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Wessex Garages reaps immediate reward as it brings personal service touch to online sales

Time 10 months ago

Wessex Garages is helping people to buy cars from their home while being guided by personal service experts.

It has launched Online Navigator, whose team help customers through the entire process online as well as over the phone – and the dealership group is already reaping the benefits.

Managing director Chris Wiseman told Car Dealer that Online Navigator was something the dealership group had been working on since lockdown and he was delighted with the results, which guides customers to buying the vehicles that’s absolutely the right one for them.

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‘It’s basically to give us a total end-to-end view of our online leads from point of inquiry to an actual sale, which is very difficult to get in our industry with the amount of different systems.

‘But more importantly, it’s to give the customer a choice of how they want to buy a car that sits between a traditional sales route and the online channel.’

A personal service expert helps guide the customer through the sales process, and Wiseman said this ‘glue in the middle’ was a key factor, making Online Navigator ideal for customers who wanted to carry out a lot of the transaction online but were nervous about it.

‘The Online Navigator team walk them through the process, with one point of contact from start to finish until they’re ready to go into the dealership, and at that point they’re handed over as a qualified lead. But all the work in the background is done.

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‘They can show customers where to find things on the website and present them with the information they want at the time they want to do it, for example, they could be sent a video on paint protection.

‘If they want to transact all the way online they can, or we can arrange what we call “Demo To Your Door”, where we take the car out to the customer, they drive the car, and then they might want to do the last part of that deal in the showroom. But it could also be anywhere in between.’

He added: ‘Everyone is so focused on online and that’s where it’s going, but they’re missing out the people bit, they’re missing out the relationship bit. It’s easy to sell a car online and deliver it, but you really want to talk about products and FCA regulations and things like that with a customer.

Referring to it as ‘a soft sell’, Wiseman said emails were currently being responded to with a bespoke reply inside three minutes. This was followed by a call from the sales person to introduce themselves and ask how the customer was looking to buy their car and help walk them through it.

‘It’s hand-holding a customer through a process, but it’s more about getting to them very early on in the process.’

And Wessex Garages, which has seven showrooms in Bristol, Gloucester, Cardiff and Newport, has seen immediate results from Online Navigator, which was developed as part of its new partnership with enquiryMAX.

‘We went live with it on Wednesday and we sold cars on Wednesday, took online deposits, booked test drives, booked showroom appointments from it.

‘But more importantly, of every online lead that came into the business on Wednesday, we can genuinely tell what happened to that lead, where it came from, what the outcome of it was – and there aren’t that many systems and companies out there that would genuinely be able to tell you all that information. They’ll tell you a bit of it, or part of it.

‘But this says this lead came from, for example, Auto Trader, and this customer made an appointment, turned up, demoed the car, bought it.’

Online Navigator’s tagline is “Steered by us. Driven by you”, and Wiseman said: ‘The customer is driving the sale but we’re helping them navigate a process and making them feel comfortable with it without thinking I’m going to press a button and it’s the wrong button, or where do I find that piece of information on the website, or at what point do I need to complete that piece of paperwork or that document? We are making the online experience quite comfortable for the customer.’

He added that the initial reaction of sales people to online leads was usually to either get a deposit or an appointment immediately and then try to build a rapport with the customer, but that ran the risk of alienating them.

‘It’s about understanding at what point in the buying cycle that customer is at that particular point in time so you know when to present things to him, so you know how close he is to buying a car, but doing it in such a way that they’re being guided through the process.

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‘It’s putting a person in the middle of the online process that isn’t perceived to be a sales person but in reality they will be, but not as what I would call a traditional sales person. it’s almost what the sales person of the future has got to look like – more multi-skilled.’

He said the approach was from a customer service perspective based on the hospitality sector as well as a sales perspective, so wasn’t purely motor trade.

‘I’m absolutely delighted with it. Two days into it and it’s absolutely fantastic!’

John Bowman's avatar

John has been with Car Dealer since 2013 after spending 25 years in the newspaper industry as a reporter then a sub-editor/assistant chief sub-editor on regional and national titles. John is chief sub-editor in the editorial department, working on Car Dealer, as well as handling social media.

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