Todd Smith is a serial entrepreneur who is now building the leading sales text messaging platform for automotive dealerships. Todd is an industry author, speaker, and industry expert with over 30 years of automotive retailing experience. View all posts
Recently we have been speaking with a number of dealerships around the nation who don’t have a formal dealership communication policy in place for their dealership. This is a potential powder keg waiting to blow a hole in the dealership if it isn’t addressed correctly.
Many of your dealership employees communicate with each other, leads, and existing customers using texting, live chat, or even Facebook messenger every day.
The immediacy of texting and messaging is excellent for the dealership and the current channel of how we interact with shoppers and existing customers. It allows faster communication, better collaboration, and more responsiveness. The downside is that your automotive dealership likely can’t track and retrieve those communications if needed.
It becomes even harder if the communication is happening outside the dealership’s control on text or Facebook Messenger.
As an employer, it’s vital that you understand the issue and that you have clear rules for communications among your dealership employees to protect your dealership’s interests.
You’ll need to have a dealership communication policy in place at the dealership when something goes wrong. You’ll need to track the thread of communications to see what was said or promised by whom, and when. You will also need a platform that all this information is stored and easily accessible if required at a future date.
These details can be crucial to resolving customer’s problems or if you find your dealership in litigation, and all your communications are subpoenaed for discovery in the court case.
In filings around the nation, plaintiff lawyers in cases have already started demanding the production of text messages and emails during discovery. And if litigation happens on an issue, you may have a duty to preserve all the text messages coming into and leaving your dealership.
This is a Huge Challenge
Here are a few issues that you need to consider, especially because many dealerships allow employees to use their own phones for dealership sales and service communication, including giving them access to the dealership’s email system on their personal phones.
If your dealership employees are exchanging texts and instant messages on a communication app or company phone, the history of communications would be preserved and you would be able to access the messages.
If though your employees are sending and receiving dealership related text/SMS messages and other messaging services on their personal devices, the issue is gray, particularly if you don’t have a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy. Accessing messages about the dealership’s business on an employee’s smartphone may raise privacy issues.
The problem primarily arises in the case of wrongdoing by a dealership employee. If they use their personal phones for customer communication that could provide insight into their behavior, they can delete those messages before you ask to see them.
You cannot search through their personal phone without first obtaining it from them, meaning you can’t look at their text messaging without them knowing as you could if you looked at their email on your dealership’s email server. There are privacy issues that arise if you are trying to access an employee’s personal phone to view texts and other communications without consent.
The looming question: How do you capture those communications? If the text messaging isn’t conducted over your dealership’s network, unlike your dealership’s email system, which preserves all email communications, which are then available to you. These text messages reside on your salespeople or service advisor’s personal phones, ultimately limiting your visibility into the conversations.
Steps To Take Now
Texting and instant messaging and even email are all potential minefields for dealerships who want to access all dealership communications among employees and between your dealership personnel, customers, vendors, or partner organizations.
To ensure you have a handle on it, you should set rules outlining what communication employees may use for dealership business purposes. If you are just looking to improve your texting follow up process you should check out this post.
If you don’t want texting or instant messaging of any kind for dealership business, that needs to be spelled out, including the disciplinarian action for breaking the rule in your dealership communication policy.
If you decide to allow texting, messaging, and email, your policy should be clear on what kind of communications are okay, even including hours of operations that messaging can be conducted.
You will need to amend your dealership communication policy related to employee conversations to make sure texts, instant messages and emails are included with a storage platform that would organizationally support and record retention for your dealership for future use.
If your dealership has an existing (Bring Your Own Device) policy, it should include enabling you to take possession of the employee’s smartphone for legitimate purposes like a dispute with a customer, or discovery for litigation.
As you can see, you must initiate a policy on employee communications that take into account texting, messaging, and email.
If you haven’t done so, you should do it now as this faster communication method is becoming the new normal, particularly as Generation Y and now Z continues filtering into the dealerships workforce.