Award-winning car supermarket Imperial Cars reopened its doors this week to demand ‘way in excess’ of expectations.
Along with other dealerships in England, it was allowed to reopen for trading on Monday, and managing director Mike Bell said: ‘We’ve been experiencing extremely healthy demand ever since we opened on June 1.
‘In fact, the demand was way in excess of our original expectations and projections. This could well be pent-up demand however, so we are being cautious as to how we resource this current need.’
Even before lockdown was ordered by Boris Johnson on March 23, the firm had introduced a strict cleaning regime in its showrooms. It was also offering unaccompanied test drives and reminding potential buyers of its safe and convenient ‘Click, Call, Collect/Delivery’ service.
Imperial Cars continued operating throughout the 10-week lockdown to help customers in need as best it could.
‘Initially, our sales support was here to advise people who had questions, whether about purchases that needed to be completed or general inquiries,’ said Bell.
‘As soon as companies could offer home delivery, we were able to add this to the options for keyworkers who needed to purchase a car.’
And by the time June 1 rolled around, Imperial Cars was well prepared to be fully operational and offer a near-normal service while keeping customers safe and relaxed.
Bell added: ‘Along with deep cleaning of our sites and providing all showrooms with sanitisation and protection equipment, our processes have been streamlined and our teams have moved to our Southampton head office so that we can sell cars as well as deliver them through video calls.
‘Contactless delivery provides confidence to customers that they are safe and protected in our showrooms.’
Video is also something that it has really embraced, said Bell. ‘Video calls have become the norm for people now, and they are more confident using this method than they were prior to the lockdown.
‘We have also created a number of videos explaining the changes customers can expect, including a safety video and how we carry out solo test drives.’
Customers are being advised to make an appointment before they visit Imperial Cars’ network of showrooms, and these are spaced for social distancing.
They are then met by Imperial Cars’ branch team and guided to either the car for a test drive or to a screen for an online call with a sales team member who can help them with any questions.
Handovers are contactless, and when a customer is ready to buy, they join an online video call with one of the handover managers at its Southampton head office. They are then taken through the same process they’d have done before the lockdown. Online documentation is screen-shared for signing and confirmation.
‘The last few months have been challenging, but we have realised that to continue we have to be adaptable and implement changes quickly,’ said Bell.
‘We have implemented new processes which could take some companies a lot longer, which has meant we were ready to open our doors this week and feel confident that we can keep all customers safe.
‘We are still cautious, as this can still be a turbulent time, but we are committed to making sure we provide the high level of customer service which is expected from us now.’
Imperial Cars runs 17 sales, 13 service centres and two preparation sites, and has won the Used Car Supermarket of the Year gong twice at Car Dealer Magazine’s prestigious Used Car Awards.
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