Valerie Vallancourt of Outsell discusses how dealers can connect with customers and recapture revenue.
Thomas Williams (Auto Success) (00:11):
This is Auto Success, the podcast, where we feature success-driven solutions from our industry’s leaders that you can implement for your dealership’s success. I’m your host, Thomas Williams. Welcome and thank you for taking the time to listen and welcome to our guests today, Valerie Vallancourt. Thank you for taking the time to be with us again. It’s a pleasure to speak with you.
Valerie Vallancourt (Outsell) (00:30):
Thank you for the opportunity.
Thomas Williams (Auto Success) (00:32):
Valerie is the Vice President of Marketing for Outsell. We last spoke with her in episode 571 and in this episode, we’ll be talking about connecting with customers and recapturing revenue, but before we begin, let’s get to know her a little bit more. It’s time for our Auto Success Under the Hood question. Valerie, we’d like to know what words of wisdom you would pass along to your childhood self.
Valerie Vallancourt (Outsell) (00:56):
Well, very simply, that it is okay to fail, to give myself and others more grace, and that it’s okay to not take everything personally. Oh, yeah, and to buy Amazon stock when they first started out.
Thomas Williams (Auto Success) (01:09):
That’s some really great advice, Valerie, especially that last one. I wish I had invested in that as well. Now, needless to say, this is an out of ordinary time for many dealers. What are some challenges you are seeing at dealerships when they’re still trying to reach customers even with low inventory levels?
Valerie Vallancourt (Outsell) (01:27):
We all know about the inventory shortage and that it is a challenge, for some more than others. We also know that sales are strong. Dealers are definitely being more creative. They’re focusing obviously, on service and acquiring used vehicles. We [inaudible 00:01:40] dealer recently and heard that one dealer has four college-aged kids scouring the internet at night buying up used vehicles and he has over 10 million in used vehicles in stock. I think customers know what they want and they want it now.
Valerie Vallancourt (Outsell) (01:50):
The challenge is really giving them what they want in a timely manner. Dealers should know who their best customers are. The top 30% represent more than 75% of the dealers’ gross. The dynamic is more positive with loyal customers. The dealerships have done a good job engaging consistently. These folks seem to be okay waiting a bit longer when they know they’ll get what they want from the dealer with whom they built a relationship. These customers stick with you during the bad times and don’t just come to the store because that store has a hard-to-find vehicle. It’s really times like these that I think dealers wish that they had better relationships with their current customer base.
Thomas Williams (Auto Success) (02:26):
Valerie, what are some pain points that dealership groups, in particular, are facing?
Valerie Vallancourt (Outsell) (02:32):
Yeah, that’s a really good question. I think there are a few dealer group pain points that stand out to me. Those are the groups that don’t have the solution for cleaning, consolidating, and effectively using all of their data across all their stores, groups that are not promoting cross-brand within their content. Coming out of COVID, we all know that dealers and groups alike cut staff, and obviously, with a smaller staff, you need your customer engagement to run automatically on cruise control. Lastly, I’d say not using the right technology, particularly tech with AI to decide cadence and individualized content for their consumers. Dealer groups have a unique vantage point in that they have some brands that have incredibly constrained inventory and others that really aren’t in such bad shape, so if consumers are considering makes and models that might not have otherwise been on their shortlist in the past, dealer groups who could leverage the totality of their bread offerings will fare much, much better.
Valerie Vallancourt (Outsell) (03:22):
Also, an ongoing pain point with dealer groups is always communicating across OEM brands. How do you tell your Mazda customers about your Honda offerings? There’s really a lot of excess buying power in the market right now, even with the lack of inventory. Customers are looking everywhere and anywhere to find a vehicle. One OEM brand dealer group might have more inventory and the rest of the struggle is how do you get customers from the group brand family there, and how do you do it automatically with your limited staff? I think this all comes down to how you’ve handled your group-wide data, what technology you’re using, and is there one place you can go to communicate with all your customers? Are they used to seeing communications from the group instead of the dealership? Also, how well have you marketed your group brand instead of just your individual dealerships? Those groups that don’t have a stronger brand are definitely going to be the ones who struggle, and those who have figured it out are playing the long game and actively resisting the temptation to tear someone’s face off.
Thomas Williams (Auto Success) (04:12):
How can dealers make the most of this time of low inventory levels, Valerie?
