If you ask car shoppers what they dislike most about buying a car, it’s usually the sales process itself. Needless to say, if it isn’t a pleasant experience, it’s going to sour your customer on your store, and also eliminate any chance of them recommending you to others.
There are some pain points that seem almost inherent to the process, and it’s unlikely they’ll be entirely eliminated anytime soon. But in the meantime, there are steps you can be taking to make things better.
Watch the timeframe
A study conducted by AutoTrader showed that after about 90 minutes, customers have had enough and their satisfaction starts to falter – and once they’ve passed two and a half hours, it’s all downhill. This includes the sale, the trade-in assessment and the F&I products, but overall, the highest level of frustration is with negotiating the price.
While you may not be able to eliminate negotiation, do your best to work your way efficiently through this stage. “Read” your customers to help determine if they want to be led at a slower pace, or are eager to get through it. In some cases, making a concession in the negotiations might cost you a few dollars but will earn it back in customer satisfaction.
Determine the level of hands-on.
That same study found that a majority of customers were more likely to purchase F&I products when they’d learned about them on their own, rather than getting the information from someone across the desk. Not surprisingly, most learned about them online.
Make these products part of your dealer website and make them very visible. When customers are looking at vehicles online, they should be offered a list of products and with a detailed explanation of what each one is and the advantages it carries. When you’re making appointments for customers to come in and look at vehicles they’ve seen online, remind them to look at the F&I products on the site before they come in. It can also be advantageous to have the information displayed on screens in the sales and service areas for customers to watch while they’re waiting.
No one likes having to repeat the same information over and over. That can happen if you aren’t using a completely integrated system that stretches across all aspects of the dealership, such as new and used vehicles, finance, and service. It’s common to end up with “data silos,” where each department has its own system and nothing gets shared.
If this is the case, then until that can be resolved with a fully integrated database, get the customer’s information from the department that initially put it into its system. It’s best if you can input them into your system prior to their arrival, but if that’s not possible and you’re adding it while the customer’s sitting across from you, a quick “Are you still at 123 Main Street and this is your phone number?” is preferable to having them repeat it all.
Know the questions to ask
You chat with customers to break the ice, of course, and you don’t want to sound like you’re grilling them, but your questions should be focused on helping to determine the best vehicle for them. If they have a vehicle in mind, try to find out if it’s really the right one for them. Do they have any children, what are their ages, will they need room for friends or sports equipment? Who is the primary driver, and how far does the vehicle go each day?
A question about what they consider to be “must-have” features could be a useful tool. Many car shoppers won’t tell you what they’re willing to spend – they’ve been told too many times that it’s “how the salesperson beefs up the price” – but these must-haves should give you an indication of their budget. It will streamline the process of showing them the right vehicles, and also help you with alternatives if vehicle supply is still an issue.
Also, look at the age of their current vehicle. If it’s old enough, they might not be familiar with some of the features that may be standard or available on new ones, such as a rearview camera, emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, or cooled seats. Ask the right questions to determine their knowledge, without talking down to them. It could help you sell a vehicle with features they didn’t know about and now they want them.
Use your own experience
You’ve bought many items too. Think about what satisfied you with the purchase process, and what irritated you. Improving the process is good for your customers, for the dealership, and for you, and you have the power to make it happen.