How to be there for your dealer clients

Senior Vice President, Client Services

With the pace rivaled only by the Bugatti Chiron, the world has changed in a flash. No industry has been left unaffected, and that includes your automotive dealer clients. To give you a better sense of how dealers are doing and what they need going forward, we conducted a survey to assess the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on dealerships across the U.S.

Hearing from a group of respondents made up of 73% franchise dealers and 27% independent dealers, we’ve gathered the following insights to guide you on how you can be a trusted partner to your clients during these trying times.

Dealers’ uncertain outlook

The impact on retail automotive is significant, with dealers saying vehicle sales have been affected worse than service. On average, franchise dealers say they’ve lost two-thirds of sales, and independents say they have been hit even harder. Specifically, independent dealers surveyed say they have lost 80% of sales, and one in five stores is currently shut down.

The situation is so fluid that dealers feel uncertain about the duration and ultimate toll it will take on their businesses. Most dealers believe it will take a minimum of 6 months to recover financially, and seven percent of independent dealers worry they may never recover.

Superior customer support

While dealers are naturally most concerned about their financial situation, there are ways you can help alleviate their stress. Dealers’ second most common theme is that they appreciate vendors who are proactive in offering help, highly accessible, and stepping up their game in areas of customer support.

To provide your clients with superior customer support, you can:

  • Adjust your hours and increase communications to keep dealers going
  • Update dealers on orders and product use
  • Set up webinars and provide additional training on products
  • Identify ways to overcome market-based hurdles

Think about your tone. Take an understanding and sympathetic approach to dealers’ current situation without sounding like you already know what they want or need.

Enhanced software features

For software and system providers in particular, there is an opportunity to impress dealers and build loyalty by offering creative solutions to their challenges. Dealers are also looking for opportunities to try new capabilities at little or no cost, especially when it can help them better serve consumers remotely.

To help your clients overcome challenges and uncover new opportunities, you can:

  • Offer software “test drives” or no-charge trials of specific online marketing tools
  • Provide additional or enhanced features, such as video chat or VDP callouts
  • Keep software up to date
  • Make selling to consumers in their homes more feasible without adding cost
  • Offer more tools to help dealers complete their online sales

Stay in touch with clients

To gain an even deeper understanding of what you can do to help your clients during these unusual times, we encourage you to ask dealer department heads about the best ways you can be of assistance. Listen to their feedback and be flexible as their needs evolve with the circumstances. These and other approaches will position you as a valuable partner while giving your dealer clients the support they need to keep moving forward.

Looking to learn more

Please visit our landing page to check out an infographic we created to showcase this research. Also, drop me a private message or comment if you have specific questions you would like to ask dealers in our next pulse survey that will go out in the coming weeks.

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Senior Vice President, Client Services
Brady is a marketing expert with experience in 11 major industries serving countless clients of all sizes, from billion-dollar market leaders to scrappy start-ups. Leading client services for FARM, he inspires everyone to do their best work. Guided by a burning desire to make an impact, he spends most of his time chasing insights, shaping strategy, and curating new marketing ideas. He knows that enduring value comes with routinely accomplishing what our clients ask of us. And his favorite question to ask clients? “How can we help?”

Our Take

Nobody likes to hear people squawk about marketing. So, we wrote it all down for you.

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