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Mimicking customer behavior is one of the oldest sales techniques in the business. So is finding common interests and building rapport. However, with three generations of car buyers in and out of dealerships daily - Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y - it’s harder than ever for salespeople to accomplish this convincingly, let alone understand what type of experience each demographic is looking for. A recent article in Wards Auto, describes a dealer that provides generational training to his employees in an effort to assist them in better handling customers. The dealership first tries to match up salespeople with customers to optimize the experience – such as a Hispanic salesperson to assist a Hispanic customer. And, when that’s not possible, the training enables the employees to better understand what type of experience each generation is most likely seeking, and to then provide that. The dealer explained that every customer is different and that salespeople shouldn’t feel as if they need to provide the same experience to everyone, as not everyone wants the same thing. In his opinion, Boomers are more inclined to want to negotiate, while Millennials want something thrown in. Older customers aren’t necessarily seeking a fast buying experience, (as has been the hot topic of late) but Millennials are much more time conscious.
What does all of this have to do with customer loyalty?
In today’s automotive marketplace, OEMs and dealers are increasingly shifting the retail battlefield to customer experience. While that may be an excellent strategy, how do you create the perfect customer experience, and deliver it consistently, if all of your customers want different experiences? If your dealership decided that a one-hour sales process is the optimal customer experience, how will that Boomer, who wants to take his or her time shopping and negotiating, feel about the experience? They will probably rushed through the process, which will either run them off, or leave them dissatisfied. On the other hand, if a Millennial is forced to sit in your dealership for 6 hours, they’ll probably feel very unhappy too.
The customer’s perception of their buying experience affects a lot of things: the likelihood that they will recommend your dealership; the type of review they share, either online or with their family and friends; and whether or not they choose to continue to patronize your dealership. As consumers are holding onto their vehicles for much longer these days, customer retention heightens in importance and these points become ever more relevant.
If you recognize that there isn’t necessarily a single “best” customer experience, but, that the customer experience must be tailored for every customer, you may find it easier to retain customers of all demographics. By training salespeople on the types of experiences different generations would like. And, by giving them the flexibility to provide that experience on an individual basis, you will have happier customers across all generations.