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Bart Wilson

Bart Wilson Director of Operations, Media

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What Customers are Looking For in an Experience

Customer Experience is the ultimate competitive advantage.  Period.  More than location, franchise, market.  Think about it.  Customers can buy a [Make you sell] anywhere.  Why should they buy from you? In an environment of too many choices, you need a customer experience that people talk about.

The problem is, Customer Experience is a huge topic.  How do you determine what to focus on? What will have the biggest impact?

DrivingSales conducted a research project around Customer Experience, and we got to the bottom of the key components your customers are looking for in their vehicle purchase.  Focusing on these components can help you prioritize your efforts, and training on these components can set your dealership up for success.

What are the components that make up a customer-centric experience?

Total transparency

Is anyone surprised this is number one? The industry has been talking about transparency for years.  But it’s more than just price. Think about the different parts of your sales process where transparency can improve the customer experience.

How transparent is your trade process? Do you get the customer involved and explain how the vehicle value is calculated? Does your Used Car Manager meet the customer? Do you provide any validation to the customer on how the number was determined? Think of how you can tweak your process to improve trade transparency.

F&I is another area where transparency can definitely be improved. Too often the Finance Manager meets the customer late in the sales process.  Customers know it’s coming, and they don’t like it. How can you get your F&I department involved earlier in the deal?

These are just two steps of the sales process that can be improved. Audit your process and eliminate any transparency gaps. Transparency = trust.

Flexibility in Process Steps

The traditional sales process is linear. A linear process is easier to manage and control. And customers don’t like it.

Think about how you shop online. There is a wealth of information available, and you have the ability to control how you consume it. You may read reviews first, or possibly you watch videos of the product. The point is, you are in control of your buying process.

Customers want a process like that. They want to determine the order of the steps. They may want to drive the car first, or they could want to know what their car is worth before committing to a test drive.

This one requires more training and refinement, but how can you give your customers more control of the sales process? By giving up control you can get closer to a deal.

Consistent Communication

Regardless of how a customer is communicating with your dealership, you must be consistent.

This means a consistent online and offline process. You should provide the same information to a consumer in your store that you would online.

In addition, customers don’t want to repeat steps. For example, if I fill out a trade form online, I don’t want to repeat the process in the dealership. In my mind, I already completed that step.

Another part of consistent communication is empowerment. Your salespeople need to be trained to provide information for the customer when they need it. Customers don’t want a sales rep that goes to the desk every time a question is asked. This is part transparency and part salesperson knowledge.

At the end of our research, we asked customers if they would buy more vehicles if the process wasn’t so difficult, and 56% said they would. Now, I understand there are economic factors such as negative equity. An upside-down customer isn’t going to be able to trade more frequently. The point is, we can create some market demand if we improve the process for our customers and provide a better experience. Customer Experience has economic value.

What steps are you taking to improve the customer experience in your store? How much time do you dedicate to training on experience?

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