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Lindsey Auguste and Dennis Galbraith

Lindsey Auguste and Dennis Galbraith Investigative Reporters

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The Importance of Human Interaction


Maritz Research released their New Vehicle Customer Study late last week. The press release made the point that the Salesperson at the dealership is still the most influential source of information for car buyers. The correct way to present the results is to say that more customers rated the salesperson "most influential" than any other source, but this type of inaccuracy has become commonplace over the past few years. The bigger flaw in the analysis was this quote from Maritz VP and Strategic Consultant, Chris Travell, "Every manufacturer needs to have a well-defined social media strategy. However, we still need to remember the importance of human interaction in buying a car."  

The fact of the matter is that social media is human interaction, whether the consumer is engaging with the manufacturer or the dealership. Human touchpoints also include email response, chat, video chat, phone conversations, and interactions on social media sites. Social media isn't just about influencing word of mouth, it's about engaging with it.

There is no doubt that human contact remains essential to auto sales, and we wholeheartedly agree with the importance of salespeople. However, social media, automotive websites, advertisements, and electronically facilitated human interactions largely determine which store's salesperson gets to influence the customer at the store. "Most important" is largely irrelevant. Selling vehicles in volume requires the store to perform well across all touchpoints, human and technological.

The top ten sources in the U.S. were as follows: 

    1.      Salesperson at the dealership (21.9 percent)

    2.      Family/ friend/ word of mouth (18.7 percent)

    3.      Consumer guides (18.4 percent)

    4.      Dealer’s/ manufacturer’s websites (8.6 percent)

    5.      Third-party websites (6.4 percent)

    6.      Automotive magazine reviews (6.1 percent)

    7.      TV advertisements (4.0 percent)

    8.      Dealer’s/ manufacturer’s brochures (3.2 percent)

    9.      Dealer/Manufacturer-sponsored event (2.4 percent)

    10.    Newspaper advertisements (1.7 percent)

Steven Witten
Very good point. The #2 item on the list is Family & Friends. Q: Where do people communicate with their family and friends? A: Facebook, blogs, text messaging, email, and some face to face conversations. Salepeople/dealers should be communicating the same way.
Jim Bell
Great info here guys. It just goes to show, yes the internet has changed our environment, but the consumer STILL has to interact with a salesperson and they have to get back to basics of selling.
Chris Costner
Thank you Lindsey & Dennis. With the "salesperson at the dealership" being the number one spot, was there any data stating that salesperson began the engagement through the social media or was the first contact on arrival to the dealership. If so, I hope this changes in a fast way. I encourage it and have said to stop hiding behind our businesses, get out in the social platforms, start creating dialogue and spend some time with those who will make or break your business. They are certainly there waiting.
Lindsey Auguste
Great addition, Steve. I spent some time with a salesperson last week and had a casual conversation about interacting with customers. This particular salesperson was explaining how it can be difficult to interact, especially when people these days want to converse over texting. He thought that a car purchase is too big of a deal to discuss over texting. Texting, social media, and all those touch points are simply communication preferences and there are people in those arenas who want to interact in that way. We're silly not to take advantage of the customer telling us exactly how they want to talk.
Tom Gorham
I read that article before I saw yours. You took the words right out of my mouth! "Every manufacturer needs to have a well-defined social media strategy. However, we still need to remember the importance of human interaction in buying a car." What in the world were they thinking when they wrote that? Do they have any understanding of Social Media. It's human interaction online and word-of-mouth n steroids. Thanks Lindsey and Dennis!

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