By Sara Shabana
Auto dealerships have the power to create a pleasant buying experience for their customers. By doing so, dealers encourages customers to refer their friends, coworkers and others, write positive reviews on social media, and come back to the dealership for service when needed.
On the other hand, poorly trained staff can create an atmosphere that gives the impression that they don’t care or are even antagonistic or hostile. By acting in this manner, even when a sale is made, customers tend to be upset, which means they leave poor reviews on social media such as Yelp and Google, and find other alternatives for servicing their car.
Poor Customer Service Loses Sales
When customers have a poor experience this has a ripple effect that can result in significant lost sales over a long period of time. Bad reviews on social media can haunt any business for years, and the lack of referrals from satisfied customers means less new business coming in the door.
Ideally, purchasing a new or used car should be easy, fun, and energizing. After all, today’s automobiles are wonders of technology and come with the promise of vacations, employment, and drives to the beach or mountains with family and friends.
When you think about that way, going to the car dealer should be an exciting time, with the opportunity pick out the perfect vehicle that will provide years of transportation and recreational fun.
Training is the Answer to Providing Good Service
With the proper training, any sales staff can create a safe, relaxing environment for their customers.
Unfortunately, many people dread making a visit to a car dealership. These are not thought of as safe places for shopping, and it seems that everyone has horror stories about their car purchase.
How often have you been to a car dealer, only to find yourself in the middle of a confrontational atmosphere, with a salesperson that doesn’t seem to care about anything more than receiving their commission?
Let’s take a look a typical visit to a car dealer and note how it could have been better handled. A friend of mine, Richard, purchased a used car a few months ago. According to him, the experience was, “so terrible that I left a one star review on Yelp, which is something I’ve never done before.”
My friend went on to explain that he was directed to the car dealer by the finance company, who preapproved his auto loan. That took one of the biggest fears of getting a car out of the equation – the trepidation of negotiating finance terms. Instead, he went into the dealer knowing that he had the money for just about any car he might want.
“I expected this purchase to go easily and quickly. After all, I walked in knowing I had the money ready to go. However, I was surprised to find it felt like the car dealer simply didn’t seem to care.”
Make Customers Feel Important
Customers want to feel like they are important. After all, a car is a major purchase with a significant financial impact. Well trained salespeople understand this and take steps immediately so reduce the tension and create a relaxing atmosphere.
“The salesperson, the only one on the floor at the time, was on the phone, and although he saw me walk in, he remained talking on what was obviously a personal call. I sat down in front of him, and waited for him to finish.”
To create a better experience, a salesperson should be waiting for customers to walk in the door, greeting them immediately, thanking them for stopping by, and offering them coffee, tea, and even a donut. Taking these steps puts the salesperson firmly in control, yet places the customers at ease immediately. This builds a level of trust, which serves as a base for the remainder of the sales cycle.
Additionally, salespeople should be trained to conduct their personal business outside the establishment. Customers should not have to listen to the details of personal financial transactions or discussions with a spouse about travel arrangements.
“I’d gone there knowing exactly which model of car that I wanted, and I knew it was available because I’d looked at the dealer website before I left. Even so, the salesperson seemed confused, not believing he had one in stock. After fifteen minutes, he realized he had been looking in the wrong place and there were several of them in the lot.”
Many dealers offer the opportunity to select a car from their website, so that when the customer arrives in the showroom he already knows what he wants. This is a great benefit for the consumer because it cuts down on the time needed for the purchase.
Know Your Inventory
Salespeople should take the time to know the inventory fully every day, so when a customer walks in with a specific need they can be immediately handled without taking a long time to search or stumble around. If a model is not available on-site, the customer can be directed to a similar model, or one can be ordered.
