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Richard Holland

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Give Your Customers a Red Carpet Experience

feca63152b5df458ddb16fa31ee7510c.jpg?t=1​Automotive News recently reported about a New Jersey dealership that has a VIP lounge for some of its customers – akin to the exclusive airline club lounges – in which customers can wait for their vehicles in service. The lounge offers fresh fruit, cappuccinos and has high-definition big screen TVs. Customers need an access code to gain entry. Their service vehicles have their gas tanks topped off, their cars are hand-washed and their vehicles are returned to them complete with “handwritten thank you notes and Godiva cookies.” You might think this sounds like a scene that would take place in a Mercedes or Porsche dealership but it’s actually happening in a dealership of a brand you probably wouldn’t expect… Hyundai.

In fact Hyundai has implemented a program at the OEM level, with “Personal Service Amenities That Set Equus Apart.” The concierge service represents an entirely new kind of luxury. It includes features such as personal delivery of a vehicle for a private test drive, on your time and in complete privacy, so you can really enjoy a comfortable test drive experience without feeling pressured or rushed. And owners enjoy the ease of having the service center come to them, courtesy of “At Your Service” valet, where the dealership delivers a luxury loaner vehicle to the customer and picks up and returns their vehicle for scheduled maintenance. 

Burns Hyundai, in Marlton, N.J., recognizes that it’s got steep brand competition for its Genesis and Equus buyers from the likes of Mercedes and BMW. To help these high-end Hyundai buyers feel more comfortable with the brand, the dealership goes to extra lengths to make their customers feel special. In addition to the VIP service already described, the store has salespeople specifically designated for buyers of these models. The general manager handles the sale personally, customers are invited to experiences such as “complimentary wine tastings, strolling dinners or open-bar events at a nearby fine-dining restaurant,” reports Automotive News.

This is a good example of how a dealership can foster brand and dealership loyalty. These special touches transform the chore of taking a vehicle to be serviced into a pleasurable experience. While this dealership’s focus is on their high-end customers, this could easily be applied to reward any loyal customers. Customer retention is extremely important in growing business. Customers are inundated with loyalty programs from many retailers they patronize. Rather than offering loyal customers that free oil change, this could be a way to reward them in a more memorable and meaningful way.

By creating a unique experience for consumers, dealers have the opportunity to shine each and every time the customers come in. This experience leads to increased sales and service business through word-of-mouth. It is human nature for people to want to feel included and appreciated. Whether your customer is buying a $10,000 vehicle or a $100,000 vehicle, having this VIP area and treatment could offer customers a very compelling and unique selling proposition to return for regular maintenance.

Many dealerships could implement this type of VIP area and service with little, if any, remodeling. It will certainly cost the dealership a little time, some effort, and perhaps even some Godiva cookies. But, in the end, this minimal time and energy could very likely pay for itself many times over and both your customers and staff will feel the difference.

John Wingle
It's great to continue to see more and more dealers placing greater focus on the customer's shopping/buying experience at the dealership, and moving away from the "old school" selling-centric philosophies. We all know that most consumers rank the dealership shopping experience right up there with getting a root canal and there's a reason for this - it's their experience in the process - plain and simple. Virtually every study out there now shows that better than 82% of all visitors to a car dealership ended up at that dealership because they had already spent a significant amount of time researching online (11hrs on avg) and ultimately CHOSE to visit THAT particular dealership - presumably with an understanding that the dealer had the vehicle they were looking for at a reasonable price. So, if better than than 8 out of every 10 visitors to a dealership already have a pretty good idea as to what they want, are in the market to make a purchase, and they are visiting a particular dealership because that dealer presumably HAS WHAT THEY WANT, then WHY have closing ratios for most dealers not gone absolutely through the roof over the past few years? It seems to me anyway that, aside from a few customers with money/financing issues, there is only one real logical explanation for this - And it's THE CUSTOMER'S EXPERIENCE to that point! Simply put, their comfort level in the "shopping process" was not yet such that they felt comfortable enough with that dealer, or more importantly confident enough IN THEMSELVES, to make a buying decision right then and there. A greater focus on enhancing and improving the customer's experience, BOTH PRE-SALE AND POST-SALE, helps customer's feel more comfortable, confident, and in control of their shopping experience and undeniably results in improved sales, customer satisfaction, and referrals - whether it's the car business, the appliances business, or any type of retail business. Just think of your own shopping experiences outside of the car business.

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