One of the biggest challenges facing car dealers in 2012 is competing for a smaller piece of the pie in a shrinking market. With fewer cars and therefore less choice, dealers are going to have their work cut out to be the first choice for consumers with the money to actually buy a car.
We often talk about how dealers are “upping the ante” with how they engage with their customers and certainly right across the board, dealers are making a big effort to try and provide the kind of experience that buyers will appreciate. However we still hear stories from all over car dealer world where the customer experience ends up being way below par.
The fact is, according to some dealers we spoke to, that with some of the processes being applied in conjunction with brand partners, franchised dealers are being restricted in how they treat their customers by the ‘one size fits all’ approach to customer care. We all know everybody is different and each customer has an individual expectation level of how they would like to be treated when buying from a car dealer. For example I was speaking to a friend at a Christmas do who said he had bought a new car some weeks before but that it had taken him 4 attempts to do so and he found the process painful and frustrating.
I kind of knew why before he started telling me, but he told me anyway and the basic gist of his argument was that he had more or less decided what car he wanted to buy, where he wanted to buy it from and how he wanted to fund it and what his budget was, the internet had actually given him an information overload so he thought he would make it nice and easy for his local Toyota dealer to sell him a car. No such luck! He said that he knew what he wanted had seen it on the net and if they could knock a few quid off and make it look lovely for his wife he would buy it, transfer the funds into their account, send a cover note and come collect it when it was ready. Nice and simple, or so you’d think. However after being there for 2 hours and having to answer questions about what he liked to do with his family at weekends and where he went on holiday on top of a series of questions on how he maintained his existing car and whether he had considered protecting himself, his new paintwork, his alloys, his tyres etc he lost the will to live and left.
I explained that the dealer probably just wanted to ensure that the car was suitable and that he was buying the right model and that he had been offered any products that were deemed relevant, but as he said “I’d already found out everything I needed to know before so that i would not have to spend hours going through it again in the showroom!”
Which, I guess is a fair point.
In the end he walked into another dealer and asked to see the manager he told him that he didn’t want any coffee or to be asked 20 questions he simply wanted the car he had seen on the net which he had printed off and that he would buy the car then and there subject to the aforementioned conditions which the sales manager, seeing that he could have a battle on his hands, agreed to and he subsequently bought the car.
There is not really an answer to this because every customer will want a different experience but the skill is establishing those differences from customer to customer and if, like my friend said, they want me to go an sit with them for two hours why give out all the information beforehand?
The dealers however will tell you that by sticking strictly to their rigid approved script they appease their management and the manufacturers. Yet if there is not flexibility when presenting to customers there could well be more like my friend who just simply go elsewhere, after all it is their money!