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Modify this long-held industry practice online

Neil Pascale, Columnist
March 18, 2013
Filed under Columns

Sometimes, reality is funny enough. No reason to make something up or look around to find the hidden gem; it’s just right there in front of us.

Let me give you an example. I’m on a mission to turn a long-held industry practice upside-down, inside-out. That practice: How and when we post our new and used inventory to our websites.

Most of us follow this practice: We get a trade-in and take it to the service department, where it lingers for a number of days. Maybe because we’ve ordered a part for that unit that we don’t carry and it has to be shipped to us. Or maybe the service department is just busy and they don’t get around to it.

Either way, it sits collecting dust for two or three days, easy.

Eventually, we bring it to the showroom floor, take pictures of it and post it online.

Totally backward, in my mind.

Before you defend your store’s long-held practice, let me inject a little reality humor in here. I asked several dealers to provide with me their unit web posting policy. Here’s the best of the best from a dealer who really should have my job:

“Neil, the method we use is quite complicated. It’s a unique procedure with many levels of hints, begging, passive aggression, smart-ass comments and general frustration. Here are the basics of it: Either I — or one of the managers — notice the website hasn’t been updated for weeks (possibly longer!). So I walk to a salesperson’s desk and see them doing their best to look busy when I approach, to the point of nearly falling off their chair as they quickly transition from a gravity-defying position that would be closer to horizontal than vertical.

“I do my best to be polite and suggest updating the website ‘when they can’ and hope they don’t notice the tiny trickle of blood seeping out of the corner of my cheek as I bite my tongue with enough force to change the valve springs on a small block Chevy.

“The employee is instantly transformed, becoming the busiest person in the shop, sitting up straight, suddenly answering every incoming phone call — even though I swear it didn’t actually ring this time!

“Next day after sleeping on it, I’ve calmed down and we repeat these steps with identical results. Sometime during the day, I take a call and it goes like this, ‘No sir, we don’t have that model. Yes I understand it’s on our website, but sir that is an ‘X’ model, they are only available in the spring. What? It says check now for fall delivery? Really? Yes sir, I do realize it’s November. I’m 100 percent sure we no longer have any. I‘m very sorry for the confusion, please leave me your contact info and if something comes available… .”

That’s brutal honestly, and incredibly funny! Funny to the point where I laugh at it even today, weeks after initially receiving that email.

But here’s the serious part — this is more commonplace than most of us care to admit. Part of that reason stems from what we believe should be the starting point of this process — the service department.

And that’s what mystifies me. Why would we want to miss out on potential leads, potential customers simply because we’re going to park a unit in service for a few days?

Ask yourself this — how many times a day are your thousands of enthusiasts going online and searching for a specific unit, only to see your competitors’ units and not yours? Why don’t they see yours? Because yours is in the service bay, collecting dust.

Data that Dominion Insights collects shows us which new or used models are generating the most consumer interest online. For example, the 2008 Gold Wing came up in searches more than 190,000 times in a recent month. That’s close to 6,500 searches a day.

Do the math — because you put the Gold Wing in the service bay for three days rather than put it first on your website, your unit missed out on being in on 18,000 searches over that dust-collecting period. Crazy, huh?

Now some dealers will counter that to market a vehicle before servicing it is trouble. Why? Because in servicing the unit we may find some unknown issues, repairs that may drive the cost of a unit up higher.

Ok, fair enough. So note that on your website and make sure your salesmen know that vehicle’s price could change depending on the service department’s findings and relate that to the consumer. But guys, this is the key part. There’s now — today! — a consumer involved in this discussion because the unit was marketed online, rather than collecting dust in the service department.

Turn your website policy upside down and in turn, get your salesmen out of that gravity-defying, horizontal position.

Neil Pascale is the Business Development Manager for Dominion Powersports Solutions, a dealer service company that includes PowerSports Network, Cycle Trader, Traffic Log Pro, Ziios and Dominion Insights. He can be reached at neil.pascale@dominionpowersports.com.

 

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