Company culture can be relaxed or a bit more formal. For car dealerships, culture can be incredibly unique and help the business stand out from competition. The culture of a dealership may be a solid part of the brand.
The sales team at the dealership has to embody the dealership culture. They are the face of the dealership, and this may be to whom the customer attributes the attitudes of the dealership. How do you create an impactful dealership culture? Here are a few tips to creating a positive dealership culture.
About Dealership Culture
The site Social Sells Cars explains that dealership culture is different than business culture in that at the dealership sales rule. As the site points out, a customer works closely with a salesperson. This is the nature of the dealership.
Dealership culture should encourage customers to keep coming back. Customers should feel comfortable browsing through the lot and interacting with the sales team. They should feel valued and respected.
How do dealerships know they have a positive culture? Hireology reports that certain signs point to a winning attitude: the dealership will retain employees, the team also will support and celebrate each other, the dealership will draw others to join their team, people will show their enthusiasm (smile!), and, most importantly, sales will reflect the positive culture.
These signs also may help dealerships understand if their culture is problematic, too. If sales members are jumping ship and turnover is high, there might be a problem. While competition might be the name of the game in sales, does everyone support each other? Or is the atmosphere cutthroat?
Customers may feel the tension and they might pick up on negativity, too. In addition, if the culture is poor, the customer management may be lacking, too. If the sales team isn’t happy, how do they treat the customers?
The Culture Audit
How do dealerships know if their work culture needs a makeover? What are the warning signs? Garry House recommends asking some tough questions:
- Are you ok with average performance?
- Do you overlook negativity?
- How well do employees understand what is expected of them? Do they respect and abide by those expectations?
- Do you review how well employees follow expectations?
- Do you lead by example?
These questions might be the beginning of how managers can audit the dealership culture. Then take an audit a step further. Look around the dealership. Watch the team and how they interact with each other and the customer.
How is the attitude and the atmosphere? Is it volatile? Competitive? Are people happy? Does the customer seem happy? Or are they uncomfortable and looking for an exit?
If employees are miserable, they might be looking for an exit strategy, too. If a culture isn’t positive, people won’t want to stay. Customers also might not be loyal. Instead, they may look to a dealership that gives them the experience they want and the respect they demand. The same may be said of employees.
How Can Dealerships Create a More Positive Culture?
If the dealership believes that the work culture isn’t so positive, can they turn it around? If so, how?
Sometimes dealership culture could tank because of the market. If demand is high and cars are moving off the lot, this is good, right? Yes and no. It’s good for sales, and the team may find that buyers are simply purchasing whatever they can find in such a hot market.
However, the reverse also could be true. If demand is incredibly high, and the dealership can’t keep cars on the lot, buyers may not be able to find what they want or need. The sales team may face frustrated customers. This happens, of course. Frustrated customers aren’t necessarily rare.
In a very supply-crunched market, though, the sales team may face a glut of frustrated customers. This may cause the team to feel a bit overwhelmed and maybe even helpless to best support their customer and make them happy.
A dealership with a positive culture may have already empowered their team in how to handle these concerns. Dealerships with a winning culture may have team meetings constantly to go over inventory and supply issues and discuss options for the customer who can’t find what they want. The dealership may teach the team how to best help their customer.
For example, during a supply crunch, some dealerships offer to special order cars for customers to ensure they get what they want. These cars may still take some time to arrive, but the dealership may provide frequent updates so the customer is always in the light about their purchase.
Sometimes there isn’t a great solution or a perfect solution, but the customer just wants to be heard and respected. They want communication and personal service. While it may be difficult to constantly follow-up, some dealerships may have communications plans in place for the sales team to ensure that customers receive timely communications.
Dealership Culture Beyond the Dealership
The culture of a dealership isn’t just found within the brick and mortar walls of the building, it also could be inclusive of the dealership’s online presence, too. The team that manages online customers is part of the culture. How customers are treated online reflects their dealership experiences.
Dealerships might not give much thought to online sales or online customer service, as many dealerships focus on the in-person experience. However, during the pandemic that changed. Many dealerships had to create online interactions for customers. Some allowed them to complete a vehicle purchase completely online. They may have even offered to drop off a vehicle for a remote test drive.
As the online world and its services continue to expand and online shopping becomes the norm, many more individuals may prefer to even shop for their car online. In fact, most buyers begin their research phase for a new car online, and the dealership sites are typically their final online destination.
With this in mind, dealerships might step back and also audit their online culture. Even if the in-store experience and culture is positive and works well, it might be time to review how the online process is working both for customers and for the sales team, too.
What could impact online culture? Processes could be slow, and this could be frustrating for sales and customers if communication is affected. Dealerships also can review site offerings. Reaching out to customers about their online experience with the dealership also could help them figure out what works and what doesn’t work.
Managers also could reach out to the sales team. Talk about the online processes and get their thoughts about their experiences. What do they like? What doesn’t work for them? How can the dealership better streamline processes?
Keeping communication open with both the sales team and customers also could make everyone feel valued and heard. In addition, online dealership culture may be important to reach millennial buyers and the younger generations, too.
An article in the New York Times reported that millennials were twice as likely than Baby Boomers to go online to buy a car. Millennials weren’t just using the internet to research but to complete the whole buying process.
For dealerships who are worried about their culture, it might be time to ask a few tough questions. Maybe managers know that something isn’t working, but it’s never too late to change the culture. Even if the culture is positive and inviting, dealerships also might want to review their online processes to ensure that their online presence matches their in-person culture. Attitude is everything, and a positive culture—online and in-person—could make everyone feel more valued and respected.