Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Creating the dealership experience for the customer

First off, I don't work in a dealership, and I never have. I'm not going to claim to be the "dealership experience" diva, or expert. I do talk to a lot of dealers on a daily basis and have picked up a few "best practices" over the years that seem to set apart the very successful dealers from the ones that struggle. This is specifically in regards to crowd control & atmosphere at event sales. With the disclaimer portion out of the way--let's get started...
Let's assume you are doing a big weekend event. You've spent lots of money on the marketing, have your sales guys ready and you're just waiting for the traffic to start pouring in! What does the consumer go through visiting your dealership?
Sit back, and pretend for a few minutes that you are the person that got the mailer at home today. Step 1-Getting there. You're ready to go to ABC Motors, you got a special invitation after all. You've never been there before though. Luckily, the dealer had the foresight to put a map on the piece to easily direct you there. You follow the map and pull up at ABC Motors. You know you are there because there are balloons, banners, hang tags, sky busters and a big red blow up ape out front, it's clear something special is going on this weekend at the dealership. You feel even a little proud that you were invited to the party, unlike those that just happen to drive by and see something going on. Step 2-Initial contact. This is where it could get scary for you. You've heard from friends that not all automotive dealers are there to help you, you're nervous one (or more) of those people might attack before you remove your seat belt. Instead you get out safely and head for the front door of the dealership being greeted warmly on your way in. A professionally dressed guy approaches you to ask a few questions and see what brought you in. He is genuinely excited to see you have an invitation and invites you to register for the special event. Step 3-What did I win? The salesperson leads you back to a designated area. It's clean, and there are several tables set up with writing utensils and information about the event. He let's you know before finding out if you've won something you have to register. This happens either on a special form, or on the MarketVision kiosk. Throughout the process he asks you a few questions about your current vehicle. He even mentions he might be able to get you into a newer vehicle for a lower payment. You consider this as your prize is revealed. Step 4-I won! You won a $5 shopping card to Wal-Mart. You shop there regularly so it will be a nice bonus to go toward groceries this week. You thank the salesperson for all his help with your gift. As you are leaving he wants to introduce you to the Sales Manger, the Sales Manager just likes to make sure the experience of everyone in the dealership is a pleasant one. He asks you a few questions and then mentions your trade in...maybe he could appraise it? You think, well out of curiosity, it'd be great to know what it's worth when you are ready to trade. 20 minutes later you are on a test drive with the salesperson while the manager gets your car appraised back at the dealership. Obviously, this is a dream scenario-John Q. Public responds to your mailer for the gift, and walks out with a new vehicle. It's the scenario that plays out all over the country every day though. Not every "gift seeker" turns in a buyer, but some dealers have more success in converting than others. How does the experience at your dealership compare to the one you went through on your pretend "visit" above? How do you control the experience to make sure every person on the lot is treated with respect & taken through the same steps? Send in a "mystery shopper" -your mom, a friend, someone that won't be recognized. Ask for their honest feedback on how their experience was. Find ways to standardize the experience, across events, sales reps and ups. Our MarketVision is helping a lot of dealers standardize the actual registration process, and the Ultimate Prep Packs help get the lot looking good, but these are only a part of the entire dealership experience. The most important part comes from your sales staff and the image your dealership presents.

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