“I was determined to buy the car. I already had the credit approved, I found the car that I wanted, and it felt like the right move. So, I asked for a test drive. I thought things were going poorly up to that point, but the test drive was a real shock. Turns out the salesperson was a bit of a backseat driver; well, more than a bit. He spent the entire test drive telling me to slow down, watch out for another car, look out for a tree, and so forth. Now, I’m a pretty good driver, never been in an accident, and haven’t had a ticket in 20 years, so it was pretty unnerving.”
Obviously, if during a test drive, the car is being driven in an unsafe manner, the salesperson needs to do something about it. However, no one likes a backseat driver, and no one likes to be nagged constantly about their driving skills and the decisions they make while on the road.
Use the Test Drive to Sell the Car
Salespeople will get all kinds of drivers, and must maintain their calm while keeping the situation under control. The test drive is an important part of the automobile sales cycle, as it proves to the customer that the car is in good enough condition to drive. It also gives the salesperson a great opportunity to point out various features of the car such as its acceleration, turning capabilities, sound system, and so forth.
“After the test drive, it was time to go to the finance person and take care of the paperwork. I expected this to go very quickly, since I come in with a preapproved loan, which had been verified shortly after I arrived. Unfortunately, even though there were only two other customers in the dealership, it took the better part of six hours before I could walk out of there with all of the papers signed. The worst part of it was that no one kept me informed of what was going on, and why it was taking so long.”
The financial aspects associated with purchasing a car are an essential part of the sales cycle. If the customer doesn’t have a loan, this can take a while because they must fill out the application, it has to be approved, and so forth. Even after the loan is processed, there are other details such as title transfers that need to be worked out.
It can be a very unnerving experience for customers, especially if this is their first car, or they have bad credit or some other reason to be nervous.
Keep Your Customer Informed
A well-trained salesperson will inform the customer at every step of the way as to what’s happening, what’s coming up next, and how long it’s expected to take. Then if anything changes, the customer should be made aware as soon as possible.
It’s a good idea to make sure there’s coffee, tea, water and perhaps even donuts or bagels available. It’s a small expense, but it can help calm nerves and it gives an extra bit of service at very low cost.
“Finally, nine hours after I walked in the door, I had the keys to the car, had signed all the paperwork, turned in my old car and its keys, and was ready to go. I was so upset by how poorly the sales cycle went that one of the first things I did when I got home was to write a Yelp review. Now, I don’t normally give poor reviews to businesses. I know that every business has its bad days, and it just usually doesn’t feel right to say negative things.
However, in this case, the service was so bad that I felt I had no choice other than to make it known so that others could be appraised of what to expect.”
These days, virtually everyone looks on social media, Yelp, Google, and other sites for reviews from other customers before making a purchase. It’s amazing how powerful an effect these can have on purchasing decisions, especially if they are intelligently written, include examples, and are specific.
A few good reviews on the major sites can cause customers to decide to come into your dealership. On the other hand, poor reviews, especially if there are many of them, can easily result in lost sales, or even the opportunity to make sales at all.
The thing to remember about reviews is they remain on the review site forever.
Additionally, when someone buys a new car, it’s quite common for friends and coworkers to ask about the experience. It’s important to do everything in your power to ensure that customers have a positive, uplifting sales cycle to improve the possibility of referral business down the line.
“On the few occasions in the past where I did leave a bad review, I received an email or phone call asking if there was anything they could do to alleviate the situation. I was disappointed to find that no one from the dealership ever followed up – even when I answered their OWN survey with the poorest possible ratings.”
This is another factor that many businesses, not just dealerships, fail to understand. It is very important to monitor the major social media and review sites to ensure that any negatives get handled if possible. Sometimes all it takes is a simple phone call to entice a customer to remove a bad review, or make it a little more positive.
Properly trained salespeople don’t make these kinds of errors. They understand that the best source of business is referrals from happy customers and positive reviews on social media and other sites. They also know that an unhappy customer can cost dozens of sales down the road – meaning those people will never come into the dealership at all.
If you want a steady stream of referral business, your best bet is to ensure your salespeople and staff are properly trained in all aspects of customer service. It’s an investment that you’d be wise to make.
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