By. Ritch Wheeler, Vice President of Training
One of the common questions I get from dealer partners is, “Do I need a digital retailing department?” Every time I hear that question it makes me think of Carl Sewell. I once read an article in which Carl Sewell was asked about a customer service department. His response was, “We don’t have a customer service department. Everybody that worked for me is responsible for customer service.” I see digital retailing in a similar way. Digital retailing, or even just the internet, is not one specific department’s job anymore. Digital retailing is not a separate business channel, it is simply a part of the process people go through when they purchase something. Almost everything that customers purchase involves digital retailing at some point or another. Why? Because that is how we communicate today.
Dealership associates need to understand that everyone has to be familiar with what that customer’s purchasing journey looks like prior to them coming into the store. The better we can understand what the customer has already done, the more seamless their experience will be. The customer will experience fewer pain points and less friction in our process.
So, the answer to the question is, “No, you do not need a digital retailing department.” You might not even need an internet department or a BDC department. How customers are purchasing vehicles today is different than it used to be. How we approach that buying experience also has to be different. We don’t just need a handful of digital retailing experts. We need everyone to be a digital retailing expert, so they are well versed in the language that the customer is speaking.
You might hear people say that this is the new normal. This is not the new normal. I regularly hear people tell me that they are afraid that customers will start purchasing vehicles entirely online because COVID has taught them how to do so. Nothing could be further from the truth. People, not just customers but people, want true, genuine interaction. People were built for community. We were built for contact with each other. Customers will come back to the stores and they will interact with us face-to-face. They may do more research online before coming into the store, but our job is still to provide a world-class customer experience when they arrive.