Carol Marshall: Why the Human Touch is Still Vital to Dealership Success

By: Michael Cirillo   |   14 Dec 2022

Carol Marshall is the Chief Operations Officer at ActivEngage, Inc., an innovative leader with expertise in building teams and developing the very best collaborative environments. Carol has extensive experience in the automotive and contact centre environments, and her strategic vision and analytical skills have proven to drive results while creating trust and passionate team members in a culture of accountability.

What we discuss in this episode:
A great customer experience requires a human touch.

Great discussions are memorable. You recall them fondly, and they frequently inspire future talks. They become part of our most treasured memories. Consumers are more demanding and have more options today, and dealerships must step up and cater to their customers and prospects with exceptional customer experiences. In this episode, Carol Marshall dives deep into the question of whether car shoppers want to even talk to car dealerships anymore.

Answering the question, Carol says, "They never didn't want to talk to car dealers! It's vital that they talk to someone at the dealership, but their ability and their willingness to wait on that person to provide the information is shrinking."

When shoppers click into a messenger-style chat box on your site, they're ready to do business. And they will tell you if their concern is a market adjustment or what their hot button is. So your staff needs to be trained. You need to make sure you have the right people who can handle those queries and address them. Be an active listener. Acknowledge what it is they're concerned about and address that concern.

When people install a tool like Active Engage, the common misconception is that messaging is easier than being on the phone, but the truth is that it's more difficult because it's so stark. If you're dealing with a tricky consumer, even the smallest misstep can tick them off. So the first thing to think about is who is handling the conversations and making sure that they're ready for all objections, questions, and conversations.

Active Engage has tools with the ability to track where the consumer entered your site, so you can get a sense of where that shopper has been and what they're thinking. Did they go to the new cars page, then to the search results page, and then to your used car inventory? Perhaps they didn't find what they were looking for. "It's a great question to bring up in the conversation and gives you leverage in already assuming what they might be looking for and where they are in the buyer journey."
Car shoppers are predictable.

Being predictable doesn't necessarily mean that the car shopper or customer is dumb. If they're asking the same questions or asking about similar things, then it is incumbent upon whoever is working with that customer to take that data, take that predictability, and for heaven's sake, find out the most efficient, personable, relationship-building way to answer those questions. Stop being robotic in your responses! Instead, think to yourself, "How can I show tender care and concern for them in a much more human approach?" And circling back to this whole concept of what's going to happen in the economy and the softening of the market and interest rates, you can leverage all of that data and all of that understanding about how consumers ebb and flow in the market to give them better service and serve them better.

Web technology is a better listener than we are. Google, for example, is not a search engine; it's a listening engine. It is listening to every letter you type into that search box, interpreting your intent, and then presenting you with the results it believes are the most relevant to your location and needs. 

if you can see the flow of what page they landed on, what page they went to next, what part of the page they interacted with, what vehicles they're looking at, and the trend of what vehicle types, makes, or colours they're looking at, you can't just stop there and think, "That's super cool." No, use your human nature and ask, "What do I understand? What's my thesis? How can I help them? How can I lead them closer to a sale with this information?" Take that input and make it more appealing so that they would want to book an appointment and come in to see you feeling like they already have a relationship going.
Genuine Conversations Create genuine sales interactions.

 Make clients feel acknowledged and recognized throughout their entire purchasing experience! Especially in vehicle sales, which have high-pressure connotations even in the absence of direct sales pressure, a great discussion can dispel "dealership fear." A relationship between the shopper and the sales associate can expand the scope of the conversation beyond the goods. Good discussion relaxes consumers and helps them put down their defences.

Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots: No Human Experience in Sight
The age of the digital dealership has arrived. Without context, recommending artificial intelligence to complement your digital dealership may seem reasonable. It is a smart idea to handle your online, or "digital," customers while your team focuses on providing the greatest possible in-store experience. Except that these consumers are humans using a digital platform that is not digital.

How else can you distinguish yourself with a "wow" than by humanizing your digital platform? Certainly, the COVID-19 pandemic made on-site visits more difficult. At the end of the day, though, if there isn't a living, breathing person at the end of a dealership's contact touchpoints, well, let's just say that there are other dealerships nearby and certainly on the Internet. The utility of A.I. and A.I.-powered bots is limited to the initial point of interaction. They are unable to maintain and continue this crucial conversation.

Looking at Carvana for example. This time-saving, easy process is appealing to consumers. However, they still lack the conversational touch that makes terrific, hospitable salespeople at dealerships more trustworthy. I feel that if dealers can engage in this method of conducting business while preserving a human connection, they will be successful.
They lack that common ground with humanity.
Those who work in auto sales understand the importance of jumping on a potential customer quickly. Keeping customers on the line requires rapid interaction. However, slowing down might be for the best in our new age of experiential shopping. Get to know your consumers better by asking them some unexpected questions right from the get-go. Learn what they require from you that you haven't thought of yet.

Begin and sustain a fascinating discussion. When you have a conversation that really clicks with someone, you want to keep it going. Adding a human touch to every single sales transaction is a surefire method to increase customer retention. Keep having interesting discussions in and out of the showroom, and you will certainly see positive results.

A conversation involves more than just talking to one another and sharing information.

It goes much beyond that. In the car-buying process, in particular, customers are on the verge of making the single most expensive and personally significant purchase of their lives. Moreover, they aren't only purchasing the chassis, tires, and upholstery. A car is an extension of its owner, who is a unique individual with preferences and habits of their own. Is it rational to employ a device that lacks effective capabilities to help people make this important buying decision? Even in the digital age, your human sales team will continue to be your biggest asset!

Listen to the full episode for insights and context from Carol Marshall! 



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Thanks, Carol Marshall!

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