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From: Jared Hamilton
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Larry Schlagheck

Larry Schlagheck VP of Media

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I bought a new car and used a lot of your tools in the process

     I have been thinking about buying a new car for some time.  This past Friday I got serious about it and pulled the trigger.  It was a pretty simple research project because I already knew what make and model I wanted.  I’d been on and off of websites for months casually looking around (It’s a “journey” as you know).

     As head of advertising sales at DrivingSales, most of the sites that I used to find a vehicle were companies that advertise with us.  I probably went to more of these sites than an average consumer because I wanted to check them all out.

Here’s my feedback in case anyone cares to listen:

Stock photos – Please don’t do this.  I glossed over any listing that only showed stock photos or no photos for that matter.  And, attention third party sites: Indicate if the photos are “stock”.  Nothing like clicking for more information and finding that there are 16 stock images.  Does the consumer no good.  It’s like going to pick out  a dog and the seller telling you, “Oh, I’ll just give you one.  They’re all the same.”  No they’re not!

In transit – Sites that indicate a vehicle is “in transit” I thought was a nice touch.  This may seem like a no-brainer to many of you, but  to me as a consumer this meant that the dealer was on top of his inventory from a paperwork perspective and even though it wasn’t on the lot, the vehicle info was already there.

No price – Just stop it!

Correct models – Some third party sites have extremely robust search tools while others do not.  When I want to find a Wrangler Unlimited I don’t expect to have to fish through all the Wranglers too.

Search criteria – Once again some sites are better than others, and not only did I know what make and model I wanted I also wanted a manual transmission.  Some sites didn’t even list this as an option in the search criteria.  Once again I had to either wade through way too much inventory to find what I was looking for or simply find a site that offered a better search (Hint: the latter is a lot easier as a consumer).  This might be petty and “no one wants a manual transmission these days” but I did, and certain sites made it more difficult to find what I was looking for while others did not.  Guess which site I used!

Website provider – Once again many of these companies are my clients so I paid special attention to whose platform I was looking at when I went to a dealership’s site.  Interestingly one company in particular was far and away the preferred provider.  And, while I thought their sites were nice, it got a little boring after shopping for a while.  Every dealers’ site looked alike!  I know the manufacturers have something to say about this and there are many other factors at play here, but as a consumer I want to get a feel for the dealership and its personality.  Cookie cutter sites didn’t do that for me.

Chat – Most of the dealership sites I went to offered chat.  I did not use this tool but appreciated the opportunity and can understand why it’s valuable.

Contact Information – Many sites should simply call this tab “800 number” or “Send us an email to a generic in box”.  If a GM, GSM, or others in the dealerships don’t want their contact info listed there’s probably a reason why(!).  As a consumer I expect to know who I’m dealing with, and I mean a real person with a real name.  I’m not going to “bug” you or crank call you.  I want to know the people behind the organization I’m dealing with.  Make it personal!

Dealership Ratings – Yes, I looked at the bottom-line results, but only dug into specific consumer posts once and that was simply out of interest.  I know that a business cannot have a perfect record with every consumer.  It’s impossible and that’s why there are so many choices for everything we buy.  So, a 4.5 or even a 4.2 overall rating had no impact on me.

     In the end I bought a 2013 Wrangler Unlimited from Jim Knox CJDR in Hillsdale, MI (90 miles from my home).  And, because I wanted a manual transmission we ended up ordering it from the factory.  Oh, and they offered to deliver it to my home and pick-up my trade-in.  Service!  That’s why I’ve bought five vehicles from this dealership.  Thanks Autobytel for introducing me to this dealer years ago.

     This experience truly helped me appreciate even more what all my customers/advertisers do for this industry on a daily basis to provide the consumer with the best information and experience.   The car buying experience has been made “fun” again due to the tools these great companies provide.

Eric Miltsch
Great feedback Larry. I hope others are listening!
Charlie Bass
Out of curiosity, how did you communicate with the dealer throughout the purchase? Email? Lead submission? Phone call? Text message? All the above?
Chip Diggs
Although I agree with everything you wrote in your blog you went with a dealer who does little to almost none of what you suggest. I'm not slamming the dealer or you for your choice but you are saying "take my advise" and then going against it. I believe this sends a bad signal to those who do what you say but in the long run get overlooked anyway. Of course you noted you've done business with this dealer for years and in that case the post should have been about how to retain your current clients. The post would have been great if guys like me wouild have gone to this dealers sight and been exposed to a robust website and got ideas from it. Like I said not a slam just an observation. It's like telling me not to speed and then taking off doing 75 in a 55:-)
Larry Schlagheck
Charlie: With the dealer, initially via phone. We did use email to send a few docs back and forth, but used phone for the most part.
Larry Schlagheck
Well, yes and no, Chip. The dealer I bought from does have a cookie cutter site. I should have clarified that the majority of my comments are concerning third-party sites. Because I was looking for a very specific model I thought this would be the best search option. Exceptions being chat, contact info and the above-mentioned website provider. Perhaps it's because I've done business with this dealer that these things didn't concern me. I'm no professional when it comes to dealer websites which is why I framed up my comments as that of a consumer. These comments/suggestions were sent to the the dealer I bought from.

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