Remember to Be Human

by Bill Playford

The amount of work thrust upon the contemporary Internet agent has increased dramatically over the past five years. It’s not enough to simply email and call a potential customer after they had just submitted a lead submission form. Now they need to text, shoot walk around and intro videos, then text and email those videos, not to mention still confirm pricing and availability. That’s a lot of ands. All of these additional activities cloud what’s most important.

One could easily argue that the advent of dedicated Internet personnel grew from preventing traditional sales personnel from getting overextended. What’s more important, calling a webform submission back in five minutes or immediately greeting a customer on the lot? The answer is both, meaning there should be a division of labor to ensure every person who interacts with the dealership gets an equal level of customer service. Since opportunities are not evenly distributed throughout the workday, and humans cannot be in two places at once, responsibilities need to be divided.

By the end of 2019, Internet personnel found themselves in the same place the traditional sales team found themselves 20 years ago. As new opportunities hit the CRM, more activities are being triggered that take them away from the original intent of the department. Without another division of labor, corners get cut, activities get skipped, and customer experience takes a back seat to complete tasks. History has a funny way of repeating itself.

It’s already clear that April of 2020 will mark another reset-button moment for the auto industry. After the Dotcom Bubble burst and 9/11 happened in 2001, consumer sentiment fell, while at the same time a supernova of technology went from the hands of the few to the hands of the many. The Great Recession of 2007-2009 laid waste to banks, real estate, and, of course, the automotive sector, while quietly giving birth to the smartphone revolution. This very moment is changing the ways that vehicles will be bought and sold. It will invariably give rise to a new way of doing business.

Without the 20/20 hindsight, we don’t know what this new challenge will bring. What we do know is that robots still aren’t buying cars for robots. On the other end of the phone, tablet, or computer there is a real, live, human. That human has real anxiety, uncertainty, and concern. That person represents a huge segment of the population that was already there before April of 2020. We were just too busy to see them.

While the news of late is crippling, for those of us who are still able to work safely, or those who are sheltering in place from home, we have an opportunity to shape what that new future looks like. We have time to slow down and work on our craft. We can have phone conversations that are not about checking boxes but forging a trustworthy relationship. We can shoot videos that are engaging instead of those that look like a chore for both the viewer and producer. We can learn more about our products so that we can say more than “it’s a nice one.” Every task is an opportunity for a connection.

We’re all passengers on this runaway train. The United States has never dealt with a deadly and unpredictable pandemic while at the same time surging towards another full-blown economic depression. But, if history tells us anything, it’s that the human race is strong. We’ve thrived during worse conditions. We are innovative. We are resilient. We’re at the top of the food chain for one reason: we’re stronger when we help each other. When we get through this, and we will get through this, do not take your work for granted. Remember that you’re not there to complete tasks as soon as possible. Remember to take part in the process. Remember to be human.



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