Is your dealership running as smoothly as it possibly can? How do you know for sure?

Most dealer principals have a grand vision for what they want their business to look like, and they set up policies that are supposed to get them there.

But policies are just statements about how things should be. A policy has to be backed up by a written process that spells out all the steps to be taken and who takes those steps. It doesn’t matter how many policies you put into place—if there is no written process to back up those policies, those policies are going to fail.

Even when dealer principals have great processes in place, they too often forget to make sure the rest of the dealership is following them. If there is no accountability to follow that process, those policies are going to fail.

For example, most dealerships have a process for handling test drives: you get the customer’s driver’s license, enter info into CRM, report to the desk, and whatever other steps are outlined in the process. But about half the time, the process isn’t followed, which could potentially result in the loss of a sale, the loss of gross, or worse.

If you want to test how your dealership is following processes, try this example of checking your internet lead policy and processes: Set up a new email address (make up a good name), go to your dealership’s website, find a car listed in stock and fill out a lead form. Then see what happens. You just might find yourself looking down and shaking your head. This is what your customers experience!

To ensure profitability and high customer satisfaction index (CSI) scores, a dealership needs accountability. Go back through a process, find out who’s supposed to do what and hold them all accountable. When setting up a policy, it’s not enough to simply meet with the general manager, say “Here’s what I want. Make sure this happens” and then walk away.

Instead, you need to explain the benefits to each individual and why the policy is good for the business. I’m sure you don’t have any policies in place that don’t have some sort of benefit—and if you do, you should rethink or rewrite them.

The dealer principal should be holding the general manager accountable, who then holds the sales managers accountable, who then train their teams on the process to make the policy work. Then it’s up to everyone to make sure the salespeople are out there actually doing it!

To sum it up, follow these steps the next time you’re looking to set up or improve a policy in your dealership:

  1. Write out the policy you want to put in place in the form of a broad statement with the end result in mind.
  2. Document the step-by-step process you want your team to follow in order to carry out that policy.
  3. Share the written process with your team, and make sure they understand the benefits and get the proper training.
  4. After the policy and the process have been communicated and training has happened, actively hold your team accountable for following the process.

The accountability happens when leaders at the highest levels jump in and bridge the disconnect between policy and process.