It appears that some of our friendly car dealers are not getting the message. As you know at MTI we bang the drum for improved customer service and enjoyable experiences in the business regularly, so you would logically assume that in the maelstrom of recession customers would expect to get the gold star treatment in whichever retail establishment they visit. According to several potential customers that we surveyed this is clearly far from the case. The examples have ranged from being made to wait almost as long as 10 minutes to be seen by sales staff, lethargic disinterested sales people and the old favourite, not receiving even the courtesy of a follow up telephone call. It seems that whilst many franchised dealer groups now possess very sophisticated prospecting and data capture systems, are they actually instructing their front line staff to use the information to try and gain business?
If some of the stories we have heard are anything to go by, then no. As consumers we all now accept that as soon as we give any business our name, contact details and e-mail address we will be bombarded with promotional material for a range of products and companies that use the information wisely will usually have targeted drives to tempt you into buying their products. In the car trade however these huge databases are often used to send out flyers with special offers, promotions service reminders and sale events etc, but when it comes to asking sales people to make follow up calls to try and revisit a prospective customer and attempt to reappoint them for another crack at selling them a car, some are falling woefully short.
In the trade we always start by acknowledging that selling cars is a numbers game, the more people you speak to, the more you test drive, the more cars you will sell. In short the bums on seats process. We aim to create desire, to find hot spots, to qualify and to demonstrate and for every customer a sales person does this with, showing enthusiasm, professionalism and determination, it will give them more than a fighting chance of pairing a customer with a car. So why is it that some of our prospective customers when asked what the overriding impression of the dealer visited were said that sales staff seemed to lack knowledge, interest and barely asked any qualifying questions to establish their wants and needs.
The motor trade today is changing rapidly, customers want iPods and telephone prepared cars, they are interested in luxury packs and electric seats and sales people need to understand this and have detailed product knowledge because these specs can be the difference between selling and not selling a car. We know there are less customers in showrooms around the country and the stats tell us that sales and profits are at an all time low, and long established car dealers are going bust, so how can it be right that one of our surveyed customers – who incidentally is still in the market for a new car – has not been called back by either of the dealers she visited (Ford dealers on this occasion in case you were wondering) and at the time of writing has made another attempt to have a salesperson call her to assist in her buying a Focus.
Although the experience we describe may not be representative of the trade as a whole (and remember we also know of many dealers both franchised and independent who are still selling cars because they are working harder than ever to take people out of the market) if it is at all prevalent then maybe the time when all car research is done online and customers only visit the showroom for the test drive and to haggle on the deal thereby avoiding the frustration of ambivalence and lack of communication – thus gaining what all dealers want for themselves, control – may be closer than we think.
If you experience a less than satisfactory reception at the car showroom why don’t you vote with your feet and try somewhere else, because if this is what the service is like before you buy, how bad will the after sales service be? Like your favourite pub or restaurant or shops you visit to buy your food or clothes, you will keep going back as long as the service you receive gives you value for your hard earned cash.
When you are about to spend thousands on a car it shouldn’t be too much to ask to receive similar from your car dealer, should it?