The Seamless Customer Experience
The modern dealership customer is one of the most educated, engaged and skeptical consumer in any marketplace. They will spend hours researching vehicles they believe will suit their needs, have a good idea of what the vehicle should cost and have their guard up against “typical” dealership tactics. They’ve also been trained, thanks to Amazon, Apple and other retailers, that transactions can be quick, seamless and efficient.
Increasingly, they are demanding this experience in all their transactions — which includes purchasing a vehicle. Far from being an obstacle, however, this mindset represents an opportunity for dealerships that are willing to examine their own processes and put tools and training in place to allow their staff to not only meet the customer’s expectations but exceed them.
New Mindsets, New Methods
For most consumers, a vehicle is the second-most expensive item they purchase. Therefore, this is not a transaction most enter into lightly. The vast majority only come to a dealership when they are ready to buy; they’ve done all their “tire-kicking” research online. Also, as Millennials become the most dominate force in auto sales, the concept of haggling for price is becoming outdated; they fulfill a lot of their shopping needs online, where the price is the price.
For the dealership, this new mindset requires giving the consumer a seamless, transparent sales process, where they can have their questions answered, experience what the vehicle has to offer firsthand and understand how the dealership arrived at the price presented.
The marketing that made the consumer aware of your dealership should also be transparent and complement the in-store experience. No surprises. No baiting and switching. The sales process starts with your marketing offer and, in the best case, doesn’t end; it continues because you build a rapport and become their dealership for life.
In order to build this kind of rapport, your dealership should be marketing to customers with targeted, individualized messages. Millennial shoppers demand to be treated as individuals and older generations have found that they, too, enjoy the personal touch. Once in the dealership, the path should be seamless, leading from the greeting to the sale to the delivery as one process, and not as a series of juddering handoffs.
Automation is the key to achieving both of these goals.
Using Automation to Get Personal
From a marketing standpoint, the consumer leaves a huge trail of information about themselves through their shopping behavior, both online and off. To take full advantage of the marketing opportunities that big data provides, it’s necessary to bring in a marketing solution driven by artificial intelligence. This allows the dealership to reach the consumer with targeted, relevant messages to bring them into the store.
Once they’re in your dealership, other automated tools can allow your salespeople to provide the customer with the seamless experience they demand. By using software that unites all the elements a salesperson needs to lead the customer along the path to the sale, the process is streamlined, allowing them to access all the information necessary without having to toggle between different programs, logins or interfaces.
These software tools free up the salesperson to do what they do best: build a relationship with the consumer and become their advocate throughout the sales process.
“Automation doesn’t mean that you are getting rid of the human element,” said Jill Howard, director of client services for A2Z Sync, a company that delivers solutions allowing single-login access to everything needed in the automotive sales process. “There still needs to be that human element and a conversation; somebody should be there to answer any questions that might come up. But through automation, the experience can be made more seamless and gives the customer a much more efficient path to purchase the vehicle.”
When salespeople are given the correct tools and training, the customer, the salesperson and the dealership all benefit from the process. There’s a flow to the sales presentation that can’t happen when there are awkward transitions. These breaks in the flow are where consumers start to second-guess their decisions or, worse, pull out their smartphones and start researching their choices again. Buying a vehicle should be both a relaxing and exciting event, rather than being stressful and confusing.
This only happens, though, when everyone is properly trained on the tools they’ve been provided.
Educating the Team
To provide the customer with the best experience, training should be established as one of the most important elements in the sales process, and that should be a “top-down” requirement. It’s just as important for the dealership’s leaders to take part in continuing education as it is for the sales staff.
“The more competent you are, the better that employee is going to feel about their job and their role at the dealership,” Howard said. “Also, it’s a much better experience for the customer to deal with somebody who can actually answer their questions right off the bat. Training is incredibly important.”
To maintain the seamless experience for the consumer, it’s important that the sales process is consistent throughout the dealership, and sometimes this means getting some team members out of their comfort zone. With the right tools in place, however, this discomfort is temporary.
“Most people want to do a good job when they come into work,” Howard said. “If your expectations are set, you’re trained and given the tools to meet those expectations, it makes the workday much easier and smoother.”
The modern consumer themselves may be trained with certain expectations about the sales process, but buying a vehicle is a special moment in their lives. The dealership that can help them navigate the sales path with professionalism and empathy will earn their business now and for the long term. By providing a seamless process and becoming their advocate rather than their adversary along the way, your dealership will become their dealership.
Which leads us into our final blog in this series covering how all of what we’ve discussed so far comes together, to then conclude with our webinar on Thursday December 13 at 2pm EST, “Success Through Innovation: Tips for Your Dealership” with James Kurtenbach, Marketing Director at Schomp Automotive Group, and Jill Howard, Director of Client Services at A2Z Sync, as well as a case study featuring Schomp and Outsell.