Opinion: How to Set Your Dealership Up for Success in 2021

By Mandi Fang, VP/GM & Dealertrack DMS.

2020 presented the world with a pandemic unlike any other. Many dealerships overhauled their business and reimagined how they could maintain profits and endure this economic climate.

As dealers look ahead and plan to start 2021 strong, it is crucial they continue to focus on digitization and identify ways to seamlessly integrate their platforms while working to solve any human capital challenges.

Out of necessity, 2020 mandated a new mindset for dealerships. Expect 2021 to accelerate the next evolution, ushering in a new era for how dealerships stay relevant and competitive.

When COVID-19 impacted dealerships, they worked to quickly rethink their entire sales operations, letting go of old-school thinking and pivoting to digital adoption.

In fact, the September Cox COVID-19 Sentiment survey found up to 75% of franchised dealers had adopted some form of digital retailing. As 2020 came to an end, it became clear the changes dealers made to reach buyers no longer were temporary.

Just as important as the technology providing positive digital retailing experiences to reach and accommodate customers are employees who understand technologies such as CRM, digital retailing, and others.

Dealerships faced challenges with filling roles long before the pandemic.

A recent Cox Automotive 2019 Dealership Staffing study revealed employee turnover was a major pain point: 20% of dealership staff stated they were likely to look for another job within the next six months and one-third of non-management employees felt unsatisfied or neutral about their jobs.

These challenges are further compounded with record unemployment, new technology, and new business strategies that make hiring and building a strong team even more difficult.

Dealerships cannot afford not prioritizing employee satisfaction. It is crucial for dealers to rethink their traditional systems of hiring and employee retention practices. Engaged employees are an integral part of the dealership experience and drive a better customer experience which can positively impact profits.

As dealerships continue to advance digital retailing strategies, creating new processes to respond to these uncertain times and meet their customers’ needs, it’s critical the technology is integrated to provide the best data-driven insights.

Integration will help reduce friction between technologies as teams create a seamless experience for customers whether in the service department, finance, or any other. Customers have high standards for digital platforms and expect that dealership staff can provide an optimal customer service experience both online as well as in person.

The Cox Automotive COVID-19 Consumer and Dealer and Impact Survey found two out of three buyers would prefer to complete 100% of the buying process online. As digitization continues to remain the new normal, dealers need to make hires and sales faster than ever.

It’s not enough to just have the right technology in place; employers also need the right teams and continuing training in place to remain competitive. This means cross-training employees is vital for new hires, current employees, and returning team members.

To attract tech-savvy employees, dealers should look at the motivations of today’s job seekers and work with hiring managers to position their job postings to appeal to potential applicants. The 2020 Applicant Experience from Hireology Research Report showed the top reasons people chose to begin their most recent job search were finding a better culture (39.4%), pursuing better pay (36.4%), and seeking better benefits (28.8%).

Dealerships need to adopt and practice a people-first strategy when it comes to staff regardless of economic conditions because good employees are their most critical asset to driving profit and always will be in demand.

While 2020 certainly was challenging, many opportunities to thrive in the new normal have emerged and can be leveraged in 2021. As dealers look ahead, they can expect some uncertainty to continue, but planning now will better prepare them to navigate the changing landscape. Success has and will continue to be driven by properly managing a dealership’s most critical assets: people and processes.

Source: How to Set Up for Success in 2021