Often, finding the car a customer wants isn’t an issue. Even if the dealership doesn’t have a particular model, they might secure it via a dealer trade. During times of great demand and low supply, though, dealerships might be faced with telling a customer that what they want isn’t an option.
Breaking the bad news doesn’t have to break the sale. Ease customer frustration during periods of low inventory and shortages by offering other options, finding middle ground and keeping communication open and transparent.
The Good Side of Shortages
Shortages and low inventory isn’t necessarily always a bad situation for dealerships. Customers may have limited selection and this can cause frustration, but low supply also means that customers must act quickly if they do find the car they want.
Dealerships could face such a supply crunch that they may only have a few available options for a particular in-demand model. If multiple buyers want a specific SUV and the dealership has two available, the buyer has to decide if they are willing to take what is available or try to find exactly what they want at a different dealership.
When supply is crunched across the country, this becomes the buyer’s gamble and they may come out on the losing side. For dealerships, this means that the sale favors the seller. Dealerships may be extremely limited during times of great demand in what they can receive from manufacturers.
If a car is in high demand, there may be multiple buyers in line for the vehicle. The sale may be first come first purchase. Those who become picky might find themselves on the hunt for a very long time.
Shortages and fewer options may mean that buyers understand the limitations of the market and become flexible. These buyers could jump at the chance to find the model that they want, and they may be perfectly fine if they have to compromise on a few details.
For the buyer and the dealership, fewer options could simplify the sale. Dealerships may offer what they can and be transparent to buyers that the options are limited. Astute buyers who understand the crunch may act quickly to get the car they want.
Handling the Frustrated Customer
For many customers, though, a limited supply may mean they can’t find the car they need. While some buyers can and will be flexible, others don’t always have this option. For example, those who need a pickup truck for hauling and towing can’t just buy a sedan because that’s all the dealer has left on the lot.
Some buyers may travel far beyond their local area just to find the car or truck they need during a shortage. Unfortunately, these buyers may discover that what they want and need just isn’t available locally. The hunt may be unsuccessful.
How can dealerships handle the customer who is at their wit’s end with the search? Typically, the best option might be to offer them alternative vehicles that would fit their needs. For those who need a specific vehicle for work needs, there could be no other second option.
In this case, dealerships need to be clear about their inventory during the shortage. They also may work with customers to consistently update them on new arrivals and place them on a waiting list for the vehicle they need. Custom orders also could be a solution; in a Kokomo Perspective article about shortages, the dealership Brad Howell Ford offered custom orders to customers.
“We’ve got a couple hundred cars on order, so it’s hard to keep everybody up to date,” Howell told the Perspective in an interview. “Hopefully they keep coming in, but it’s been a process.”
Get Ahead of the Frustration
Dealerships could aim to address the shortage situation before frustrated customers lose their cool. While this doesn’t mean the dealership can ease all the frustration from the shortage, communication could be a key way to ensure that potential buyers know exactly what the dealership can offer them.
Social media could be the ideal place to reach current customers and potential customers, too. If the inventory is beginning to sparse, highlight what’s left. Dealerships also can be candid in their approach.
For example, if the dealership knows that a car is in demand and they have it, publicize the vehicle on social media. Show pictures of the car. Note the price. Dealerships can even say that this is the only model they have left.
Dealerships also could add in a little bit of humor. If a car isn’t a desirable color, don’t stress. Show it off. Say something like: “Lime green might not have been juicy last year, but it is now! This green sedan is all that’s left of the model on our lot. It will go fast. Don’t hesitate.”
Many dealerships can’t keep cars on their lots. Everything is moving. In fact, the New York Times even wrote an article about how buyers had to settle for not just their second choice but sometimes their third choice during shortages.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Howell (who owned the Ford dealership mentioned in the Kokomo article) explained how the dealership was trying their best to keep customers updated on orders. Communication is a key need across the board during inventory shortage.
Dealerships may place orders on behalf of customers to ensure they get the exact car they need. The dealership can make an outreach schedule to ensure they are updating customers about the arrival expectations of their order. Sometimes dealerships might not always have updates, and they may simply just need to do the best they can.
Other dealerships might place customers on a waiting list for incoming vehicles. Dealerships also could just use social media or even a mailing list to keep all interested car buyers aware of new inventory.
In fact, dealerships could let interested buyers sign up to a mailing list to be notified about new inventory. This could be a great way to also get leads and to ensure that buyers find what they want and jump to buy the car when it comes into the dealership.
Use Professional Images to Showcase Inventory
While inventory may move quickly during a shortage, dealerships may not even have the time to showcase it on social media or elsewhere. The car may be delivered to the dealership and be purchased almost right off the truck.
Some cars may not be so quick to sell, though. Some models may move slower than others. To showcase these models, dealerships can highlight them on their social media pages and dealership website.
Professional stock photos ensure that buyers can see all the details of the vehicle. EVOX Images offers interior shots that give shoppers an up-close look at infotainment systems, gear shifts, tire rims and more. Use a slideshow of photos to give potential buyers all the information possible.
Immersive 360 degree spin photos also can change up the shopping experience for buyers looking for a car. Maybe what they want isn’t on the lot. Let them explore other vehicles with spin photos or an interior panorama shot.
The exterior 360 spin photos let the user turn the car completely around using their mouse or a fingertip. They can see the vehicle from all angles.
While dealerships might not be able to satisfy every buyer’s car preference during a shortage, they can manage how they handle the struggle of their customer’s shopping experience. Dealerships can help buyers find other options that could work for their needs or place a custom order. Dealerships also could let shoppers sign up to receive updates about new inventory or place customers on a waiting list.
Communication is key, and honesty is important. Dealerships should stay in contact with customers via social media and through other communiqués so that potential buyers know their options and better understand the dealership’s supply limitations.