2020 could be the year of the digital retailing concierge. - Photo by artisteer via Getty Images

2020 could be the year of the digital retailing concierge.

Photo by artisteer via Getty Images

Dealerships that successfully implement a digital retailing solution gain shoppers that convert faster with higher profitability. But success does not flow from simply plugging digital retailing tools into a website.

Successful dealers change their employee roles and traditional instore processes to fit the new digital paradigm. An exciting example of this is the digital retailing concierge.

Let’s take a closer look at what this position demands and why many of your competitors will open it for the first time this year.

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What Is a Digital Concierge?

We’re all familiar with the hotel concierge who’s there to perform tasks that make your life easier and more enjoyable during your stay. The digital retailing concierge serves much the same purpose.

This person is a liaison between the digital retailing shopper and your dealership employees. The concierge identifies all digital retailing leads, responds with a customized email, sets expectations with customers on the process, prepares deal jackets, and communicates all customer insights to the appropriate team members.

Depending on the volume of digital retailing shoppers, most dealers need to identify and train only one or a few employees as a concierge. The roles of the majority of sales staff remain the same.

You know this person can respond quickly and give the personalized time and attention each shopper expects and deserves.

Why is the concierge role so important? Because all digital retailing shoppers are unique, and every shopper wants to be treated as an individual. Unlike a simple lead form, there is no uniform response to digital retailing tools.

When you assign and train a concierge to work exclusively with digital retailing shoppers, you know this person can respond quickly and give the personalized time and attention each shopper expects and deserves.

There’s no need to hire new personnel to fill this role. A developing sales manager, seasoned internet manager or anyone in between can become a concierge.

However, training is key. Concierges must be able to read and interpret deal structure, follow digital breadcrumbs to infer customer interest and intent and identify hot button items such as budget, credit score, down payment and trade-in equity to strategize the best deal for each customer.

Temperament also matters. Digital retailing customers like to feel in control of the deal. The concierge must let the customer take charge while simultaneously keeping in mind what is best for the dealership.

Not a Clerical Position

Concierges must be empowered with full dealmaking authority. This includes viewing credit, discussing F&I products, and agreeing in principle to pending offers for all clients who use digital retailing tools. Stopping the flow to get approval from a desk manager or other manager creates a negative, time-consuming dynamic that blocks the process and negates the whole point of digital retailing.

Any new role comes with challenges. Concierges may reflexively push back against a new level of transparency that requires them to share information about the deal all the way through the F&I process. After all, customers are asked to share sensitive information including their Social Security number. Building trust and earning the sale requires the concierge to share information in turn.

Concierges may also be uncomfortable with a nonlinear sales process. Nearly half of digital retailing experiences start online and move back and forth between the two. Adapting to this new process will take time and effort.

Read: Digital-Driven Transparency Is the New Standard for Wholesale

The deal handoff may also present challenges. The entire sales team must be educated and know their roles so that when the concierge hands off a digital retailing customer the deal continues to flow smoothly and seamlessly. When the instore salesperson doesn’t acknowledge a digital retailing customer on the floor right away or asks the customer to rehash steps already done online, the customer experience suffers and so may the deal.

For the concierge role to be successful, fairly compensating the person in this role is critical to success. The main component of the concierge compensation plan should be in line with a store’s sales plan of a percentage of gross profit.

An additional rider could include a percentage of closed digital retailing deals or a percentage of closed appointments. Another suggestion is to incentivize proactive use, where the concierge succeeds in encouraging standard internet leads to use the digital retailing tools.

This is an effective compensation plan for stores that currently have low digital retailing lead volume, requiring the concierge to field other lead sources in conjunction with digital retailing leads.

New Position, New Ways of Thinking

This new role must be paired with new business practices that reflect a transparent, personalized buying experience. The concierge should not push appointments. Rather, they should encourage shoppers to structure a deal online.

Instead of trying to upsell at every opportunity, the concierge should work to close and deliver the deal in a timely manner. The concierge should not simply focus on the price. They should help ensure the customer attains preferred payment terms.

Digital retailing performance managers offer boots-on-the-ground support with best practices and workflow tips.

Digital retailing success requires this shift in mindset and business practices.

This shift is more easily accomplished with a trained digital retailing performance manager. These managers offer boots-on-the-ground support with best practices and workflow tips to help dealerships create and maintain the concierge role. They also offer ongoing guidance in identifying growth opportunities and tweaking processes to meet sales goals.

As margins continue to tighten, each sale counts more than ever. Technology can help improve customer engagement and dealer profitability, but it is only as powerful as the person behind the screen. Establishing a digital retailing concierge and arming him or her with new business practices to create an exceptional experience will differentiate your dealership and help you attain digital retailing success.

Mo Zahabi is senior director of product consulting at Cox Automotive.

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