IMPERIAL CARS SEES UNEXPECTED DEMAND FOR CAR SALES AS CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC CONTINUES
AWARD-winning car supermarket Imperials Cars has reopened its doors this week to demand that’s exceeded all expectations, after implementing changes to the way it sells cars.
The company, like all car dealerships in England, was allowed to reopen for trading on June 1, and actioned a raft of wide-ranging measures to keep its staff and customers safe during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
While the business was ready to operate in a very different climate, it wasn’t expecting such strong demand, however.
‘We’ve been experiencing extremely healthy demand ever since we opened on June 1,’ says Mike Bell, Managing Director of Imperial Cars.
‘In fact, the demand was way in excess of our original expectations and projections. This could well be pent-up demand however, so we are being cautious as to how we resource this current need.’
‘Cautious’ has been the approach adopted by Imperial Cars throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Even before lockdown was officially actioned by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, the firm had embraced a strict cleaning regime in its showrooms across the UK, offered unaccompanied test drives for customers and reminded potential buyers of its safe and ultra-convenient ‘Click, Call, Collect/Delivery’ service.
During the 10-week strict lockdown, Imperial Cars carried on operating to best help customers in need.
‘Initially our sales support was here to advise people who had questions, whether about purchases that needed to be completed or general enquiries,’ explains Bell.
‘As soon as companies could offer home delivery, we were able to add this to the options for keyworkers who needed to purchase a car.’
And as lockdown entered its second phase of lifting on June 1, Imperial Cars was well prepared to be fully operational and, more importantly, to be able to offer a near-normal service while keeping customers safe and relaxed.
Says Bell: ‘Along with deep cleaning of our sites and providing all showrooms with sanitisation and protection equipment, our processes have been streamlined and our teams have moved to our Southampton Head Office so that we can sell cars as well as deliver them through video calls. Contactless delivery provides confidence to customers that they are safe and protected in our showrooms.’
Video is one area the business has really embraced, explains Bell: ‘Video calls have become the norm for people now, and they are more confident in using this method than they were prior to the lockdown.
‘We have also created a number of videos explaining the changes customers can expect, including a safety video (https://youtu.be/rZ11TC2bWlk) and how we carry out solo test drives (https://youtu.be/XjuUYnE-EbQ).’
Customers are advised to make an appointment before they visit of the Imperial Cars’ nationwide network of showrooms, to ensure the safest experience.
These appointments are spaced to ensure social distancing is adhered to. Customers are then met through Imperial Cars’ branch team and guided to either the car for a test drive, or to a screen for an online call with one of the company’s sales team who can help them with questions they may have.
All handovers are contactless and when a customer is happy to proceed with the purchase, they will join an online video call with one of the firm’s handover managers at its Southampton Head Office. They are then taken through the same process as they would have done previously. Online documentation is screen-shared with the customer for signing and confirmation.
‘The last few months have been challenging, but we have realised that to continue we have to be adaptable and implement changes quickly,’ says Bell.
‘We have implemented new processes which could take some companies a lot longer, which has meant we were ready to open our doors this week and feel confident that we can keep all customers safe.
‘We are still cautious as this can still be a turbulent time, but we are committed to making sure we provide the high level of customer service which is expected from us now.’
Imperial Cars operates 17 sales, 13 service centres and two preparation sites across the UK, and the company has won the Used Car Supermarket of the Year gong twice at Car Dealer Magazine’s prestigious Used Car Awards.