Before leaving the auction, a buying dealer stops at the front counter to request PSIs, floorplan his vehicles, and order transportation. He is in a hurry to meet a potential customer at his dealership and is cutting it close on time. As he waits in line, he is regretting staying in the lane 10 minutes longer than he should have to get that last vehicle. He’s only the 2nd person in line, but the guy in front of him has a discrepancy with his account, and apparently, all the time in the world to get it situated. So the dealer waits – visibly impatient – until he is called to approach the counter.
While at the counter, the dealer attempts to convey a sense of urgency hoping that the clerk will oblige him with rapid service. Instead, as she begins to enter his information, she is interrupted by a new employee who is working with another customer and needs her help. To the dealer’s dismay, the clerk proceeds to assist her protégé with a task. Meanwhile, the dealer’s frustration level has escalated from visibly upset to obscenely vocal – as he mutters to the person behind him, “You’ve got to be effin kidding me!”
The clerk returns and apologizes to the dealer, explaining that a block clerk had not shown up, so they had to send an inside administrator to work on the block. The dealer expresses his frustration with this reoccurring issue and recommends that the auction get more help. The clerk explains the challenge of hiring employees for a single day of work. The dealer, stifling an arsenal of responses in the interest of time, completes his transaction. But just before he turns to leave, he asks the clerk, “Why don’t you have a system where we can help ourselves?” The clerk looks at him slightly confused and replies, “Well, because that would not be good customer service.”
Right Intentions, Wrong Era
In the auction’s defense, personal relationships have always been the key to building a strong customer base. Auctions greeted dealers with a handshake and a smile. The auction was a place to convene for friendly conversation and competitive bidding. So what has changed?
Simple answer… The world!
The industry is not what it used to be. Dealers face a lot more competition than they did in the past as vehicles are now available to consumers through a multitude of channels. In addition, the cost of doing business is much higher and dealers are under more pressure to keep overhead low. This means spending more time at the dealership and less time at the auction.
In their work life and in their personal life, dealers are continuously exposed to the expedient benefits of technology. The Internet has changed the psychology of society as a whole, reducing many transactional processes to just a couple of mouse-clicks. There is a much higher expectation for speed and convenience. In fact, dealers are quite familiar with this phenomenon. When over 90% of consumers began their car-buying process on the Internet, dealerships were forced to update their business culture to include a stronger online presence and a modified approach to sales and customer service.
On the wholesale side, technology has presented more options for sourcing vehicles. Dealers are not restricted by geographical limitations. Nearly every auction now offers a digital platform with competitive bidding, or established pricing. In addition, as many Used Car Managers retire, a younger generation of buyers are making decisions based on their own ideas and experiences. They are not bound by the nostalgia of the traditional experience. If presented with limited options, they will simply move on.
Like dealers, auctions were also impacted by the rise of the Internet. However, despite putting their vehicles online, the auction did not make any modifications to the culture. The same brick and mortar guidelines applied to the online process. While you were able to purchase the vehicle online, you had to call the auction to complete your transaction or request services. For most Independent Auctions, this is still the reality.
It is also important to note that technology has not only created an online bidding segment, but has also transformed the traditional experience for dealers who physically attend the sale. The majority of dealers are reviewing vehicles online prior to attending the sale, and some are looking for no-sale vehicles after the sale. Auction customers are evolving and have proven that they are willing and able to adapt to new methods. In fact, they are now wondering why more options are not available.
The Modern Approach to Customer Service
You see it everywhere you go… Airports… Grocery Stores… Fast Food Restaurants…
Self-service options are becoming more popular as the need for speed and flexibility continue to be fueled by a digital culture. The preference for ‘face-to-face’ interaction has been disrupted by the reality that the quality of this experience has deteriorated due to many of the societal changes noted above. While some argue that computers cannot replace people, I would not hesitate to agree on that point. However, I do believe that digital service solutions should be used to supplement the shortcomings of a business, enhance the strengths, and ultimately, provide customers with the opportunity to engage according to their own preference.
AuctionVcommerce is currently working with Independent Auto Auctions across the country to provide dealers with more resources that include a combination of live reps and digital service. These auctions are building a sustainable business model to compete in the virtual space as dealer-to-dealer technology continues to target their customers. This optimized experience will preserve the integrity of the traditional auction while setting a new standard for customer service. Just a little something to look forward to in 2019!
Think Outside The Blocks®