A lot has been written about how industry disrupters are currently threatening market share. These online auto buying sites provide consumers with an easier, friendlier way to buy a car. This isn’t, however, something proprietary to them. The simple fact that they leverage technology to facilitate these transactions is nothing new. AutoNation, itself, has spent millions of dollars to provide customers with a similar buying process. But what, exactly, is truly being sold here? It’s the customer experience. Think of Amazon, Apple, Disney and Nordstroms. In fact, most businesses in other industries have jumped on this phenomenon in a big way – so much so that consumers now expect this top-of-the line customer experience in every business transaction.
A recent article on Loyalty360.org provides some very interesting data on this, including the 2015 DrivingSales Consumer Experience Study, which estimates that dealerships could sell 24% more vehicles simply by improving the car buying experience. And, a study by MaritzCX went a step farther and actually quantified the additional revenue a dealership would see at $106,000; simply by focusing on the customer experience. I highly doubt there is any dealer that wouldn’t enjoy a 24% lift in unit sales and an extra $106,000 per year added to their bottom line.
The customer experience is all encompassing. In many cases, whether or not that customer returns, is simply determined by how the customer feels at the end of the sales transaction. You see, it’s not all about crossing the “T’s” and dotting the “I’s.” But, more about how the customer FEELS at the end of the transaction. Your process could be smooth as silk, negotiations handled smoothly, the customer in and out of finance, with the salesperson doing a complete delivery on a pristinely detailed car, and yet the customer could still leave the dealership feeling they had a less then great experience. The fact is that the customer experience in your dealership needs to encompass anything that affects a customer -- from ensuring that your website has all the information they are searching for, to providing good, fresh coffee, to making sure the showroom is clean and that you have adequate staffing to ensure an efficient and attentive experience for each and every customer, every time.
Of course, if your dealership is stuck using outdated computers, sharpies on foursquares and skimps on amenities for customers, it will be extremely difficult to achieve the experience that most consumers desire.
A great way to begin to transform and improve the experience for your customer is simple – invest in new technology! I know. The thought of outfitting your sales staff with iPads may not seem like it would provide any ROI. That being said, would it surprise you to learn that in the J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index Study, it was revealed that consumers reported a higher customer satisfaction rate when tablets were used in the sales process?
Today’s consumers are digitally savvy and expect the same from businesses. Whether we’re talking about providing information online so the consumer to get a head start on their vehicle purchase prior to coming into your dealership, or ensuring that your receptionist provides a good welcome over the phone and in person, it’s time to embrace any technology that enhances the buying experience for customers – both in the dealership or online. Don’t be afraid of these changes, or balk at the investment. An additional $106,000 per year in revenue should quickly return any initial investment and deliver dividends for years to come. Of course, you could continue to do things the same way as you always have -- then watch while your customers start gravitating to either these disrupters or, perhaps even worse, your competitors.