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Jul. 12, 2010 – A positive that can turn into a big fat negative

July 12, 2010
Filed under Columns

Being a frequent volunteer for youth sports has taught me two life lessons.
First off, I’ve discovered the only thing that recedes faster than your hairline is your energy level.
Second, and most importantly, your view of the world is remarkably different if you’re looking up at an adult vs. straight-on.
Totally and incomprehensively different.
Take Father’s Day for instance. My 8-year-old son wondered outloud this past holiday, “Why there isn’t a Kids Day?” My answer: “Every day is kids day.”
He guffawed.
A similar-sized mentality gulf exists within our population of consumers. Those online addicts (Web-icts?) vs. the traditional brick-and-mortar shopper. We know the latter group represents a diminishing portion of the consumer population and only figures to keep shrinking as we morph into an I-world.
But do you ever consider how distinctly different the Web-ict’s point of view is?
How totally and incomprehensively different it is than many of ours?
Truthfully, I’m surprised we as an industry haven’t been forced to do this more than we have. Oh, we’ve certainly seen OEMs and dealers alike move progressively to support the online shopper, as well as provide them different online mediums (mobile phone support and social networking, for example). But as yet we haven’t, to my knowledge, tied consumer satisfaction scores to their online behavior.
Can you imagine the variety of scores we would see from that?
Before I delve deeper into that let me provide a viewpoint that had not crossed my mind before I recently met with an OEM staff member. This person largely deals with consumer service issues and thus their perspective is very much in line with our clientele.
The item of interest we dealt with was online queries: How dealers process them, and more importantly, how quickly they respond to these consumer questions.
The memorable takeaway for me — another radically different view of the world — was the possible negative ramifications that such online queries possess. See Web-icts are increasingly geared to getting their questions and/or searches answered so quickly that anything that requires additional time is viewed as bad. Really bad. Picture your reaction to watching a televised ballgame and in the final moments it turns to blurry, wavy lines and you get the idea of how bad we’re talking here. So what you and I probably perceive as an “added bonus” to the online consumer — Contact us for pricing! — may be resulting in horribly bad PR and word-of-mouth for your dealership if those online queries aren’t answered in a timely fashion. And we’re not talking sooner rather than later. We’re talking really soon. Like how about in less than 5 minutes?
That’s an incredible challenge for dealerships that are cutting back on staff or holding to their off-season employment levels. But the instantaneous online answer is certainly no longer a “consumer service bonus” to the Web-ict. It’s an expectation. And just as likely, a potential aggravator.
Which brings us back to the CSI scores and why the online experience is not included in that dealership benchmark. I would imagine the reason we haven’t seen such a progression to this type of scoring delves more in the difficulties of capturing such data from the dealerships themselves. I also would imagine that these issues, if they exist, will be sorted out in short time and such expectations will be held right beside the service and sales department scores in status and importance.
Officials who work both in the auto and powersports industries say the auto industry already keeps a sharper eye on online leads than the powersports industry does.
Can we be far behind? Not likely.
What’s likely is a totally and incomprehensively different point of view — the Web-ict’s — will come to be the norm. The expected. The defining satisfaction measurement tool.
To further progress your knowledge of online consumer queries and CRM tactics, watch PowersportsBusiness.com for updates on a Webinar that will delve into that very topic. The Webinar will be held Tuesday, July 27, and of course will be free for dealers and industry officials.We’ll explore with industry insiders this firecracker of a subject, undoubtedly one of the few issues in our industry that has the equal potential for promise (hot leads) and catastrophe (hot-blooded customers). PSB
Neil Pascale is editor-in-chief of Powersports Business. He can be reached at npascale@affinitygroup.com.

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