JM&A Group Blog

6 min read

COVID-19 Dealer Communications Plans

Apr 15, 2020

Here you’ll find a series of checklists with communications methods you will want to consider implementing within your dealership during COVID-19 and the recovery period to follow. By completing the items on these lists, you can help boost business, ensure customer confidence and keep a consistent message across your channels.

Below you'll find:

Insider Tip: We know this is a lot to consider, so we recommend assigning a dedicated person or team for everything related to COVID-19, including monitoring your website and social media accounts, as well as managing responses to questions and comments.

 

Download this guide to use in your store now

 

Customer Messaging Checklist

Amid the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, your communications should be answering questions and responding to concerns your customers likely have right now. Here are a few topics to consider addressing in the coming days:

YOUR COMMUNITY
Take a human approach in these messages. You’re speaking directly to your neighbors.
  • Reinforce you are a local business.
  • Number of years serving the community with # of local employees.
  • Encourage supporting and bring awareness to local causes.
    • Food drives, fundraisers, community assistance programs, etc.
  • Share health and safety tips related to the automotive industry.
SAFETY
Be consistent to build confidence and trust among your customers.
  • Communicate your social distancing practices.
  • Share any accommodations you are making for at-risk customers.
  • Be transparent about your cleaning and employee health policies.
OPERATIONS
Reinforce the tools you have in place to serve your customers.
  • If you are OPEN, update your store and service hours where appropriate.
    • Google My Business, dealership/dealer group website, OEM website, etc.
SALES
Leverage your website and digital retailing tool to meet customers online.
  • If you have a digital retailing tool, make sure it is easy to find and has a clear path to purchase so your customer can get all the information they need to make a purchase decision
  • If you do not have a digital retail tool, merchandise your VDPs, and make sure they are accurate and include all the information available in your showroom
  • Leverage your website’s chat and text functionality to make it easy for a customer to communicate with your associates
  • Leverage online credit applications, trade appraisals and payment calculators to engage customers in the process
  • Consider an UP system to not overwhelm showroom visitors on the lot.
SERVICE
Make payments easy and touch-free with Apple/Google Pay or accept credit cards over the phone.

SALES/SERVICE
Utilize pick-up and drop-off options.

RENTAL
Offer short-term rentals for local restaurants that have increased delivery service.

PRODUCT
Continue answering the why buy here/why buy this brand questions customers have.
  • Bring value and product knowledge. Customers will reward you with their trust and business.
OFFERS
Customers will naturally be wondering why they should buy or service a vehicle right now.
  • Don’t forget to merchandise online, including photos, pricing, descriptions and specials.
  • Availability of inventory
  • Deferred payments or APR offers
  • Equity position for lower payments
SERVICE
Reinforce key products like tires and health and safety offerings.

 


 

Dealer Communications Checklist

To ensure consistency in your COVID-19 messaging across all your communications channels, check to ensure all of the following are updated and reflect similar, accurate information.

IN YOUR DEALERSHIP
Consider all customer points of contact and respond to questions where they arise.
  • Signage at the receptionist desk, points of entry, cashier, parts and service counter 
  • Banners, stand and table tents in the lobby, showroom and waiting areas
  • Post cleaning schedules in bathrooms, cafes, coffee bars and common areas
  • Hang tags in the windshield of vehicles on your lot directing shoppers to your website
  • Provide customer engagement tools at employee workstations
  • Update your receptionist script and hold messaging
EMAIL
Email is one of the best ways to talk to your prospective and future buyers.
  • Update your automatic response and lead messaging templates
  • Link staff email signatures to your dealership’s COVID-19 messaging
  • Refresh language in your email database
  • Targeted and scheduled email communications, including unsold leads, vehicle recall messages, care and maintenance packages, etc. 
WEBSITE
Think of your website as your online salesman, and your first point of contact for future buyers.
  • Update your homepage hero banner
  • Consider creating a special video or pop-up message
  • Update your lead form and thank you pages with any pertinent information
  • Include SRP/VDP banner above vehicle inventory
  • Refresh your contact pages to reinforce all your doing during this time

 


 

Digital Communications Checklist 

Below are a few tips on how to update your online sources to ensure customers have the correct information on your current business operations.

GOOGLE MY BUSINESS
Update the key information customers will see when they search Google.

HOURS OF OPERATION
This is one of the the first things people will see when they Google your dealership
  • Update your hours of operation if they have changed.
  • If you are closed, Google has enabled you to post a “temporarily closed” message.
BUSINESS DESCRIPTION
Your description is a great place to reiterate the steps you are taking to keep your dealership clean and sanitized.
  • Include details about the extra precautions your dealership is taking and what services you’re offering to the community during this time.
  • Consider updating your attributes, to reflect your current operations, offerings and more.
CREATE A POST
Consider creating a post, like you would on social media, to show empathy and invite buyers in.
  • Share what's going on now at your dealership with your community. You can include photos or a video about how you’re serving your customers.
  • If you’ve created any special offers, let your customers know.

SOCIAL MEDIA
Remember, consistency and transparency are key. The more you share, the more connected and informed your customers will feel. It’s important to communicate any changes to your services, business practices and accommodations related to COVID-19.

WHAT TO POST
  • Updates to hours of operation for sales and service
  • Social distancing protocols
  • Steps you’re taking to sanitize your showroom, service drive and vehicles
  • Employee precautions
  • Any virtual or digital services you offer
  • Vehicle delivery service
ADDITIONAL TIPS
  • Post updates to all your social channels to ensure consistency and minimize any confusion.
  • As a business owner, you are a leader in your community. Share acts of service, community outreach opportunities and inspire some positive action.
  • Not all your content right now has to be specific to COVID-19, but be aware of how your messaging could be perceived before you post it.

CREATE A COVID-19 WEBPAGE
A dedicated page on your website can direct everyone back to one place for the latest information.

  • Ensure your social media accounts and any PR efforts link back to this page.
  • Communicate business updates as well as important information for employees, customers and the community.
  • Include any and all additional steps your dealership is taking during this time.
  • If you work with a chat provider, make sure your key messages and scripts are updated so agents are prepared.

Please note: we’ve covered all the major communications channels your customers may interact with on a regular basis. However, this is not intended to be a complete list. We encourage you to do a thorough assessment of all your public and internal communications to ensure your staff and the community at large has a full understanding of your operations during this uncertain time.

 

Enhance Your Messaging Amid Uncertainty - Download the Plan

Amanda Pliskow
Written by Amanda Pliskow

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