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AutoPoint Blog

What Happened to Customer Service?

Posted by Manuel Soto Friday, April 04, 2014

A recent event held by Edmunds named “Hackomotive” brought together some of the brightest technology innovators in the automotive industry. The purpose of this event was to streamline the automotive buying process for consumers. Technology and shopping portals are increasingly becoming more prominent in our industry. A couple of companies that are gaining steam include the Google Autos program that passes along leads via anonymous contact information, and TrueCar’s no-haggle pricing. These highlight how today’s consumers are seeking ways to avoid many of the pain points involved in the process of purchasing a vehicle. Some notable entries in this event included Carvoyant, which allowed customers to test drive vehicles without going to a dealership or even speaking with a salesperson, along with the ultimate winner, CarCode SMS, which let consumers interact with consumers via text messaging. This trend of anonymity and consumer desire to no longer interact directly with dealerships is something to keep an eye on. It presents some unique challenges that it would be wise to plan for:

  • Time – It regularly takes far too long between when the customer walks on the lot and when they leave with their new vehicle. Today’s consumer is busier than ever. Many seek to avoid the relentless back and forth that inevitably happens in most dealerships. As a result they are gravitating towards shopping portals and pricing tools.
  • Confrontation – The consumer tends to feel pressured by the salesperson. They regard them as forceful, trying to make them buy now, rather than a source of assistance in the process.  Today’s consumers are equipped with more knowledge about the vehicle than the salespeople – including the pricing. When they finally do acquiesce and go inside to talk numbers, they get hit with sticker price, low trade values, high interest rates and large down payments. This is usually all in the dealer’s efforts to maximize gross profit on the deal. It is important to adapt to today’s consumer. Change with the times and update these selling techniques that were in place 20 years ago when information wasn’t as available.
  • Harassment – When consumers are reaching out to dealers for pricing, frequently all they get in return is their phones ringing off the hook and 4 e-mails per day with multiple dealers trying to contact them. Nobody wants to be continuously bombarded by salespeople. This is the exact reason consumers like processes in which they can be provided with the answers they seek anonymously. It’s not that they don’t want to buy a vehicle. They just want to avoid the process and time involved. The only recourse they can see to eliminate this is to avoid providing contact information; and/or seek alternate means of procuring information through anonymity.

The rise of these services and consumer desire to buy factory direct can be tied right to the consumer experience. If consumers had great experiences in their auto buying journey, we wouldn’t be seeing some of these trends, and these trends wouldn’t be gaining as much ground. Customers want information, transparency and customer service. It doesn’t matter where you’re shopping – Nordstrom, Best Buy, Wal-Mart – if a salesperson was following you around the store continuously asking you to buy something every 5 minutes, you would get annoyed. The same basic principle applies to any retail environment, including car dealerships. Here’s a great example of one dealership that has successfully changed up its processes, that was recently posted on Edmunds.com

If dealerships work to create a fun shopping experience for consumers; give them the information they need when asked and create a more efficient process, consumers may in turn feel comfortable visiting dealers and sharing their information once again. Dealerships that create a more efficient processes and reduce as many of these consumer pain points as possible, will be well positioned to attract customers and generate more sales.

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