Updated: Jul 8
‘How does it feel, to treat me like you do?’ asked Bernard Sumner of New Order when reflecting on his recent dealer visit to buy a new car.
Sumner was opining that it took him 40 minutes to drive across town after dropping the kids off and when he finally arrived at the dealership, a little frazzled because the traffic was bad, they didn’t offer him a seat or a decent coffee, nor even a glass of water. The salesman didn’t ask his name and then proceeded to rush around the dealership showing him cars that the exec thought he might like and that might fit the bill. It was a ten minute blur of cars, specifications, facts, prices and walking around. In fact, the whole customer experience was pretty frustrating, and it led to him penning the opening line of Blue Monday, a successful global phenomenon that is again finding new followers.
It is possible that the above might not have happened, however the salient point in this tale is simple. Do your sales executives think about what lasting impressions they leave or what their customer experience is like? Not just for the sale, but the initial showroom visit?
Do you, as a business leader have in your mind’s eye a sense of how you would like customers to feel about their dealer visit? Have you put much thought into what a customer feels like when they have visited your site? When they walk out the door, do they think, that was amazing, that was average, or that was miserable?
Customer Experience is the new battleground. As the buying process moves increasingly online, the dealership visit has to be nothing less than amazing and that means your dealership needs to stand out from the crowd.
In this industry we often hear comments such as, ‘People buy from people they like’ and ‘the human touch is really important’. At Boost Auto we believe this to be true, however we also believe that dealerships do not always think about how their customer’s feel after an interaction, nor how to measure it.
Dealerships have one chance to make a great impression. We know that only 1.6 dealerships are visited as part of a buying process, so there are now just two outcomes from any interaction. You’ll gain the sale, or you will lose the sale.
If you lose the sale you are sowing a seed that will slowly nibble away at the volume of your business. Poor reviews or negative posts on social, a comment on Google....
Today we are coming off a strong market, volumes are up, stock is tight, margins are great. Simply put it has never been better. Over the next twelve months the pressure will increase on volumes, stock holding, margins and channel. This last point refers to the increased likelihood that new entrants will sell online. The shift to agency model increases the likelihood that consumers will be able to buy more vehicles online in the near future. It is worth noting that vehicle sales are one of the few items still bought with a store visit or maybe even two. It is also worth noting that Tesla sold 3278 cars last year, with one dealership, so you know that a lot of these were sold online. Customers are already abandoning the need for a showroom visit.
This shift in buyer behaviour should help us focus on the quality of customer experience, the quality of each interaction, the importance of understanding a customer’s needs and then helping a customer find the right vehicle (we will call this ‘vehicle selection’).
It hurts when I see ‘Vehicle Not Suitable’ in AutoPlay as a reason for a lost sale, because it is entirely preventable. Importantly if your team have showed the customer respect and genuine interest in their vehicle buying journey then you are more likely in the worst case to get a second bite at the cherry if the vehicle selection is off-track. Of course, there is little or no reason for ‘Vehicle Not Suitable’ to be a reason for not purchasing a vehicle, because if a sales executive has spent time doing a decent needs assessment, then they are more likely to select the right vehicle for a customer in the first place. This is of course even more-so for a multi-franchise dealer, where an astute sales exec will pass the customer over to another brand within the business if they are at a point where their brand doesn’t quite have what the customer wants (you do oil the wheels to facilitate this right?).
An old Sales Manager of mine used to say, ‘Sit down, slow down.’ He was referring to the slowing down of a sales executive so that they spent and extra five minutes getting to know the customer and their needs, over a coffee perhaps, before moving to vehicle selection and the product presentation. A presentation can be tailored to focus on a customer’s needs but only if we really understand what a customer’s needs are.
Then of course there is the showroom ambience. The lighting, the temperature (you have a heat pump right?) the noise levels, the cleanliness, the range of vehicles on display and that great coffee machine (with an alternative choice of teas). Sometimes our showrooms can be a great place to be. Sometimes they are just large buildings with cars and people in them.
Here is the Boost Auto list of pointers to make the customer feel appreciated and special. Telsa has stores, NIO has lounges. What do you have? Run a lens over your business to see how you do.
Look in AutoPlay at the Closed Lost Chart Report. Keep an eye on Vehicle Not Suitable, Delayed Purchase Decision, Purchased Elsewhere and Unable to Contact. These are all qualitative signs of poor quality customer experiences, yet they are measurable. Follow the data not the excuses.
How many cups of coffee does your machine vend per day (and how many are for customers versus staff)? No customer coffees points to no time spent with customers.
Keep a close eye on Test Drive numbers.
Do you have circular tables free of screens for customers to sit with a sales executive? Sit down where a customer sits and get a customer’s perspective of the environment.
How does that environment feel? Dust free, clutter free, with flowers and planters? Does it feel premium if you are not?
Does it feel like a luxury hotel lobby if you are premium?
Is there an air of calm in the building?
What music is playing? Is it right for your audience?
Do you see and hear relaxed sales people engaged with relaxed customers?
A great acid test is to ring some customers and prospects who have visited your dealership recently to get their opinion of their customer experience. It is important to ask prospects and lost sales rather than just sales acquisitions because you will get a more rounded view. Remember the ones who haven’t bought will reveal the most (it will also act as a test to see how well AutoPlay is being used with prospects).
Perhaps if Bernard Sumner had had a better showroom experience, the UK's best selling 12' single and inspirational electronica hit would never have been made.
If you want to get a better understanding about customer experience levels, Boost Auto can help create a measurable repeatable CX score card. Ask us how.
With apologies to New Order.
Boost Auto is an automotive consultancy working in seven main areas.
Market Insights & Trends
Sales and Marketing effectiveness for brands, dealers and staff
Green fleet facilitation for large corporates
Go To Market strategies for emerging brands
Market Insights & Trends
Business Planning and facilitation