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Is your dealership the one consumers want to buy from?

Couple sitting in front seat of car
Article Highlights:

  • Consumers now use 24 sources of information before their vehicle purchase.
  • 62% of customers say experience would determine if they returned.

We all know shoppers seek transparent, hassle-free experiences with faster transaction times. Why do you think so many people shop online and even subscribe to Amazon Prime to get one-day or same-day delivery?

Your customers compare you to other retailers, not just other dealerships. They expect a better experience. According to a recent study from AutoTrader, 54% of consumers would buy from a dealership that offers their preferred experience, even if it didn’t have the lowest price.

Your biggest differentiator is the experience you provide. 62% of vehicle owners say their experience as a customer would determine if they purchase from you again. Is your experience return-worthy?

Think about how customers perceive the buying experience at your dealership.

For example, when a customer arrives on your lot, is she mobbed by multiple members of your sales team, all expecting their next up? She’ll probably be asked for her contact information, even though she input it online. She may be asked for it again to start the deal and again in F&I. During all of this, how much of her time is spent waiting? She’ll wait on her trade value while the salesperson runs down the appraiser. She’ll wait some more, alone, while the salesperson goes back and forth to his manager to check on the deal. How likely is it that while she waits, she’s looking up information to see if she can get a better deal somewhere else? Pretty likely.

After all of that waiting, how much attention is she paying in F&I? She’ll “listen”, with zero patience, as products are pitched. Because she’s already been there two hours longer than she planned, she won’t take the time to understand what any of the products are or how they can benefit her. She’ll tweet later about how cool her car is but when the CSI scores come in, it’s not pretty. You’ve dropped again and missed out on that OEM incentive.

Companies like CarMax and TrueCar, are profiting from how bad this process is. How? They actually sell the value of not having to deal with dealerships because consumers want a buying experience that is fast and hassle-free. The silver lining on this storm cloud is that same customer wants to do business with you, wants help from a salesperson, and would be willing to pay a premium price if, and only if, you can provide them with a rewarding experience.

So how can you do that?

  • Be informed. When customers call, do you know who is it before you even pick up the phone? You should. Use a phone system that helps make your customers feel important because you know who is calling before you even say hello. Store one customer file with notes throughout your DMS so deal information flows directly from sales to F&I without re-keying information and wasting time.
  • Stay engaged. For sales, it’s a hassle to go back and forth working a deal. For customers, it’s a bore. Give your sales staff the ability to stay engaged during the whole process with a mobile app that allows them to work deals without ever leaving the customer.
  • Keep it simple. Do your customers want to add accessories to their vehicle? Right now, how would they do that? Most dealerships are still using physical displays or giant accessory catalogs. But these are challenging because a customer can’t envision what the new vehicle will look like with the additions. Remember getting the JCPenny catalog when you were younger? Do you still get it today? No, because there is a better way to buy what was in that catalog. Just like there is a simpler way to personalize vehicles.
  • Be transparent. Are you still presenting menu items with a laminated sheet of paper? Are you 100% sure your F&I managers are presenting every item, every time? With an electronic solution, your F&I managers won’t miss a beat, you’ll remain compliant, and your customers will love that they can see and understand what they are signing every step of the way.
  • Respect their time. By now, you know physical paper costs more to store, takes up space, and isn’t as secure as digital copies. But are you aware it’s also slowing down your dealership? The back and forth of the salesperson, the dot-matrix printer jam, the deal sitting in the office, all of these things make your dealership run slower and customers notice. The world is moving to digital because it’s faster, more secure, and exciting for customers. Make sure you have processes and systems in place to digitize your dealership.

Let’s go back to your customer. What if her name is entered one time and available everywhere? Your sales team never leaves her side during negotiations. She can see how her new ride will look as she personalizes her vehicle while she waits for F&I. She’ll be ‘wowed’ in F&I and wonder why other industries (like banks and doctors) don’t have full desk-size views of documents to make it simple to sign electronically. She’ll shop and educate herself on products as she chooses to watch videos about GAP or windshield protection. Finally, she signs all forms electronically. You hand her a thumb drive with her deal, and she drives off happy. It’s a win/win; happy customers and higher profits. Only Reynolds has one system, designed for retailing, to deliver the experience today’s consumers are demanding.


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Director, Product Planning, CRM and Variable Ops, Reynolds and Reynolds

Ed Pontis was Director of Product Planning at Reynolds and Reynolds for CRM and variable operations solutions including FOCUS, docuPAD®, Desking and more. Ed was previously a director in a large international consulting firm, bringing in leading practices from these segments to Reynolds.

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