As car design and technology improves with every new model released and the competition for market share becomes ever more fierce, truly understanding the car retailing business takes on more importance than at perhaps anytime in its history.
You will constantly hear how buyers are far more aware than ever before in terms of product and price but the Holy Grail as far as car dealers are concerned is how to grow a loyal customer base which stays with the brand but more importantly stays with the dealer.
In the old days of car selling customers would generally stick with their local dealer whether they were good or bad because they felt they had no other real choice. With very few car manufacturers producing good quality cars the decision was not about which dealer to buy from but which make of car to buy.
Car buyers really were prepared to put up with almost anything and I remember distinctly thinking that this surely was not sustainable. It always seemed to be about getting as much profit out of every customer, cutting as many corners and winning as many “wars” with them as possible.
I know I am generalising somewhat but it’s no coincidence that the car business still struggles to this day to shake off the stigma of the bad service dispensed years ago. The fact that most car dealers now have customer satisfaction as the absolute number one priority in their core beliefs and corporate mission statements tells us that not only has the customer got more model and brand choice than ever before they also have more dealer choice.
The internet has now made the world of car buying a much smaller place and dealers are desperately responding to the challenge with an ethos much like department store John Lewis and very soon we may find them acquiescing to customer complaints by simply replacing or reimbursing with “no questions asked” in the dogged pursuit of long term customer satisfaction. I think the lesson is there for all of us to see; although in high street and supermarket retailing we are talking about much less expensive items the experience for customers is miles better and therefore the profits made much higher.
The likes of Tesco and Sainsbury’s totally understand the concept of customer choice and satisfaction and whether you like the rise and rise of these retailers or not they are growing in strength because they give us exactly what we want with no compromises and if we do have problems they are, on the whole, dealt with efficiently and with the minimum of fuss.
It is perhaps a comparison that doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny as the two types of business are competently different in just about every detail, except one.
The thing they will always have in common is customers and in the ever changing world of car retailing car makers and dealers would do well to remember that.