Now is the time to plan ahead Mark Greenfield In the Media (0) A new year is always a time for reflection on the past year and what lessons have been learnt along the way.Unfortunately, many of us – despite how much we want to improve on the previous year’s results – do nothing about it or make plans to be more successful.It’s like the old adage, “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”.The reality is with how consumers are continuing to evolve, dealerships need to as well – otherwise the likelihood of getting left behind is very real.As we all know, more than 80 per cent of car buyers browse the internet when planning their next car purchase.The National Automobile Dealers Association in the US released statistics in 2015 that highlight buyers are only visiting 1.2 dealerships on average before making their decision.This shines the spotlight on how important your online business, presence on the internet and phone strategy become.That said, more than 50 per cent of buyers now prefer to engage electronically by email, text and social media as opposed to talking on the phone.What all of this means is that being proactive in the space of customer experience is paramount, and you can no longer sit back and deliver service in a reactive way.A proactive dealer will attract, engage and retain more buyers than the one who sits on his or her hands doing what he or she has always done.Now is the time to plan for what you want to achieve – not only for 2016, but also the next few years.Once you establish where you want to get your dealership to, only then can you methodically work through a plan of all the steps needed to be taken to get there.You need to leverage off data you have about your business, and make informed decisions that can have a significant impact on your customers, staff and bottom line.Here are a few key areas dealers should check off as they enter 2016.CUSTOMER EXPERIENCECreate an environment that’s attractive, engaging and defines what you have to offer. Better still, doing this right is a positive contributor towards referrals to friends and family.Managers need get out of their offices and meet customers. Don’t just leave it up to salespeople to bring them to you to help with the close. A friendly hello while walking past will work wonders when the time comes to make the sale work. RETENTION OF BUYERSYou have spent a significant amount of money acquiring each customer.Now you seriously need to invest and plan for how to keep in contact with them and retain them.MAKE INFORMED DECISIONSWhether it’s what vehicles are purchased to stock your yard, where you spend advertising dollars or where you focus staff training and development, it needs to be leveraged from what data and information you have about the business.If you haven’t done so already, start understanding the finer details of your dealership and plan for its success.EFFICIENCIES VIA SYSTEMSMany businesses are inefficient purely due to the fact they aren’t using systems and processes complimentary to what they do.This doesn’t allow them to operate as effectively as possible, which can ultimately impact on many areas of a dealership. Systems should be true enablers that compliment all aspects of your operation.This year is set to be a year of continued innovation and ongoing change in the automotive industry.Those who continue to understand, adapt and embrace change will not only keep up with what is going on around them, but will lay the foundations for the years that will follow and what they will bring.