It is a common perception that customers have become more demanding, both in their expectation of customer service and how much they expect to pay for that service and the attached products.
Competition has never been greater and, as we can see by the shocking causalities on the high street, no business can afford to rest on its laurels. However if we relate this to the car trade, have customers really become more demanding or has the business just realised that what was on offer before was simply not acceptable?
Buying a car, as we know, is probably second only in terms of price to buying a house generally speaking, but in emotional terms it can be even greater. The fact that it’s mechanical, often previously owned and sometimes abused provokes strong feelings and therefore a there’s a greater responsibility on the seller to ensure the process and outcome is a satisfactory one.
Let’s face it in many cases over the years it certainly has not been.
All most customers want in the car trade is a fair price for their trade-in, a satisfactory experience and to feel like they have bought the right car for the right money. I believe most people in general haven’t got the time or inclination to be professional “ruckers” but at the same time have the right to expect a certain level of service.
Perhaps the most well used phrase from customers with regards to this in the motor trade is ‘’the sales exec was always keen to communicate with us whilst we were contemplating the purchase but as soon as we had taken delivery of the car strangely he always seemed to be too busy to take our calls’’
If I had 50p for every time I’ve heard this during my time in the business I’d be smoking a fat cigar on a West Indian beach whilst sipping Cuba Libres, such was the depressing regularity of bad service in the car trade.
Today though, the business in general has moved on dramatically. Even the smallest of operations have realised that a business will be sustained only if the most precious commodity, i.e. the customers, are engaged and positive about how they have been treated.
However, as we have often highlighted, the battle between car dealers to be the number one customer champion has led somewhat to an overkill of love, especially with franchised dealers where manufacturers have a brand to protect and promote.
I was in a showroom – yesterday in fact – with a friend I’d arranged to assist in a purchase when I overheard a chap talking to the receptionist. The basic gist of the conversation was that the customer had previously visited and actually bought from a competitor because of the rigidity of the sales process he experienced. By all accounts he had to wait 25 minutes and answer 50 questions before being allowed to look in the car and became so disillusioned that he left and bought elsewhere.
“I am giving you another chance’’ he explained
‘’and this time i just need someone to show me the boot of that car out there so I can measure it to see if me golf clubs fit’’
The guy was clearly expecting the worst and I watched as the sales exec approached ready to cringe as he offered the chap 8 different tea and coffee varieties and attempted to sit him down and get his life story. Thankfully however he did just as the customer asked and a smile of relief appeared on his face and he left promising to return at a more convenient time for a test drive and happily left his details with the sales exec.
Now I don’t know whether this chap will actually come back and buy a car, what I am convinced of however is that if he had been made to sit through the process interrogation he would never have come back in a million years. The one size fits all approach currently being employed in certain car showrooms in my opinion is never going to be workable because, like the cars we are trying to sell, the people who buy and sell them are equally different and unique. If we try to smother everyone with love and endless attention then we need to be prepared for the fact that some people are just not ready for that kind of loving.
They just want to be treated as an individual but that may not fit in with the strict process in place at the dealership.