Last Modified: May 14, 2024

Written By:Olivia Barickman

|Published Date: May 14, 2024|6 min read

Building Rapport with Customers at Your Digital-First Dealership

A photo of a woman in a blazer smiling has she looks at a new car in a dealership showroom
Car dealerships face the significant challenge of not just standing out but truly connecting with customers online. For many, the transition from showroom to screen hasn't been easy. It's tough to replicate handshakes and direct eye contact online. However, digital channels offer new and exciting ways to connect and build rapport with customers at your dealership. This doesn’t mean you’ll lose personalization at your dealership—quite the opposite! We’ll cover some tips for meeting your customer where they’re most likely to make a first impression: online.

Understanding Your Audience and Their Digital Expectations

First things first: know who you're talking to. Understanding your audience is the cornerstone of effective communication. Each customer will have different needs, preferences, and pain points. Building rapport with customers in person is still important, but it’s much more likely someone first meets you virtually. So, you’ll still have customers who walk into your dealership first, but 95% of vehicle buyers use digital as a source of information, according to Google. Twice as many people start their journey online versus the dealership.This means the important components that help you build rapport with customers should be present in your online strategy.

Building Rapport with Customers through Personalization and Engagement

Collecting and using data is a key component of building rapport with automotive customers. Your CRM should track a buyer’s contact information, preferences, and touchpoints with the dealership, allowing you to tailor your conversations to each individual.Use that data to engage online leads. Ask questions. What brings them to your dealership online? What are they looking for in a vehicle? These questions not only provide valuable information but also make the customer feel valued.

Leverage Technology Effectively

Utilizing the right tools can transform how you interact with potential buyers. We’ve already mentioned you should have an effective CRM and process for tracking leads. A study from CDK Global found roughly 84% of dealers have adopted some kind of digital retailing tool, but only 30% use these tools to incorporate shopper preferences once they’re in the store.Using technology to build rapport with customers means making sure customer information online translates to their in-store experience. So, keep integration in mind as you explore these tools!

Video Calls and Tours

Instead of just telling your customers about a car, why not show them? Video tours can add a visual element to your interactions that photos and text descriptions can’t match.Building rapport with customers is made easier through asynchronous communication tools like Covideo. This software works differently than video conferencing; it allows you to send videos over email and text that your customers can view at any time. Video can be used at any point in the sales process: from initial introduction to vehicle walkarounds to a thank you after the sale.Video messaging can also be used by service departments to increase RO approvals and build trust and rapport with customers. A Cox Automotive study found 70% of people who purchased or leased from a dealer did not return for service over the next year. Your service department may be a huge source of untapped revenue that video can unlock!Most of your customers will not have automotive repair experience, and they’re much more likely to trust technicians and approve repairs when they can see the issue for themselves. Check it out!
Recommended Repairs | Forbes Waterloo Toyota

Real-Time Chat and Chatbots

Offering a live chat feature can mimic the instant interaction of a physical showroom and can be a great avenue for quickly building rapport with customers. The key to online chat is making sure you have someone at the helm ready to answer questions, whether that be a rotating schedule of your staff or a third-party call center. When done effectively, live chat is an indispensable communications tool. Live chat delivers 73% customer satisfaction, compared to 61% for email and 44% for phone support, according to an eDigital Customer Service Benchmark survey.In the digital world, your doors never really close. Customers might browse your site after hours. For times when human interaction isn’t possible, AI chatbots can handle basic queries and capture information for follow-up. Keep in mind that this is an evolving technology that won’t be able to handle every inquiry but may be able to answer basic questions while a customer waits to hear from your staff.If possible, try to extend your support hours to cover early mornings or late evenings when potential buyers might be browsing.

Encouraging Genuine Connections with Stronger Communication

Building rapport with customers is ultimately about creating genuine connections. Customers should feel that their satisfaction and well-being are your top priorities. The technology we already covered—video, live chat, and other virtual tools—can help you make the connection even when customers have yet to enter your showroom.Here are a few other ways to make building trust and relationships part of your sale process.

Transparent and Positive Communication

Nobody likes to feel out of the loop, especially when making significant decisions like buying a car. In all your digital communications, ensure your pricing and policies are transparent. As a matter of fact, the upcoming Combating Auto Retail Scams (CARS) Rule from the FTC is likely to take effect in July 30. That means stricter legal considerations at dealerships.Transparency is important but so is positivity when it comes to building rapport with customers. Even small tweaks in how you phrase your communications can impact how customers receive your messages. Instead of saying, “Unfortunately, we don’t have that model in stock.” Try, “We have many comparable options on our lot I would love to show you.” Or if something is out of a customer’s price range, get to know their most important features and show them a cheaper option that checks the boxes.Once again, video is an awesome way to showcase different kinds of inventory, especially if someone is hesitant to come into the dealership before you have earned their trust.

Follow-Up Communications and Feedback

After an interaction, send a follow-up email or text summarizing what was discussed along with any next steps. This not only keeps the communication lines open but shows that you care about their needs. Video is an incredible follow-up tool for building rapport with customers and continuing to move a sale forward. Check out a great example below!
Unsold Follow Up | Fort Wayne Nissan
After a sale, follow-up communication is still important. Sending surveys, requesting 5-star reviews, or asking for referrals if a customer had a great experience are all excellent ways to build rapport with customers after a sale. Not only do they feel valued for their opinions, but they can also help you improve your sales approach!

Get started building stronger rapport with your customers

Digital shoppers expect a new standard of customer relations, and with the right tools, transparency, and effective communication, you can ensure that every digital interaction is as personal and impactful as if it were face-to-face. Remember, building rapport with customers online is about creating trust, showing care, and providing value. With these best practices, your dealership will not only stand out but also become a preferred choice for car buyers.Ready to dive deeper into how you can improve your relationship with customers? Covideo is the #1 trusted video messaging solution by dealerships. Your customers love video, and we make it super easy to incorporate it into your entire sales cycle. Request a demo to learn more.

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