Take Fall By Storm

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The fall buying season is upon us, and our new dealership is gearing up for sales. To prepare for the season, my client held a job fair to help beef up employee ranks.

With their staffing concerns taken care of, our dealer principal and his management team planned a multilevel approach to the fall that could be described as "out of the box." Attention was paid to each of the shop's profit centers — sales, service, P&A and F&I.

The dealership is now experiencing a better third-quarter start than last year's.

Phoning Home

Dealers have a pretty good idea of what challenges they'll have to tackle on a daily basis. What is often unknown are the problems customer have.

Our dealer wanted to know his customers' nagging concerns of how he could address them. Over a one-week period he had his departments contact customers to see what was on their minds.

He made sure his employees let customers know that the store was looking at what it could do for them in the coming months to improve their shopping experiences.

He found that customers were worried about the price of gas, the rising cost of groceries and the hurdles of obtaining financing. Add to this the budget crunch of the beginning of the school year and just-completed vacations.

To attract these customers, he got $10 gas cards with the store's information on them to hand out. He also purchased $20 gift cards from the local big-box retailer to help with school supplies.

For the hard-deal credit cases, he made a finance contact to assist in borderline deals. The move helped: Deals that may have been lost to credit problems are now closing.

Getting Used

Our dealer has been struggling to keep enough pre-owned inventory in stock. We established a plan of action to pull in used models.

We started by sending out a weekly e-mail blast urging customers to bring in their units for appraisal. For those who couldn't bring in their bikes, we offered a pick-up service.

We told owners of units that had been purchased at our dealership that if the units had been properly maintained and serviced, we could value them higher than usual. Then the riders could either trade in the units or sell them to us outright.

We had the service writer go through all guest files to log any upcoming services they might need for their vehicles and then give those customers a call.

To entice customers to visit, we also offered the gift cards and 10 percent off our service menu pricing. For customers within a 50-mile radius we offered free pick-up and delivery.

Our P&A department also contacted previous customers to tell them about new products that pertained to their vehicles, and that the items could be shipped. We were sure to remind them about stopping in for their gift cards.

We also reminded them that fall and winter riding gear was now available.

Business Services

The dealership's F&I department contacted all customers who were still eligible for extended warranties. These are the sort of profitable transactions that can be handled over the phone.

During the calls, customers were also pitched on the shop's prepaid maintenance plans and any F&I products available for them.

If you choose to make these calls, remember that they are also an opportunity to mention any new financing programs.

These efforts took money that came out of the shop's advertising budget. But now we have a very accurate way of tracking new business — about 100 percent.

Steven Zarwell is a dealer consultant and manages the Dealernews 20 Groups. He also is a member of the Dealernews editorial advisory board. Send questions and comments to editors@dealernews.com.