Buying a car in a franchised dealership today is probably more drawn out than the race for Dubai. Whilst collecting a car from a showroom recently I got chatting to a salesman who had, what looked like, the collected works of William Shakespeare in his hands. I asked him what it was and he informed me that this great big bundle of paperwork was what customers had to sign when buying a car and the fact that the car was being financed meant that the customer had to sign his name an incredible 34 times just to have the sales guy comply with all the regulations.
Apart from the effect all this extra paperwork has on the environment if I was buying a car in this way I would probably lose the will to live at about signature 25. A customer signing his name this many times in one day would probably give David Beckham a run for his money.
So how have we got to this? I asked. Well I guess, because of the fact that there was little or no regulation in the selling of f&i products not so long ago now means, in this strange bureaucratic world we now live in, it had to go to the other extreme.
Sure in the past people were mis-sold insurance products they either didn’t need or were criminally expensive and a sales person who had been working in a dealership for a very short time could suddenly start giving financial advice to any Tom, Dick or Harriet is one of the reasons that the car business had such a bad name.
Today however this sales guy said that if he had a customer in the showroom who knew exactly what car he wanted to buy the quickest he could complete the transaction would be 1 hour at a push, what with demands and needs and the various other pieces of paper required. He also he admitted that some customers get very frustrated if they are in a rush or don’t really want to spend their time signing endless pieces of paper to satisfy an auditor.
And therein lays the issue as far as I am concerned.
It is about the needs of the individual. There should never be a one size fits all approach to selling a car because all customers have different wants and needs and should be treated accordingly. Some modern day car buyers are buying new cars every 18 months, are very savvy about what they want and don’t need the full treatment when buying their next car. Whereas some like the full experience, the feel of the showroom, the bright lights and glossy brochures the endless cups of “gourmet” coffee and smiling faces, if they are spending lots of money they want to feel special and most showrooms are geared up for that. But again not everyone wants this and because of ever stricter processes put in place by both rules and regulations and this fanatical desire by car makers to ensure that they are delivering the ultimate customer experience and maximising every opportunity it often means the customer can no longer just go in and buy a car without being bombarded with process and paperwork.
Interestingly I overheard another sales guy ask a customer if he wanted to have a brochure of the car he was interested in, to which the customer, who was probably in his early 60s, replied; “no thanks I have looked it all up on the net and we need to save the environment and all that.” He was probably half joking but the irony for me was that customers are better informed than they have ever been and have access to more information about different makes and models and their specs and performance figures, yet we are producing more paper in what we are told is becoming a paperless society.
If customer’s, who in ever growing numbers are embracing the use of technology to acquire the information they require to purchase cars, are having to sign loads of different forms to buy a car it has to be down to some form of corporate madness.