Nothing in your dealership functions in a silo. Like it or not, your sales team sets the stage for customer retention to your dealership—and how they handle that responsibility can make or break the chance you have to wow your customers with your service department. For many sales reps, an emphasis on customer service isn’t as natural as negotiating or landing a deal. How do you educate your sales team on the integral role they play in the lifetime value of a customer?

The sales experience is the customer experience.

Even though your departments are separate, the customer experience isn’t. Studies have revealed that over 80% of customers dislike the process of buying a vehicle at a dealership, with at least 60% feeling they were taken advantage of in one way or another. If your customers feel like they were treated poorly in the sales process, they might complain or ask for a refund. Or worse, they might never come back. Even if you have a highly customer-focused parts and service department, if the sales process diminishes the customer experience, it’s unlikely you’ll ever see those customers again. And the harsh reality is that one time sales rarely a rich dealership make.

The result of a great customer experience? More sales.

A great customer experience goes beyond the fuzzy feelings a customer gets when they think about your dealership and translates into tangible revenue. It’s a win-win for customers and for the dealership.

Sales from past customers

This great experience creates loyal customers—customers who return for service and their next car purchase. The probability of selling to an existing, happy customer is nearly 14 times higher than the probability of selling to a new customer, according to Marketing Metrics. This is true for dealerships as 74% of car buyers will drive 20 miles or more for a great dealership experience. In most cities, that means driving past multiple competitors on the way to return to your dealership. But the investment in customer satisfaction goes even further than the customers who had the experience.

Sales from customers referred to your dealership

Satisfied customers are a valuable source of referrals to the sales team. Providing that exceptional customer service keeps those initial customers coming back, but people also talk about the things that they love. If a customer had a great experience, they’ll be much quicker to recommend you to friends and family. Never underestimate the value of an outstanding customer experience to bring new customers in the door.

Training your sales team

So how do you reinforce the importance of this customer experience to your sales team and train them to invest in its value?

Set expectations with your sales team…and make sure they set the right expectations with your customers

Take time to set expectations with your sales team of their role in the customer experience. Encourage them to get on board by painting a picture of the customer experience and reinforcing the value of a long-term relationship with your customers. After all, customers who purchase their car at the dealership and get service there are much more likely to return for their next car purchase. Also, make sure your sales team communicates realistically and honestly with customers, setting expectations that your dealership and service department can fulfill! It can severely damage the long-term relationship with your customers if they hear different messages from different departments.

Find learning opportunities later in the customer journey

Give your salespeople the opportunity to learn more about the entire customer journey. Have them spend a day shadowing in the service department or an afternoon in F&I seeing the rest of the process a customer experiences and the challenges they might face. This can give them a wider perspective on the part they play in the experience a customer has. It also helps them to speak clearly about what the dealership can offer beyond their new vehicle, seeing what it’s like to be the customers they interact with on a daily basis. Create more opportunities for collaboration between your departments. Even consider short training workshops with multiple departments to review performance and address customer issues.

Solidify the sales-to-service handoff and set expectations

A smooth, clear experience for customers means a clear handoff from sales to service. Invest in talking through this experience as a leadership team and then train both sales and service on the best process to make this a smooth transition for customers. It all starts by reinforcing the importance of the handoff with your team. Clearly define the process, educate them on its value, and reinforce its use. Through communication and consistency, your dealership can not only turn your service department into the natural choice for maintenance but will keep customer experience at the center of everything you do.

Connect customer satisfaction scores with sales goals incentives

Don’t just talk the talk. Make a good customer experience part of your sales incentives by rewarding your sales team for creating and delivering an outstanding customer experience. Including customer-focused metrics in their incentives and evaluations will encourage them to prioritize these relationships. If your incentives are only tied to revenue, then everything else will pale in comparison. Adding a customer experience factor will show that your dealership prioritizes that as well. —- Selling isn’t the only role your sales team plays that adds value to the organization as a whole. By helping them see the importance of the customer experience (and reinforcing it in tangible ways), your entire dealership can reap the rewards of retaining customers. What have you done to train your sales team to focus on creating a great experience for your customers?

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