Customer Conversations: How AutoNation Adapted to Succeed During the Pandemic

min read
Customer Conversations: How AutoNation Adapted to Succeed During the Pandemic

AutoNation is America's largest automotive retailer with 325 locations nationwide. It’s a full-service dealer network that sells new and used vehicles and provides repair services for its customers. In a normal year, AutoNation sells over 600,000 vehicles and serves nearly five million customers. It’s also well-known for its “Drive Pink” campaign that has raised over $25 million for cancer research and treatment. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit North America in early 2020, AutoNation knew that it had to adapt its business model to serve its customers safely and continue to succeed in a market where nobody truly knew what was in store. “When this all came down, Mike Jackson, who at the time was our chairman and is now our CEO said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we have 20 days now to be responsive and we have got to be ready to go, because we don't know what's ahead of us,’” said Marc Cannon, EVP, Chief Customer Experience Officer at AutoNation. “So we were nimble, we made decisions. We knew that some would be right, some would be wrong, but you're better to make a decision. What I noticed with a lot of companies is they just sat paralyzed—we were never paralyzed, we moved.”

This agility is also what led to AutoNation being named Visionary of the Year at Invoca Summit. In this video, Cannon speaks with Invoca CEO Gregg Johnson about how this year changed everything for their business and what they did to thrive in a rapidly changing market.

At the time, many were saying that “brick and mortar was done,” but when it comes to selling and servicing cars, it still has to be a part of the equation. Cars have to be serviced and people who are making a $30,000 purchase want to see and feel what they are about to buy in person. But because of the pandemic, more of the process had to occur online and a new blended online-offline experience had to be developed, and fast. “What we've done is take the best of brick and mortar and the best of digital, to create an incredible experience online and an incredible experience in the stores,” said Cannon. 

“You as a marketer have to be smarter, you have to be more intuitive and you have to maximize on digital as a communication vehicle,” he said. “At the same time, you can't allow your customers not to know that you've got their back, that you've got their best interest at heart. So, we as marketers have completely had to change how we deal with the customer and how we communicate with the customer.”

Watch the full Invoca Summit keynote on demand to learn more about how AutoNation used Invoca Active Conversation Intelligence to adapt and succeed in 2020. 

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