As people, we will have just lived through a time when so much was out of our control. We will need to imagine all the ways we can provide empathy, understanding, and transparency to our process and begin to incorporate them in authentic ways.

Some Questions to Ask Yourself

What are your processes online and in the dealership? Are there gaps? What additional ways can you communicate with potential buyers and service customers so that they know what to expect?

Use the quiet to listen. Review your own experiences as well as the feedback you've received from past customers. Craft what your new customer journey will be and look forward to welcoming even higher returns in the post COVID environment.


Carol Marshall

Carol Marshall is VP of Operations at ActivEngage, Inc. and has been helping ActivEngage become an industry leader for the past ten years. She has over 20 years of industry experience and has held positions with national organizations such as Mazda N.A. and AutoNation, respectively. A cancer survivor/fighter and a world-class super mom, Carol's strength and resilience only make her a stronger leader.


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