Put yourself in a customer’s shoes for a moment. Let’s say you visit a dealership wanting to drive a specific high-end vehicle you saw online. When you arrive, the salesperson greets you outside and you tell him about the vehicle you want to test drive. He agrees and goes to retrieve the key. Meanwhile, you’re standing outside and it starts to drizzle. Ten minutes go by. The drizzle turns into a downpour. It’s now been 20 minutes. Finally the salesperson returns.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t find the key,” he says. “Can you come back tomorrow?”
As the customer in this scenario, how would you respond? If you’re really forgiving, you might give the dealership one more shot, but more than likely, you’ll decide not to return and might even leave a 1-star review online.
This situation — which is based on a few different actual reviews — reveals the often unexpected but critical link between key control and online reputation management.
How does key management affect your dealership’s reputation?
When you have process issues related to key control — whether in sales or service — customers notice. And if they have a poor experience, they’ll talk about it online. Just take a look at these snippets from real-life reviews about customer experiences in sales and service (many of these reviews were even embedded on the dealership’s homepage!):
- I found the SUV I wanted to test drive. … She couldn’t even locate the vehicle on the lot.
- He left me out in the sales yard for about 30 minutes looking for keys for the F-150 and then said he couldn’t find them and told me to come back the next day.
- No effort was made to show the vehicle off, he knew nothing about the car, he didn’t know how many he had in stock, he took us up to the second floor to show us the other car and when we got there he realized that the car was actually downstairs, he never asked if we wanted to test drive it but the kicker was when we asked to drive it, it took him twenty minutes to find the keys [while] my friend and I were left standing in the rain.
- Pathetic excuse for a dealership. My buddies and I were there looking at a Maserati for sale in their showroom. The sorry excuse for a dealership couldn’t locate the keys……really??
- Unfortunately, I was very unhappy that my keys were misplaced/lost. After I paid for my service for my vehicle, my keys were nowhere to be found.
- I arrived at the dealership at 6pm to pick up my vehicle just to see that it was still parked out on the street where I had left it, my keys in the drop box that was also unlocked! Very, very disappointed in this dealership!
- The porter in the service department LOST MY KEYS. New keys had to be made, which delayed the technician looking at my vehicle for a day.
Actively monitoring and responding to reviews can help you promptly address situations like the ones described above, but what if the circumstances that prompted the review had never existed in the first place? Each customer’s feedback would likely have been very different.
Avoiding even one negative review can help your business, because it takes 40 positive reviews to counter the effects of a negative review. That makes sense since more than half of car shoppers look at reviews to select a dealership for purchasing or servicing a vehicle. If they see multiple negative reviews, you’re likely to lose their business in addition to the original reviewer’s.
How do you improve your key control to avoid negative reviews?
While there’s a lot that goes into creating effective key management processes, the guidelines below are a good overview of the measures you’ll need to take to ensure poor processes don’t result in poor reviews.
1. Control your keys.
At the risk of stating the obvious, the foundation of effective key control is being able to control your keys. If you’re storing keys inside a metal file cabinet or on a pegboard and use a manual log to track usage, it’s no surprise that your salespeople are having trouble finding keys. The moment someone forgets to update the logbook and then fails to return a key, it’s lost. Unfortunately, someone might not notice that key is missing until they’re looking for it while a customer stands outside in the rain waiting for a test drive.
By using an electronic key control system to secure keys in both sales and service, you can receive alerts for unreturned keys, check available stock, and reserve keys. In turn, salespeople can get customers in vehicles for test drives faster and service staff can better protect customers’ vehicles.
2. Train your staff.
Having a key control policy is useless if you don’t also educate your staff. Just look at the training opportunities evident in the above customer reviews.
For example, if a salesperson can’t locate a key for a test drive, they should know how to handle the situation. Instead of asking the customer to return the next day, they could retrieve the keys to a similar vehicle and offer to let the customer drive that vehicle instead. After the test drive, the salesperson could then check to see who last removed the key to the desired vehicle and follow up with that person to track it down.
In service, staff should be trained on best practices for handling customer keys, such as never letting the key out of their sight unless it’s safely secured in a key control system.
These are just a couple examples — ensure staff throughout your dealership is thoroughly trained on key handling best practices for a variety of situations.
3. Watch for online complaints related to key management.
If someone mentions an issue related to key control online, you’ll want to know about it ASAP so you can respond to the customer and address any process or training issues internally. Review sites like Yelp, Google, and DealerRater are good places to start. Keep an eye out for mentions of your dealership on social media (especially Facebook and Twitter) as well.
If you want to avoid reputation-damaging gripes about how you manage keys, proper key control is, well, key. Implement good processes now so you don’t have to do damage control later.