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Many modern training tools at dealerships’ disposal.

Charting the Course: Key Retail Training Strategies for 2024

Now is the time to take retail training in a new direction – one that enhances customer experiences and empowers employees by marrying sales skills with technological advancements.

Rapid evolution is the hallmark of automotive retailing in 2024. Dealerships eager to stay ahead need new training strategies grounded in the latest industry trends, including the rise of electric vehicles, direct-to-consumer sales models and the influence of online shopping giants like Amazon, forever changing customer expectations. At the same time, the return of a competitive retail market means employees need to brush up on basic selling skills. Now is the time to take retail training in a new direction – one that enhances customer experiences and empowers employees by marrying sales skills with technological advancements.

Brush Up on the Basics

Over the past few years, customers lined up to buy cars and salespeople mostly took orders. Now that a competitive market is back, it’s time to brush up on the basics and hone the fundamentals. Training should focus on how to adjust to the current realities: how to sell EV vs. ICE vehicles, upside-down trade-in values, substantial lease & payment walks, overcoming objections, proper lead follow-up across all communication channels and ways to optimize the customer experience both online and in-store.

The AI Revolution

Artificial intelligence has already begun transforming dealership operations. AI-powered tools like ChatGPT can help to understand customer preferences, personalize interactions and streamline the sales process. For example, chatbots can have natural conversations with customers to learn about their needs, recommend vehicles and schedule test drives. Behind the scenes, AI analyzes data to identify high-value leads, inform targeted marketing and provide sales teams with real-time prompts during negotiations.

ChatGPT: An Engine for Employee Performance

ChatGPT can also serve as a digital mentor for employees. Here’s how ChatGPT is redefining employee training and support:

  • On-Demand Knowledge Base: Query ChatGPT on the fly to access product details, pricing and inventory.
  • Real-time Sales Assistance: Instantly answer complex questions to ensure conversations flow without disruption.
  • Customer-Focused Sales Process: Pick up exactly where customers are in their journey (online, in-store or a hybrid approach) to provide pertinent vehicle information where needed and help based on the customer’s chosen path and pace.

Personalized Learning Journeys

For training to be truly effective, it cannot follow a one-size-fits-all model. Dealerships can leverage AI and advanced analytics to assess individual skills gaps and craft personalized learning paths.

AI can analyze employee performance data to identify individual areas of improvement and tailor the training content to suit. This ensures that each salesperson or service advisor’s  training is as unique as the customers they serve, leading to informed, confident and successful employee-customer interactions.

Shifting Learning Paradigms

While traditional classroom instruction still has its place, today’s retail environment calls for a personalized, engaging approach that resonates with short attention spans in our fast-paced world.

A study by the Automotive Training Institute showed that dealerships utilizing interactive training platforms saw a 30% increase in sales performance compared to those using traditional methods. Micro-learning modules, social learning through collaboration, gamification and experiential learning on the sales floor keep staff engaged while accommodating different learning styles.

The Data-Driven Pathway to Training Excellence

The lifeblood of modern retail training is data – meticulously collected, analyzed and acted upon. This is where Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) enter the scene, not just as a tool but as a cornerstone for creating a comprehensive learning and customer engagement environment.

Bridging AI Insight With Actionable Training Through CDPs

The same AI that powers ChatGPT is also pivotal in harnessing the wealth of data within a CDP. These platforms are dynamic ecosystems that can predict, personalize and enhance every facet of the dealership experience, from customer interaction to employee development.

By integrating CDPs with AI-driven training, dealerships can craft a dual approach that benefits both customers and employees. CDPs provide a 360-degree view of the customer, revealing cars of interest, the approach they respond to best, the communication style they prefer and the values they hold when making a purchase decision. This depth of insight spurs training that’s  about building relationships.

This type of training can also help bridge the gap between digital retail tools and the in-store experience. Too often, customers are asked to repeat steps in the store that they’ve  already completed online, leading to frustration and a longer sales process. To solve this disconnect, many dealerships use the same digital retail tool on a tablet at the dealership that the customer is using online at home. This creates continuity and guarantees the salesperson will pick up exactly where the customer left off – leading to a better customer experience and faster overall process.

From Data to Personalized Engagement: A Seamless Journey

Transitioning from AI and ChatGPT’s role in enhancing immediate performance, CDPs serve as the strategic backbone for longer-term, data-driven training and customer engagement strategies. They are the bridge between knowing the customer and truly understanding them. This is the future of automotive retail, where technology and humanity converge to create a seamless journey from data to personalized engagement.

Randy Berlin_headshot (002).jpegAs we accelerate into 2024, the industry is at a pivotal moment where technology, data and personalized training converge to redefine the customer experience. Although change can be scary, dealers are the most resilient and adaptable business professionals out there. With the right training partner, they and their employees can marry sales skills with technology to win in a competitive market.

Randy Berlin (pictured, above left) is vice president of training for Proactive Dealer Solutions and an expert in modern retail and fixed operations training and consulting for automotive dealerships. 

TAGS: Retail
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