Valerie Vallancourt (Outsell) (04:17):
Well, I guess the question is as a dealer, are you looking at this time as retention building or a one-and-done deal? Do you have a little mercy on these folks and not hammer them with super high gross just because you can? Customers are going to figure that out, and they’re going to resent you and feel violated. Violated customers are not loyal. Now is really the time to build loyalty and trust with your customers and consider that retention is more critical over the long run. Dealers should be careful and not take advantage of their best customers by screwing them on the price of a new vehicle with high gross over MSRP, or big expensive add-ons that are “required”. Really for their trade, they should not try to lowball on winning customers who are loyal just because they can.
Valerie Vallancourt (Outsell) (04:55):
You got to play the long game by not maximizing the exact deal. It’s really a unique juxtaposition. Consumers who become increasingly conditioned to receive immediate shopping gratification are being faced with weeks or months of waiting to get exactly what they want or traveling greater distances to find what they want. The dealership should provide a seamless process between online shopping and in-store interactions, particularly the paperwork process to take advantage of the increase in traveling shoppers. [inaudible 00:05:21] the details matters. Confirming the vehicle of interest is still available before someone visits is extremely important. Knowing the particulars for out-of-state licensing matters. New car dealerships really need to develop a process for managing vehicle sales in the pipeline. Order outs are becoming more customary, provided allocation that’s available and really, the best dealers alert their customers when the vehicle arrives because they know what the customers want. It’s not an auction of your best customers.
Thomas Williams (Auto Success) (05:45):
Let’s talk more about retention. It can obviously be discouraging for dealers when they learn that a former customer has gone elsewhere for their next vehicle. What do you say to dealers about dealing with the situation?
Valerie Vallancourt (Outsell) (05:58):
I think a lost sale is an opportunity to regroup, figure out where you went wrong and how you can improve, send out a survey to folks that did not rebuy to get their input, find holes in your sales process and shore those up, and then follow up with those brand effectors. Position yourself as a trusted brand in your area so that when they are ready to buy again, you are the first place that they think about. The vehicle purchase is just the beginning of the ownership life cycle. It’s not about closing one deal. There’s still a significant after-sales experience ahead and all else being relatively equal, consumers choose the dealership that is most convenient to them. Capturing service opportunities from in-make vehicle owners is your best line of defense. By building a meaningful service experience, consumers have a greater likelihood of visiting a dealership when the time comes for their next purchase. Chances are, the industry will be in a better inventory situation, obviously by then.
Thomas Williams (Auto Success) (06:46):
Valerie, with service being a major revenue stream for dealers, how can they encourage customers to service their vehicles, even their off-brand vehicles at their dealership?
Valerie Vallancourt (Outsell) (06:54):
It really all comes down to communication. Consumers need to know that you are a viable service option and moreover, dealerships really need to develop prophecy to deliver ongoing service messages. Folks typically only get their car serviced if they’re reminded to do so, via it through dashboard warning lights, inoperative features, a noise or shimmy, or proactive dealerships reaching out for overdue maintenance. The latter is very much in a dealership’s control. Dealers, now more than ever, should try to engage their consumer base, even if they bought elsewhere. Warranty and recall work excluded, your dealership can handle most services. All dealers need to continue to claw back at the market share aftermarket service operators continue to capture. Similarly, even convenience influences service decisions. If I know you, you’re convenient, and provide a seamless service process, I’m going to consider doing business with you.
Thomas Williams (Auto Success) (07:45):
Valerie, what one idea would you like to leave with our listeners today?
Valerie Vallancourt (Outsell) (07:50):
Now is the time to develop an ongoing customer engagement strategy. Remember that 30% of your customers represent 75% of a dealer’s gross. Build a relationship with your customers. Build trust now. Take the time to build trust with your customers and you won’t regret it. It’s like investing. The sooner you do it, the more dividends you see. Start playing the long game with customer engagement, which ultimately drives retention.
Thomas Williams (Auto Success) (08:14):
Some great information on how to communicate effectively with your customers, utilize the data they’re receiving and continue to grow engagement. We appreciate your time today, Valerie.
Valerie Vallancourt (Outsell) (08:23):
Thank you. Pleasure speaking with you.
Thomas Williams (Auto Success) (08:25):
Our guest today has been Valerie Vallancourt, the Vice President of Marketing for Outsell. For more information about her company, visit Outsell.com. If you enjoyed this podcast and would like to listen to more success-driven solutions from Auto Success, subscribe to our podcast on your favorite podcast apps, like Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher. Visit AutoSuccessOnline.com for even more content from our industry’s leaders.