It’s probably not news to you that, while customers like having new cars, many dislike the dealership experience. And, that dislike often immediately begins from the first moment they arrive and are basically accosted by 10 salespeople approaching their vehicle as they pull onto the lot – yes, that’s mostly an exaggeration, but you get my point.
Here’s the thing, most car shoppers initially just want to browse the lot and look around, at least for a relatively short period of time – without assistance and certainly without instantly feeling pressured. Generally speaking, however, it seems the sales process at many dealerships is not exactly complementary to that. The very first thing a sales manager will often do when they see a customer on the lot is immediately get a salesperson out there to help them.
I get it, many sales managers really dislike customers on the lot being left alone, it seems for fear they will leave. So, they want a salesperson nearby to try to prevent that which is, of course, understandable. The problem with that is it’s usually the direct opposite of what most customers actually want, not to mention the exact opposite of the experience they receive at just about any other retailer they go to.
Imagine walking into Nordstrom or Lowes for example, and having a salesperson right on top of you, following you around the store, in full-on sales mode. Again, a slight exaggeration but, that would be a little unsettling, not to mention annoying, right? Sure, this happens once in a while but it’s largely the exception and not the rule. Typically, in those types of retail environments, an associate will greet the customer, offer assistance and, should the customer decline, they simply let the customer know they’re available to help if need be. And, customers like that treatment. Heck – don’t we all?
Hey, I’m not saying to leave customers alone entirely. Of course, someone must be there to assist when need be. Just don’t make them feel uncomfortable by engaging too much too soon. It’s a turn-off for most people and, consequently, can set entirely the wrong tone right from the beginning – not a good way to start off.
It’s important to recognize that, for many people, a trip to the dentist is preferred over a visit to a dealership to buy a car. So, consider stepping back a bit to ease that pressure on them and trust that it’s rather unlikely they would even be on your lot if they didn’t want to make a purchase. You’ll find that they will appreciate the chance to look around, acclimate to the environment and browse for a bit. When they do have questions, they will undoubtedly find someone to assist them. Then is the time for your well-trained team to assist, answer questions, and move the process along.
I recently a read a really interesting article on Customer Think on this very subject. The article shares results from a recent survey of 75,000 customers conducted by the Customer Contact Council. There are two insights in this article that could be very useful for dealerships to consider. First, traditional means of delighting customers doesn’t improve loyalty nearly as much as making issues easier to solve; and second, basing your strategy around a problem-solving approach can improve your customer’s experience.
How does this apply to car dealerships and my point about taking a step back when that customer first enters the lot? If you trust your customers’ intentions and employ a more customer-centric approach to the all-important dealership visit, they will appreciate the time, freedom and comfort of “just looking” first – just as they do everywhere else.
I understand that car dealers have been following the same sales processes for years. However, dealerships that are changing, adapting and focusing more on their customer’s experience are winning – not only sales from the happy customers on their lot – but increased customer retention, future service business and word-of-mouth referral business as well, as it is much easier to establish relationships with relaxed, happy customers.
Consider doing things differently – in a way your customers want and that will make them happy with their experience. The simplest way to accomplish this is to think about how you, your family and friends like to shop at other retail stores and find ways to make your customer’s shopping experience at your dealership more like THAT. I promise that not only will they be surprised, they will also be appreciative and, as a result, more likely to buy from you – today.
Author: John Wingle
John serves as CEO and Manager of LotMonkey, a software solution that helps auto dealers more effectively merchandise on premises. John is the creator of the concept and the company and is a pioneer of strategic visual merchandising within the retail automotive space. Prior to LotMonkey, John founded OnSight Solutions in 2005, a company specialized in visual merchandising services for the retail automotive industry. LotMonkey combines innovation, tech and unmatched industry expertise to deliver a one-of-a-kind software solution that helps auto dealers enhance customer experience and drive sales.