AuctionVcommerce.com is working to help the wholesale automotive auction industry transition from 'in lane' to 'online'. We provide infrastructure support for our Auto Auction Members in the form of customer service, technical support, marketing, and consulting. Our blog serves to provide direction to auctions who are not just looking to take their business online, but to actually build an online business!
The Difference Means Growth For Your Online Auto Auction
All anyone knew was that the position needed to be filled. Someone needed to be held accountable. The online events needed to be created... the inventory needed to go up... someone needed to know how to register customers... the computers needed to be turned on... And that, my friends, was the original job description for the 'Online Manager'. Someone needed to maintain the new process. It was right up there with the philosophy that online clerks only needed to be able to click a mouse, and hear.
I've been asked many times what the job description for an Online Manager should look like. The problem I always have with that question is the word Manager. You see,Managers are typically hired to supervise a process that already exists. My belief is that the position truly calls for a Leader - someone who is willing to disrupt the process to maximize the potential of the business. The only way this should scare you is if you don't believe that the person you hired is capable of doing just that.
I'm not talking about someone who comes in with a new idea every day, and attempts to implement it. Leaders are strategic, and they are able to take direction as well as they give it. They are not egotistical. They will not stand in the way of the auction's online success to exert their authority. They do not say things like, "We have to adhere to this procedure, because that is what we do!" They are willing to challenge the system to produce a better outcome. This is technology... it is constantly evolving. Therefore, if you have an Online Manager who cannot easily adapt to change, then your growth potential is limited. A leader is a gateway to success, not a barrier to entry.
The industry has a lot of opportunities for Online Leaders to meet and share ideas. Annual Conferences like the NAAA, IARA, ARN...just to name a few. AuctionVcommerce provides a dedicated focus to the online initiative for a nominal fee, and consults with Online Leaders every day. We've found that Online Leaders ask for direction, but they also provide good feedback based on the experiences they encounter after they've tried new methods. They motivate others to be involved, because they understand that scalability is important. They evaluate outcomes, and make adjustments, rather than just revert back to old methods out of fear. Online Leaders are people who think globally, because they understand that there is opportunity beyond a 300-mile radius of the physical auction. They are people who are comfortable with technology, and they help others become comfortable with the technology. Would you hire a jockey who is afraid of his horse, and expect him to win? The Online Leader is aware of everything that impacts the growth of the online business. They are setting goals, and measuring success.
When I think of an Online Manager, I picture someone who waits for changes to occur. When I think of an Online Leader, I picture someone who is that change.
Just think...you already left your comfort zone when you agreed to take your business online. Now you have to adapt your business model to meet the requirements for online success. Some auctions may say, "But we're not ready for that kind of change." My response? "You will never be ready if you don't even begin to prepare."
When I first began traveling the country, training Independent Auto Auctions on how to use their online technology, I always asked the Owner or General Manager, “What made you decide to take your business online?” Nine times out of ten, the response was, “[A Consignor] required that we have simulcast in order to receive inventory”. So essentially, auctions were filling the technological requirements without first developing a digital strategy. Why? …Well, it wasn’t required.
Without any prior experience in online business development, each auction proceeded with a bare-minimum approach to their online expansion. Simulcast providers taught the Online Manager how to register dealers online, upload inventory, and set up the lanes. They showed clerks which buttons to push. In one fell swoop, the online business model was created by default. The experience of the online dealer was not a concern, as this was an added convenience financed by the auction. However, the amount of vehicles being sold online somehow manages to keep growing. The problem is… so are the number of block errors, and online customer complaints.
The question, "What is required to improve online sales?" continues to be answered with, "Better Condition Reports." Therefore, the majority of consignors, if not all, have made the CR a requirement. However, very little emphasis has been placed on the customer experience. I guess the assumption has just been that customers are customers, whether they are in the lane or online. So, they must be getting the same customer service, and the same opportunity to purchase vehicles as those who physically attend the sale… right?
Well, if the answer were ‘yes’, then I wouldn’t be writing this post. So let’s just take a look at the differences.
On sale day, the auction staff is typically inundated with assisting customers at the counter. A ringing phone is often ignored, and answering machines are extremely impersonal. After all, it’s very easy to disregard customers that you can’t see, and most auctions do. Just ask the online customers.
As far as having the same opportunity… The lane customers interact directly with the auctioneer who has undergone training that has not only taught him to effectively present the bidding, but has also enabled him with the skill to incite participation. The lane customers are entitled to approach the block with questions, and in most cases, are given preference over the online buyers. For online customers, the presentation of the bid can be somewhat confusing if the clerk is not able to keep up, has to repeatedly make corrections, fails to change the bid increment, or gets ahead of the auctioneer only to wait for him to catch up. To top it off, the experience varies from lane to lane. There is no consistency from one block to the next, much less, from one auction to another.
So why hasn’t anyone come up with solutions, or made these observations sooner?
Well… you don’t know what you don’t know! As I mentioned earlier, auctions were not well versed in online business development. Live, interactive auction broadcasts are much different than the static, eBay auction. The industry simply lacked the authority to introduce a business model that could guarantee online success. So, while consignors may have told auctions that they needed to be online… they never stipulated that they actually had to be good at it! How could they? Nobody knew what that meant.
So what’s changed?
The industry now has an online authority that provides multi-channel support, giving online customers access to communication according to their preference. This authority has analyzed the customer experience, and developed a tool to provide a consistent approach to online clerk training that not only conditions the clerk to keep the pace with the auctioneer, but has also taught them how to engage the online audience, and incite participation – just like the auctioneer! Furthermore, the tool is a simulator that provides clerks with a genuine, live auction environment prior to stepping foot on an auction block - which means customers do not have to suffer the consequence of inexperienced clerk errors. Finally, the clerks are certified, which means stability - from lane to lane, and auction to auction.
AuctionVcommerce emerged in September of 2015 as an organization focused on advancing the online initiative through customer service, marketing, and training. Auctions have the ability to deliver a virtual sale that replicates the integrity of the traditional auction experience, and AuctionVcommerce provides the affordable resources to make that happen. AVC also provides guidance and support with online auction technology by acting as a liaison between the auction, and the technology vendor. All bases are covered.
Consignors… we implore you to raise the standards for Online Remarketing.
You made having an online facility a requirement for partnership. Now you have a say in what type of experience you would like your customers to have. Learn how Clerk Certification, and Online Customer Support can increase buyer confidence, and improve online participation. Let's work together to improve the online initiative.