AS lockdown eases and the industry gets back into gear the Leasing Broker Federation’s recent survey shows that 60% of members believe they will be fully operational in a month or less.

However, with strict Covid-19 health and safety guidelines to comply with and changes in consumer behaviour to address, it’s not simply a case of ‘business as usual’.

Rather, the sector must embrace change and make critical preparations to maximize pent up opportunity and future-proof their businesses for successful operation in a post-pandemic world. 

Service beyond the showroom

The enforcement of social distancing measures and consumer nervousness around making trips out of the home, means that the way deals are done is changing, said outsourced communications provider Moneypenny. 

Commercial manager Stephanie Vaughan-Jones, said: “A drop in walk-ins and passing trade is inevitable and sales that would have typically begun as a conversation over a coffee in a showroom, will likely shift to a telephone or online inquiry. It’s therefore vital that virtual customer service meets the standard of that previously delivered on the showroom floor.

“Lockdown has forced society to communicate with service providers via phone and online and consumers have come to expect a seamless and satisfactory experience via these platforms.

“43% of businesses state that phone calls are more important now than ever before, so making client communications a priority will be fundamental to a successful and fast recovery.”

Vaughan-Jones added that valuable customer service skills displayed during face-to-face interactions are easily transferrable, so businesses should commit to carrying out top-up training and ensuring there is always someone to answer the phone and provide support.

For those returning to the showroom or office with reduced staff resource and anticipating a potential influx of inquiries, outsourced telephone answering can be a cost-effective way to deal with demand and drive sales. 

Money to be made

Vaughan-Jones said: “Despite widespread economic uncertainty, evidence suggests that there is real opportunity for business within the automotive industry. People have had more time than ever to spend on ‘life admin’ and this includes consideration around the cars they own and exploration into deals on the market. 

“What’s more, with millions of consumers facing cancelled holidays and events, refunds mean that people have cash to spend and there’s huge potential for savvy car salespeople and leasing brokers to turn this situation into valuable trade.”

According to Moneypenny call volume data, consumer appetite has doubled over the last month and over 40% of inbound inquiries are sales focused.

The Leasing Broker Federation’s survey echoes this, with 90% of respondents confirming that they are already speaking with new leads and 85% have reengaged with prospects that were previously in their pipeline.

As well as ensuring there are attractive deals on offer, delivering stand-out service will be imperative.

Accelerate your digital offering

Having a strong online presence has been essential for the motor industry for years. However, while design and functionality may have previously been geared towards showcasing a product portfolio and generating sales, equal attention must now be paid to providing excellent online customer service. 

Vaughan-Jones said: “Many automotive businesses will be reopening with reduced staff and showrooms will be limiting visitor numbers in order to adhere to government guidelines. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to ensure customers have an external channel on which to reach you.

“Putting a ‘by appointment only’ policy in place and launching an online booking system will promote organisational efficiency and help to ensure social distancing rules aren’t challenged.

“In addition to this, providing an online communications channel, such as live chat, will enable your staff to engage with customers, effectively triage their inquiries, and offer instantaneous answers prior to them visiting your showroom, with auto-prompts to communicate key information and messaging.

“There’s no denying that the industry looks very different and is yet to face many unknowns.

“However, by making preparations now and investing in service-driven technology, businesses can ensure they put the customer in pole position and lay the foundations for a speedy business recovery.”