Cars and commercial vehicles continue to be sold at a prodigious pace around the world, with 2016 enjoying a 5.6% increase in auto sales compared to 20151. To continually increase sales volumes, automobile manufacturers cannot only focus on designing and producing vehicles – they also need to develop extensive dealership networks that can help devise suitable marketing campaigns to sell their products.
The relationship between automakers and dealerships
Manufacturing a car and selling a car are very different businesses, involving different skills and mindsets. Dealerships require local expertise. They understand the local market and can order the cars that they believe their customers will want to buy, so that automakers can build to order, rather than try to guess which models or features will work best in any particular market.
By "outsourcing" retail sales, automakers are able to focus on making products that meet the increasing expectation of consumers, and keep up with evolving car trends.
Dealerships are also local customer service providers, handling warranty repairs and maintenance services. Their best customer service and quality will bring loyalty to the car brand, and brand loyalty is very important in the automotive industry – a car brand can be considered successful if the rate of returning customers is high.
Needless to say, how a dealership performs has a significant impact on the automakers’ profitability.
The dealership’s role in the customer experience journey
Dealerships employ salespeople to sell their automotive products. They are manufacturer-trained and, in most cases, only work on the vehicles that are sold through that dealership. These salespeople are considered specialists who are able to satisfy any of the customers’ questions regarding technical or mechanical issues, and support the customers in making the perfect choice.
These salespeople will help consumers with manual reviews, range comparisons, flexible financing discussions, test drive bookings, roadside assistance, maintenance reminders, and storing of the car's service history. In a very real sense, the dealerships’ salespeople have a direct impact on whether an automobile is purchased.
What is a Dealer Audit?
Automakers want to bring state-of-the-art products and excellent service to their customers. But how can they ensure that their dealership, an important middleman in the customer experience journey, delivers the right image and high quality service to ensure loyalty from their valued customers?
A Dealer Audit will be the best solution to assist manufacturers in auditing their dealer network, and covers areas such as human resources, service and warranty, corporate identity, database management, and more.
The audit includes travel expenses to the dealership to conduct on-site inspections; interviews of the organisation’s management, staff and workers; gathering of on-site data; and review of documents with the organisation’s management as per checklist and requirements of the manufacturer.
Periodically, manufacturers will also provide specialist training for their dealership network, involving not only the service technicians, but service managers, advisors and support staff as well. Manufacturers may also require that employees involved with sales and after-sales servicing attend a minimum number of training days per year on average or technician must start the training and certification progress and pass maintenance certification final test.
Based on these requirements, auditors can randomly check individual development plans to ensure that every employee of the dealership takes part in training programs that fulfill the individual’s job requirements. They can also check that there is a minimum number of certified sales consultants and technicians employed at the dealership.
Most automakers are strict in keeping their corporate identity strong – they ensure that their customers can enjoy a consistent look and feel, and service quality of their brands across their dealership networks all over the world. A Dealer Audit can help ensure that the dealership’s showroom is designed in a way that conforms with the manufacturers’ brand guidelines.
One of the key components of purchasing an automobile from a dealership is the warranty policy. Auditors may ask the responsible persons to demonstrate the warranty process, as well as check on the documents to ensure that warranty is in line with the manufacturers’ requirements.
As you know, a car is one of the most expensive purchases a person makes and today’s showroom has an important role in helping customers to make that decision. In an increasingly segmented market, an outlet needs to cater for a range of clients and their needs. Dealership is required to offer services and service products as defined by the manufacturers. There are certain requirements for the exhibition vehicles in terms of the quantity, models, and vehicle’s condition. An adequate level and variety of demo vehicles is also required to satisfy customer expectations.
The long-term payoff of investing in a Dealer Audit
Now and forever, a powerful brand can build loyalty. Satisfied customers and consumers are willing to pay more for a premium brand that is known for their quality and reliability.
In the automotive industry, interactions with contacts, prospects, customers and their vehicles is a huge effort, and is essential to maintain customer relationships and for loyalty management. Some manufacturers have their own systems or tools to help dealerships document their customer database in order to have suitable plan to follow up with sales, after-sales, and marketing activities. Auditors may randomly pick up a sample of the customers’ records, and check for follow up, response time, and actions taken in response to customer feedback reports.
The checklist for a Dealer Audit may cover a variety of fields, including the complaint handling process; environment management processes; sales and administration; warehouse and inventory management; workshop equipment and systems; roadside assistance; and recall handling processes. A periodic audit is essential in providing quality f automobile delivery service, and will bring mutual benefit to both dealerships and manufacturers. High quality products and excellent customer services will keep customers by your side.
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Contact TÜV Rheinland to audit your dealership network to ensure end-to-end service quality.
1Top 10 biggest automakers in the world