Good Dealership Communication: Benefits, Barriers, and Ways to Improve

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Communication in your dealership can make a world of difference for your customers, your employees, and your staff. Even if you believe your dealership is pretty great at communicating inside and out, it is something that can always get better.

Working toward more effective communication will lead to:

  • Increased Revenue – Do your service technicians spend a lot of time walking back and forth to the parts back counter to discuss and retrieve parts needed for a vehicle? Are you service advisors excessively waiting for customers to authorize recommended repairs, decreasing shop productivity? How long do customers need to wait at the dealership to get updates on their vehicles and pay for repairs? How much energy is spent by the salespeople walking back and forth between the customer and the sales manager negotiating deals? This is all time that adds up to fewer cars serviced, fewer cars sold, and money being left on the table.
  • Happier Employees – Businesses that present more transparency and communication improve employee morale. This means team members are more engaged and motivated to meet business goals. In fact, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, effective communication can improve productivity in any workplace by up to 25%. Happier employees also means greater retention and less turnover.
  • A Fulfilling Customer Experience – Put yourself in the shoes of a customer for a moment. Which sounds better: spending the day in a dealership waiting room, or going about their day with the trust that they know their car is in good hands? People are known to take better care of their cars over their own health. Your customers want to take their vehicles somewhere where they will be updated in real-time on how their service is going.
  • Transparency in Your Dealership – If you communicate better and more frequently with your employees they are more likely to communicate better with you. This means problems are solved quicker, your staff is more relaxed, and your customers come back.

If one or more of these would be beneficial at your dealership, now is the time to start.

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Barriers to Effective Internal Communication

If there is a lack of internal communication throughout the dealership, there might be a physical or psychological barrier causing it. The cause may be deeply rooted or something easily fixable.

Do any of these sound familiar?

A Lack of Transparency

There could be any number of reasons why staff members might not be on the same page, and often it’s because nobody knows what their goal is. For example, if you expect your dealership to service 1,200 vehicles a month, does everybody in your service department focus on that? If so, are they aware of how well they are performing this month? Where can they find that out? Not being transparent about information like expectations, quotas, or even the vision of the business can get in the way of meeting goals.

Clearly defined goals and business strategies set the right expectations. There should be a process or tool to make sure there is an easy flow of communication between departments.

Unclear Direction from Managers

An easy mistake a department manager can make is to point out something that needs to be fixed without engaging employees in finding a potential solution.

Let’s say a service manager has gotten complaints from customers about paint scratches on serviced vehicles. Relaying this to the advisors, technicians and lot porters without a plan to mitigate it going forward may not help. Reminding employees to be careful while handling customer vehicles is reasonable, but what if the damage to customer vehicles was not even done at the dealership? It could be that it arrived at the dealership that way and the customer had not even noticed it.

Your team may suggest implementing a more consistent check-in inspection that would document a customer’s vehicle condition upon arrival. Rather than being accused of damaging a customer’s vehicle, highlighting and reviewing its condition upon arrival could actually lead to higher service revenue in repairs. Not to mention the improved customer satisfaction and repeat business such transparency would foster.

Employees Can’t Ask Questions

Do you remember the old saying, “There are no stupid questions”? Is that what your employees actually believe?

Fostering an environment where your team feels comfortable asking their supervisor or coworkers for help will strengthen your dealership. Creating a habit where experienced employees are encouraged to mentor others will improve their morale and allow new employees to get up to speed more quickly. Knowledge is power!

Not Recognizing and Celebrating Good Work

Staffing issues can mean that teams are stretched more thinly than before. With everyone so busy, it is sometimes easy to forget to show appreciation toward employees. Added stress combined with the perception of being unappreciated can lower morale and lead to burnout and unhappy customers.

When employees feel recognized and seen by managers, they feel more open to communicating their ideas on how to make things work better. Satisfied employees are far more likely to provide superior customer service and productivity.

Stressful Training

The more difficulty new employees have with their training, the less likely they will be comfortable asking questions or communicating well with others. According to a 2016 study by the National Auto Dealers Association, 28% of dealership terminations occur within an employee’s first 90 days. Starting a new job often demands learning an overwhelming amount of information.

Investing in effective training and orientation programs can pay dividends in quicker new hire productivity while reducing turnover.

How to Improve Communication Between Departments at Your Dealership

There are several tactics an auto dealership can implement to increase and improve the communication between departments. These tips can apply to any two departments or levels of management. They also break down many of the barriers listed earlier that prevent good communication within the dealership.

Start with Yourself

You are in charge. This means you influence a lot of what happens at your dealership for better and for worse. Create a culture of good communication. Set up ways to promote transparency in your dealership. Provide charts and visuals that highlight progress towards goals. Spend more time with your staff to create a comfort level for employees to ask questions, understand expectations, and feel more recognized. This should result in better goal attainment, a happier workforce, and more satisfied customers.

Communicate Digitally

It is hard to beat a face-to-face conversation, but that is not always possible or efficient. Digital communication is better than none at all.

Invest in a dealership-designed internal chat service where you can easily message your staff in real-time. There are paid and even free options available, or this functionality may be part of software you already have. Using an internal chat tool can provide quick answers to keep your business running at its peak.

Create One Source of Truth for Information

A dealership typically invests in many different types of software, with different and sometimes redundant sources of information. Between your DMS, your email, your CRM, and the variety of other tools in use at dealerships today, it can be confusing and sometimes lead to inconsistency. The best practice is to make one of these systems the one that is always correct. It should be the one resource all employees can rely on. This will make transparency, consistency, and training easier, and provide the foundation to communicate across departments.

Final Thoughts on Dealership Communication

Between all of the benefits, barriers, and tips discussed, there is one overarching theme: effective internal communication is important for a successful dealership, and it starts with you as the manager. It offers many benefits and prevents a lot of potential problems. Overall, it can improve productivity, boost profitability, and create a positive employee and customer experience.

If you are unsure where to start, take a look at your dealer management system. See what features are available that may make following the tips provided easier. As a DMS provider ourselves, we strive to make important processes like internal communication easier for you with dashboards, chat features, and collaboration tools.

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